Often overlooked in the offseason NFL discussion is the difference young players can make improving from one season to the next. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are two great examples of big-name breakout players who helped their teams to success last season, but you can’t forget about the lesser-named standouts such as Kevin Byard, Yannick Ngakoue and Deion Jones who also elevated their games by leaps and bounds.
With those types of players in mind, here's a look at the 2018 NFC breakout players on defense as chosen by the contributors for the Pro Football Weekly Preview Magazine, which is available now on newsstands.
New England Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell
This one is a bit shaky. Certainly anyone who remembers the second half of Super Bowl LI — the Falcons sure do — will recall his five catches (four of them for first downs) for 63 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Earning Tom Brady’s trust as a rookie is no easy thing to do. But Mitchell has developed an irritating propensity to be hurt, missing all of last season and reportedly slow this offseason to get back into the full swing (possible PUP list candidate?). But the door’s not closed yet, and Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension likely opens the window for a quarter-season tryout spot at receiver in his place. Mitchell is 25 years old, too, and might not have exceptional upside from what we saw in 2016. But if he’s good to go at the start of camp, we are in no way discounting a breakout for a player who has a different skill set than other Patriots receivers and carries a pretty small price tag.