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Predicting breakout candidates for all 32 NFL teams

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Williams goes over the top of his defender for great TD grab (0:20)

Chargers 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams goes full Randy Moss on his defender by reaching over to bring in a touchdown. (0:20)

Yannick Ngakoue and Myles Jack barreled onto the scene last year as stars of an upstart Jaguars defense, but who will rise up as we roll through 2018?

NFL Nation predicts the breakout stars of the upcoming season: rookies, second-year players, or otherwise.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

S Jordan Poyer. One of two free-agent safeties the Bills signed last offseason, Poyer drew less national attention than Micah Hyde, who was voted to the Pro Bowl. Hyde was surprised Poyer was not even voted as an alternate to the game after finishing the season with five interceptions, the same total as Hyde. Poyer showed the same knack for the football early in training camp, intercepting multiple passes, and this season could receive the same recognition Hyde saw last season. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

RB Kenyan Drake. Even if the Dolphins haven't admitted it yet, Drake will finally get his chance to be the Dolphins' lead back in Week 1. Drake led the NFL in rushing over the last five games of 2017 with 444 yards. He's not content with that stat, citing a need to do it over 16 games. He has the talent to be a 1,000-yard back and the dual-threat ability to lead the Dolphins' offense. The key will be his continued growth in being a professional and staying consistent throughout the year. The Dolphins' addition of the consummate pro and example of consistency, Frank Gore, should help Drake launch himself into the conversation of top AFC running backs. -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

TE Jacob Hollister. Having made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2017, Hollister played 87 offensive snaps and was inactive for the Super Bowl, but he's put himself in position for a larger role this year by having a solid offseason. Couple that with a shaky receiver depth chart and the former Wyoming standout is primed to see more action and more footballs thrown in his direction. He's shown a knack for catching the ball in tight spots. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

S Jamal Adams. His rookie year was solid, but the Jets' 2017 first-round pick still hasn't reached his ceiling. If Adams improves in pass coverage, he could have a monster year. After no interceptions last season, he dropped some weight to improve his quickness and range. Thanks to experience, he also should do a better job of reading his keys, which will result in more plays on the ball. He's already a terrific run defender. -- Rich Cimini


AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

OLB Matthew Judon. He looks to be the latest homegrown Ravens pass-rusher to take the next step, following the likes of Paul Kruger, Adalius Thomas and Pernell McPhee. Last season, Judon recorded eight sacks in his first year as a starter -- which doubled his total as a rookie. He doesn't lack confidence. Asked his goal for this season, Judon said he wants to lead the NFL in sacks. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

WR Tyler Boyd. Boyd had some troubles off the field last year and was made a healthy inactive for the Week 2 game. It was an inconsistent year at best, but he seems to have matured and taken a big step forward in Year 3. Boyd has had a great camp and figures to be the Bengals' regular slot receiver, meaning he will see a lot of playing time, especially with Brandon LaFell now gone. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

DL Larry Ogunjobi. As a rookie in 2017, Ogunjobi played in 14 games, recording 32 tackles and one sack. He is being given a chance to compete for playing time after the trade of Danny Shelton to New England. With the attention opponents will pay to Myles Garrett (if healthy) and Emmanuel Ogbah, Ogunjobi may have the chance to break out. He has also been working with Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins in hopes of learning what it means to be a pro. -- Ryan Isley

Pittsburgh Steelers

OLB Bud Dupree. The Steelers are still waiting for their 2015 first-round pick to post a double-digit-sack season. Injuries and an inconsistent pass rush have held back Dupree, who has 14.5 quarterback takedowns and one forced fumble for his career. But the Steelers believe moving him to the right side of the formation (the quarterback's blind side) will take advantage of his explosiveness, and Dupree knows a big year will facilitate a contract extension next summer. -- Jeremy Fowler


AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

WR Will Fuller. The third-year receiver has dealt with injuries in his first two seasons, but when healthy, he has been a major contributor to the Texans' offense. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has spoken highly of Fuller's speed and route running, and if he can stay healthy, the young receiver should get plenty of chances to repeat the success he had with Watson in 2017: seven touchdown catches in four games. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

WR Ryan Grant. Grant isn't a flashy receiver. He's simply been a receiver who has routinely caught almost every pass thrown his way in training camp. Grant is coming off a season in which he had a career-high 573 yards receiving in Washington. Now he's playing with the best quarterback of his career, Andrew Luck, after the Ravens voided his deal because of a failed physical. Grant has motivation and a No. 1 receiver in T.Y. Hilton who will draw most of the defensive attention away from him. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

WR Dede Westbrook. He missed the first nine games of the 2017 season after sports hernia surgery but caught 27 passes and averaged 12.6 yards per catch in the final seven. That's not bad for learning on the fly. He's flashed throughout training camp and in the team's first preseason game and will figure heavily into the receiver rotation, which is still being worked out. Westbrook has the ability to make plays on throws downfield as well as take a short pass and turn it into a long gain, which is something he did regularly at Oklahoma. It's not a coincidence that the team targeted him on the fourth-down pass against New England in the AFC title game, either. He could flourish in 2018, especially if the run game continues to work at a high level. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

CB Adoree' Jackson. Having notched 17 pass breakups as a rookie last year, Jackson showcased his elite ball skills. He has yet to get an interception in the NFL, but that will surely change this year. Jackson is a threat to score for the defense when he does get his hands on the ball. His quickness and athleticism are his trademark, but Jackson is learning to be patient as a corner, which comes with experience. -- Turron Davenport


AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

WR Courtland Sutton. The caveat, and it's a rather large one, is that since 1990 the Broncos have had one rookie wide receiver catch more than 35 passes -- Eddie Royal with 93 receptions in 2008. So expect some bumps from time to time in the coming season for Sutton, but his size and athleticism give him the potential to make impact plays in the red zone right from the start. Coach Vance Joseph has called him a "60-40 guy," in that most receivers are 50-50 in jump-ball situations, but Sutton's ability improves his odds. He has made a highlight-worthy catch almost every day in training camp, and quarterback Case Keenum already trusts Sutton enough to throw him the ball in a crowd. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

WR Demarcus Robinson. He's been one of the Chiefs' best receivers in camp. Robinson might start the season as Kansas City's fourth wide receiver but still should get some playing time and could eventually grow into a more prominent role. The Chiefs particularly like Robinson's ability to run after the catch. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

WR Mike Williams. Selected No. 7 overall in last year's draft, the Clemson product missed last season's training camp and six games due to back and knee injuries, finishing his rookie season with just 11 catches for 95 yards. Now that he's healthy, Williams has looked explosive in training camp and should help fill the void left by tight end Hunter Henry's absence. "Every day, every week I feel like I'm building a lot of confidence in the coaches and the quarterbacks," Williams said. "I just have to keep coming here every day and get better." -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

MLB Marquel Lee. The 2017 fifth-round draft pick has been getting serious run with the first-team defense in camp. Enough to put free-agent vet signee Derrick Johnson on notice? Probably not yet. But coach Jon Gruden has raved about the run-stuffing play of Lee, who sees himself as a three-down linebacker. "There is a guy that really stepped up," Gruden said. "He's physical. I think he's more and more of a complete linebacker. He's getting more comfortable in pass coverage. I think he's a presence in the middle of our defense right now. It's something that is not going unnoticed with his teammates and coaches." -- Paul Gutierrez


NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

CB Byron Jones. He was the pick a year ago when he was playing safety and had a great training camp. He showed range and playmaking ability last summer, but when the season started he was used in a different way and finished with one interception. The Cowboys moved him back to cornerback, where he played as a rookie, because he fits the profile new passing game coordinator Kris Richard wants: tall and long. He has readjusted well to the position and has shown the ability to be physical at the line of scrimmage while staying on a receiver's hip down the field. If he plays well, then Jones could be in line for a bigger payday than had he stayed at safety because of the value of the cornerback position. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

LB B.J. Goodson. Last year was supposed to be the year. Goodson had 18 tackles in the opener but was hampered by injuries the rest of the way. With the trade for Alec Ogletree, Goodson has become somewhat forgotten. By the end of the season, it's Goodson who will emerge as the Giants' top inside linebacker with a breakout year. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

CB Sidney Jones. The second-round pick out of Washington missed all but one game of his rookie season as he recovered from a torn Achilles. Now back in action, he has flashed the athleticism and ability that made him one of the most coveted defensive backs in the 2016 NFL draft. The Eagles are experimenting with him in the slot. Wherever he ends up, they're expecting big things out of Jones. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

DL Jonathan Allen. He only played five games as a rookie because of a Lisfranc injury, but in that time he made an impact. Though he only recorded one sack, he helped make others better -- OLB Preston Smith had four of his eight sacks in their five games together. Allen will pair with rookie NT Daron Payne and DE Matt Ioannidis to give the Redskins their best line in a while; Payne will be a force for them as well. But Allen plays with a maturity and said he feels quicker bending the edge, which had not been a strength of his game. Allen plays with power, but also shows quickness and, mixed with good leverage, that results in pressures. Allen will impact both the run and pass defense. He might not record huge numbers, but he will establish himself as a solid lineman. -- John Keim


NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

WR Anthony Miller. The Bears have several new wide receivers, including free agents Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. But second-round pick Miller, in the slot, has shown in camp he could make an impact early and often with excellent hands and crisp routes. -- ESPN.com

Detroit Lions

WR Kenny Golladay. The second-year pro is healthy after a rookie year that saw him miss a handful of games with a hamstring injury. He's working with the ones and offers the Lions a second deep threat with exceptional leaping ability, along with veteran Marvin Jones. With Eric Ebron off in Indianapolis, Golladay's target share should open up, and he has the skill and the catch radius to become a dynamic performer. A 700- to 750-yard season is not unrealistic for Golladay, which would be a good year in an offense that had two 1,000-yard receivers in 2017. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

DT Kenny Clark. The 2016 first-round pick went the first 26 games of his NFL career without a sack. Then something clicked, and he posted 4.5 sacks in his next five games. The Packers believe the athletic defensive tackle will pick up where he left off last season. The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson to the D-line along with the productive Mike Daniels and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's creative scheme should also free up Clark to make more big plays. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

WR Brandon Zylstra. The Vikings liked the former CFL standout so much that they signed him to a futures deal in early January. Among a deep crop of receivers battling for spots not belonging to Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell, Zylstra sticks out as a player whose physical tools and route precision could earn him an important role. The Minnesota native led the CFL with 100 catches for 1,687 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017 and appears to be a lock for the 53-man roster. -- Courtney Cronin


NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

TE Austin Hooper. The third-year player is ready to show he can be a reliable threat in or out of the red zone. Hooper spent extra time with QB Matt Ryan this offseason rather than going home to Cali. He's had some dominant days down the middle in practice, an area that could open up more with safeties concerned about the new lowering-the-helmet rules. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

WR Curtis Samuel. He missed most of his rookie season with injuries and began training camp this year on the PUP list. But since returning he consistently has made plays from the slot position, after being drafted to play there in the second round a year ago. He has the speed to burn you deep and the ability to create separation underneath. Much attention has been on this year's first-round pick, wide receiver DJ Moore, but Samuel could have a bigger year. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

S Marcus Williams. No one has stood out more in Saints camp this summer than the second-year pro, who was very good as a rookie before his infamous missed tackle during the "Minnesota Miracle." The bet here is that he becomes known as the guy who overcame that play. The ball-hawking center fielder picked off Drew Brees during three straight practices at one point -- which led Brees to make an Ed Reed comparison. Williams, who had five interceptions last year including the playoffs, has the talent to emerge as a Pro Bowler along with fellow 2017 draft classmates like Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

S Justin Evans. He introduced himself to the world as a rookie in Week 5, picking off Tom Brady on a Thursday night in his first NFL start, and he nearly had two more picks in that game. In 2018, he could establish himself as one of the better safeties in the league. He plays the position much like an outfielder -- the type who could produce a bevy of web gems -- and had a stunning interception the second week of training camp off Ryan Fitzpatrick where he came out of nowhere to snatch a deep pass from rookie Justin Watson. -- Jenna Laine


NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

RB T.J. Logan. The second-year back missed all of his rookie season in 2017 with a fractured wrist suffered in the Hall of Fame Game. But what he showed before that injury was lightning-quick speed as a returner. If he can reproduce that acceleration this season, he won't just have a regular role on on special teams, he'll thrive and establish himself as one of David Johnson's primary backups. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

LB Cory Littleton. Littleton joined the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and has quickly climbed the ranks. He made the roster as a special-teams contributor, and his profile grew last season as he became the first NFL player since 2014 to block multiple punts in a season. Littleton also showed his playmaking ability when he started in place of an injured Mark Barron against the Titans and intercepted a pass by Marcus Mariota on the first series. Since the trade of team-leading tackler Alec Ogletree, Littleton has taken over at the position, and the coaching staff is optimistic about his potential. "This is his chance and we're confident in that he's a really good player," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "We just got to find a niche for him and we feel like we have." -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

TE George Kittle. Kittle finished 2017 with 43 catches for 515 yards, both rookie records for a 49ers tight end and second among all rookies at the position. Those numbers might not jump out, but considering that Kittle struggled early with drops and then had myriad injuries throughout the season, there's genuine belief in San Francisco that he could take another big step forward. Kittle was one of the team's most dominant performers in training camp before he suffered a separated shoulder in the preseason opener. But Kittle is expected to be ready for Week 1, and if he can avoid the injury issues, he could be poised for a breakthrough. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

CB Shaquill Griffin. Griffin is now the Seahawks' No. 1 cornerback, which is why they moved him from the right side over to Richard Sherman's old spot on the left side. The 2017 third-round pick was thrown into the fire early as a rookie and drew rave reviews from coaches and teammates for his poise and steady play. He broke up 14 passes, tied for eighth in the NFL, but didn't record his lone interception until Week 17. So the next step in Griffin's development will be to take the ball away when he gets his chances. He should get plenty, especially if Earl Thomas isn't patrolling the back end of Seattle's defense and deterring deep throws as usual. -- Brady Henderson