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All-32 Series: NFC North’s Breakout Players for the 2018 Season

Written By- Team Blitz

Chicago Bears

Trey Burton (TE)

GM Ryan Pace and new Bears HC Matt Nagy wasted no time before discussing the importance of the tight end position in their West Coast scheme. The Bears undoubtedly see Burton as a starter given the 4-year, $32 million deal they handed him this offseason. This qualifies as the 6th-highest average salary among tight ends ($8 million/year), per The speculation is that Burton will play the role in which Travis Kelce excelled at in Kansas City, which is the “U” tight end. This will allow Burton to line up all over the field in different formations to create mismatches and take advantage of his size and athleticism. Coming from Philadelphia, Burton is already familiar with the Bears’ similar offensive concepts. He is ready to step into the spotlight for himself after watching Zach Ertz explode last season. Expecting Burton to be as productive as Kelce or Ertz in 2018 may be a little greedy, but there’s no secret that Nagy intends to utilize Burton as a key weapon in the offense. Burton will turn some heads this year and put his name on the map in a big way. He is more than just the guy who threw the TD pass to Nick Foles in the infamous “Philly Special” play from the Super Bowl.

-Greg Lehr

Detroit Lions

Kenny Golladay (WR)

Kenny Golladay started his rookie season last year with a bang. In his first NFL game, Golladay had 4 receptions for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. After that, he had an inconsistent rookie year due to injuries that nagged him throughout the season, finishing with 28 receptions, 477 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He continued to flash his talent throughout the season on plays and showed he can be a deep threat, as 8 of his 28 catches went for 20 yards or more. Golden Tate’s contract is up at the end of this season, so I would expect the Lions to want to groom their young wide receiver into a bigger role in their offense. Golladay will look to take advantage of his rookie experience and explode onto the scene for Lions’ fans this season.

-Cody Manning

Green Bay Packers

Josh Jones (SS)

The Wizard himself, Ted Thompson, has stepped down. In his wake steps in Brian Gutekunst. Gutekunst didn’t just dip his foot in the water; he came in and made a big splash. The Packers had a cornerback problem, and he drafted 2 of the top 5 rated corners (Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson) in the draft while obtaining an extra 2019 1st rounder as well. The Packers made several nice moves this offseason by bringing in Muhammad Wilkerson, drafting corners, and bringing in another redzone target, Jimmy Graham, to replace Jordy Nelson. One position still has yet to be addressed: Strong Safety. The Packers allowed Morgan Burnett to sign with the Steelers and no replacement was brought in. This leads me to believe the Packers are ready to give the job to their 2017 2nd round draft choice, Josh Jones.

Jones started in 7 games last year, where he was able to put up 56 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception. He started off as a linebacker with Burnett in the picture, but Mike McCarthy said via that, “We’re going to start him in the safety room this year, that will be the starting point.” The easiest way to be considered a breakout candidate is to get starter-level playing time. From the looks of it, Jones will be given every opportunity to do just that.

-James Davis

Minnesota Vikings

Dalvin Cook (RB)

My 2018 breakout player for the Minnesota Vikings is the former Florida St. Seminole Dalvin Cook. In 2017, Cook got out to a hot start with the Vikings as the early rookie of the year favorite. In his first 4 games, he rushed for 354 yards with 2 touchdowns, and also added 11 catches for 90 yards during that stretch. An ACL injury against the Detroit Lions ended his promising rookie year, but things are looking up for Cook in 2018. After adding QB Kirk Cousins, if the Vikings can add another offensive lineman, Cook will excel this upcoming season. If he can stay healthy in 2018, look for him to have over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns. With a healthy Dalvin Cook, the Vikings can get back to the NFC championship and possibly a Super Bowl next year..

- Austen Reed

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