Eight in the Box: Breakout player

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
12:00
PM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who is one potential breakout player for each NFC North team in 2013?

Chicago Bears: Receiver Alshon Jeffery missed six games last season and played only 41.2 percent of the team's offensive snaps, but he was the team's second-best receiver by the end of the season. Quarterback Jay Cutler trusted him on downfield throws, resulting in six receptions of more than 20 yards and two longer than 40, and with a full offseason of work, Jeffery will be a genuine 16-game threat in 2013. His 6-foot-3 frame gives him leverage against most defenders, but he does need to refine his technique after being called for four offensive pass interference penalties.

Detroit Lions: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley produced a dominant five-game stretch toward the end of the season after replacing Corey Williams in the starting lineup. That intense period included four sacks and 23 tackles, and now it's time for Fairley to put together an entire season with that kind of performance. He's capable of it, and it's what the Lions had in mind when they made him the No. 13 overall pick of the 2011 draft.

Green Bay Packers: You could make a strong argument for running back DuJuan Harris, whose late-season emergence makes him a candidate to start in 2013. But the Packers' annual backfield rotation makes it difficult to predict his future. In this case, we'll go with linebacker Nick Perry, who was the Packers' top draft choice in 2012 and thus will get an ample opportunity to be a full-time player. Perry showed some signs of pass-rushing emergence before wrist and knee injuries ended his rookie season after six games, finishing with a pair of sacks and losing another on a controversial penalty call while playing the Indianapolis Colts. A full offseason of linebacker training for the college defensive end should be a big help.

Minnesota Vikings: After relying on a high number of young players last season, the Vikings don't have many obvious candidates for this designation. It's hard to give it to defensive end/linebacker Everson Griffen, who finished the season with eight sacks, or tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught half of the Vikings' total touchdown receptions (nine of 18). So we'll go with receiver Jarius Wright, who caught 22 passes over the final seven games, including deep shots of 65 and 54 yards. The trade of Percy Harvin will give Wright a chance to play in the slot, which appears to be his natural position.

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