So much offseason attention is placed on newcomers who arrive through free agency and the draft that blossoming youngsters already on the roster can be forgotten. Those emerging stars are set to jolt some memories when training camps start. FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Alex Marvez has identified a breakout player on all 32 teams, three months before the beginning of the regular season.
Arizona: Left guard Jonathan Cooper
The left side of Arizona’s offensive line was a liability last season, especially when it came to protecting quarterback Carson Palmer. Not anymore. The Cardinals have signed ex-Oakland tackle Jared Veldheer to pair alongside Cooper, who missed his entire rookie season with a broken leg after he was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2013 draft. Although he’s still not fully recovered, Arizona coach Bruce Arians expects the 6-foot-2, 312-pound Cooper to be completely healed by the start of training camp. Cooper is stout enough to handle bull rushes and nimble enough to pull on running plays.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Atlanta: Inside linebacker Paul Worrilow
Injuries to Atlanta’s veteran linebackers pushed this undrafted rookie from Delaware into action last season, and he took full advantage. Worrilow led the Falcons with 127 tackles and joined Jesse Tuggle as the only players in franchise history with two games of 15-plus stops in the same season. Worrilow could be even more productive in 2014. He is an ardent participant in Atlanta’s offseason workout program and should benefit from being better protected from offensive linemen by the bulk added to the defensive line in the form of Paul Soliai (340 pounds), Tyson Jackson (296) and rookie Ra’Shede Hageman (318).
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Baltimore: Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw
Upshaw is stout against the run but has generated just three sacks since he was a 2012 second-round pick. There is optimism that his pass-rush production could spike this season. While still not in tip-top shape, Upshaw is far better off physically now than when he reported last year to Baltimore’s offseason workout program at 295 pounds. The better his conditioning, the more chances Upshaw should get to pressure the quarterback along with Ravens specialists Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.
Getty ImagesRob Tringali
Buffalo: Quarterback EJ Manuel
The Bills added their most dangerous receiving threat since Lee Evans when moving up in the draft to select Sammy Watkins. The big question now is how frequently Manuel can feed the football to the No. 4 overall pick. Three different knee injuries hindered Manuel’s effectiveness as a rookie and limited him to 10 starts. Manuel, though, did show enough promise to keep Buffalo from pursuing a proven veteran or drafting another quarterback as a potential starter. Manuel, Watkins and 2013 second-round pick Robert Woods have the promise to form a potent trio for years to come.
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY SportsKevin Hoffman
Carolina: Left tackle Byron Bell
No NFL left tackle will be more scrutinized entering the season than Bell. The cap-strapped Panthers opted to convert him from right tackle to replace the retiring Jordan Gross rather than sign a veteran free agent or draft a left tackle prospect. The 321-pound Bell, who has experience at left tackle from his college days at the University of New Mexico, responded by shedding 24 pounds this offseason with more weight loss to follow. Beyond protecting Cam Newton’s blindside, Bell has further incentive to excel at the offensive line’s premium position: He will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
New York Jets/Getty ImagesAl Pereira
Chicago: Outside linebacker Shea McClellin
McClellin has radically transformed his body to embrace his move from defensive end to outside linebacker. He dropped notable weight and body fat while adding muscle during a 10-week workout program in California. McClellin hopes such changes can help him salvage a disappointing NFL career in which he has logged only 6.5 sacks since being the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Getting to play on the same unit as sack specialist and free-agent pickup Jared Allen can’t hurt.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Cincinnati: Tight end Tyler Eifert
Eifert teased his potential with a five-catch debut in the 2013 season opener against Chicago but never developed into a game changer. That should change this season if new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wisely utilizes Eifert and Jermaine Gresham more in two-tight end sets. Eifert, who finished with 39 receptions for 455 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, is being limited in offseason work while recovering from a shoulder injury but should be good to go for training camp.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Cleveland: Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo
At a modest 240 pounds, the 6-foot-4 Mingo lacks the ideal size for an elite NFL pass rusher. Mingo, though, is stronger after a full offseason of work in Cleveland’s weight program following a disappointing five-sack rookie season. He still may not be post double-digit sacks in 2014, but he is expected to have an expanded role in new coach Mike Pettine’s defense that will take advantage of his athleticism in coverage as well as his pass-rush skills.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
Dallas: Safety J.J. Wilcox
The Cowboys couldn’t have given a bigger vote of confidence to Wilcox and fellow starter Barry Church than they did by passing on four safeties (Calvin Pryor, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deone Bucannon and Jimmie Ward) drafted in the first round. Wilcox, a 2013 third-round pick, showed promise during training camp last year, but his rapid progress was stymied following the preseason death of his mother. Wilcox still started five games and could be ready to shift from strong safety to replace the less-athletic Church.
Getty ImagesDrew Hallowell
Denver: Running back Montee Ball
The Broncos felt good enough about how much progress Ball made during his rookie season – especially in improving his pass blocking and securing the football after early fumbles -- that 2013 starter Knowshon Moreno was allowed to leave to Miami via free agency. Ball admits he’s still learning to adjust to all the pre-snap changes often made by quarterback Peyton Manning, but his increased playing time in the second half of last season is a good indication Ball is ready to handle being Denver’s bell-cow rusher.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Detroit: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley
If the offseason is a harbinger of what’s to come, the Lions may ultimately regret not exercising the fifth-year option on Fairley’s rookie contract. By taking a pass, Detroit brass hoped that the allure of becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2015 would motivate Fairley to heights he hasn’t hit since he was a 2011 first-round draft choice. Fairley has already responded by losing roughly 30 pounds this offseason and bettering his condition, which was a problem that has severely hindered his NFL development.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Green Bay: Defensive end Datone Jones
Hopes that Jones could make a quick impact in his rookie season were dashed when he suffered a sprained ankle during the preseason. The effects of that injury lingered well into the fall. When he did get healthier, Jones began showcasing the athleticism that prompted the Packers to pick him at No. 26 overall in last year’s draft. Expect him to build upon the 3.5 sacks he tallied last season – especially if he takes the career advice being given by Packers newcomer Julius Peppers to heart.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Houston: Inside linebacker Brooks Reed
By the time the 2014 season ends, Brian Cushing may no longer be considered the best inside linebacker on Houston’s roster. With the Texans making Jadeveon Clowney the No. 1 overall pick in May’s draft, the versatile Reed is likely to make the switch from weakside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive system being installed by new coordinator Romeo Crennel. Reed was preparing for the 2014 season well before Clowney was selected. He spent February and March training in Wisconsin with All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt.
Getty ImagesThomas B. Shea
Indianapolis: Nose tackle Arthur Jones
Jones isn't a homegrown player, but he was clearly doing something right the past four seasons in Baltimore to land a five-year, $33 million free agent contract from the Colts. But this could be the season Jones becomes a bigger name – like his brothers Chandler (New England defensive end) and Jon (UFC light-heavyweight champion). Rather than using him in a complementary role like when playing alongside Ravens star end Haloti Ngata, Indianapolis is counting on Jones to come into his own as an inside disruptor to improve one of the NFL’s most porous run defenses.
Getty ImagesDavid Banks
Jacksonville: Wide receiver Cecil Shorts
The off-field troubles of 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon have given Shorts the chance to emerge as Jacksonville’s top wideout. Shorts has a good shot at building on his 66-catch, 777-yard 2013 totals with the Jaguars upgrading their offensive talent in the offseason. Shorts – who is the longest-tenured member of Jacksonville’s receiving corps despite joining the team in 2011 – also has assumed a mentor role with Jaguars second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.
Getty ImagesJamie McDonald
Kansas City: Left tackle Eric Fisher
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft had a shaky rookie season. Fisher played out of position at right tackle and battled through injuries that later required offseason surgery. The Chiefs, though, are so bullish on his future that standout left tackle Branden Albert was allowed to leave via free agency so Fisher could take over the spot. Fisher also has added some much-needed bulk and now weighs 315 pounds, an increase of 10 pounds from last season.
Getty ImagesPeter G. Aiken
Miami: Defensive end Dion Jordan
The stunning decision by ex-Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland to trade up nine spots in the 2013 draft and select Jordan at No. 3 overall rather than address a glaring left tackle need didn’t pay immediate dividends. A post-college shoulder surgery caused Jordan to fall behind both on the field and in the weight room, and he logged only two sacks in a limited role. Now healthy and weighing 260 pounds (12 more than at this point in 2013), Jordan should help the Dolphins field a formidable pass-rushing trio along with Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon.
Getty ImagesMarc Serota
Minnesota: Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson can already brag of a Pro Bowl trip following his first NFL season, but that honor was earned as a returner. The next step is for Patterson to grow his game as a wide receiver and earn a bigger part in Minnesota’s offense. “I want to come in totally different this year,” Patterson recently told Vikings media. “Last year I was just playing X (receiver). I want to play everything so if coach needs me or someone goes down I can be that guy.”
Getty ImagesAdam Bettcher
New England: Linebacker Jamie Collins
A 2013 second-round pick, Collins displayed the potential to become a consistent difference-maker in last season’s second-round playoff win against Indianapolis. Collins notched a sack and an interception and handled Colts tight end Coby Fleener in coverage. Such versatility – a trait cherished by New England head coach Bill Belichick – has the Patriots grooming Collins for an even bigger role in 2014.
Getty ImagesJim Rogash
New Orleans Saints: Wide receiver Kenny Stills
As a rookie, Stills led the NFL in per-catch average at 20.03 yards. That includes five touchdown grabs ranging between 34 and 76 yards. The next step for Stills is becoming more involved in the Saints’ offense after hauling in a modest 32 passes in 2013. Even with New Orleans using a 2014 first-round pick on another speedy wide receiver -- Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks -- the opportunity for a larger role is there with Lance Moore being released earlier in the offseason and versatile running back Darren Sproles being traded to Philadelphia.
New York Giants: Defensive end Damontre Moore
Terrible workouts for NFL scouts and attitude concerns caused Moore to slip into the third round of the 2013 draft. Though he didn’t have a blockbuster rookie year, Moore did exhibit enough talent to show why he was once considered a potential top 20 pick coming out of Texas A&M. Moore has dedicated himself to New York’s offseason program in hopes of becoming more than a special teams contributor and situational pass rusher.
Getty ImagesMaddie Meyer
New York Jets: Quarterback Geno Smith
After being prematurely thrust into a starting spot and committing 25 turnovers in his first 14 games, Smith began turning the corner late in his rookie season. He didn’t have an interception or fumble as New York ended 2013 with two victories. Smith’s growth and upside justify why it doesn’t appear newcomer Michael Vick will have a legitimate chance to compete for the starting role during training camp. Smith also will have much better skill-position players to work with, thanks to the offseason additions of running back Chris Johnson, wide receiver Eric Decker and rookie right end Jace Amaro.
Getty ImagesJoel Auerbach
Oakland: Cornerback D.J. Hayden
Reggie McKenzie was so high on Hayden that the Raiders general manager said he would have drafted him with the third overall selection in 2013 if Oakland hadn’t moved back nine spots in a trade with Miami. Hayden, who was still available at No. 12 when the Raiders picked, is now expected to produce accordingly. Hayden’s rookie season was marred by lingering effects from a near-fatal heart condition from his days at the University of Houston and by a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve after eight games. Though he missed last week’s OTA practices with an ankle problem, the Raiders are bullish that a more confident Hayden can excel as their starting right cornerback.
Getty ImagesBrian Bahr
Philadelphia: Tight end Zach Ertz
Philadelphia’s second-round selection of Ertz seemed curious last season because the Eagles already had proven veteran Brent Celek and signed H-back James Casey away from Houston as a free agent. Ertz, though, carved his own niche. He enters his second NFL season as one of the receiving targets expected to fill the void created by wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s surprising offseason release. After a slow start, Ertz logged 22 of his 36 catches in the second half of last season and caught a touchdown pass in Philadelphia’s playoff loss to New Orleans.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Pittsburgh: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones
It normally takes linebackers at least one season to become comfortable and start making an impact in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme. That should be the case with Jones, the No. 17 overall choice in the 2013 draft. He was admittedly swimming mentally while in and out of the starting lineup as a rookie and finished last season with just one sack. Jones will benefit from the heavy mentoring he is receiving by former star Steelers pass rusher Joey Porter, who was hired as a defensive assistant in the offseason.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
St. Louis: Quarterback Sam Bradford
If Bradford is ever going to prove worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, this is the year. The skill-position talent on the Rams’ roster is the best since Bradford first joined the team. He has full command of the offense with coordinator Brian Schottenheimer back for a third season. And even when in possession of two first-round picks, it speaks volumes that St. Louis didn’t draft a quarterback in May until pulling the trigger on Southern Methodist’s Garrett Gilbert in Round 6. Bradford, who missed the final nine games last year with a torn ACL, is on target to start the season opener against Minnesota.
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
San Diego: Inside linebacker Manti Te’o
T’eo survived the aftermath of his infamous “Catfish” scandal and a 2013 preseason foot injury that required January surgery to start 13 games and finish with 61 tackles. T’eo recently told U-T San Diego that he is in a better place both mentally and physically after recharging his batteries following an exhausting rookie season. The next step is to begin displaying the instincts that helped him intercept seven passes as a Notre Dame senior.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
San Francisco: Outside linebacker Corey Lemonier
It’s a given that 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith will be suspended for two off-field scrapes with the law. The only remaining question is how long San Francisco will be without the services of one of the league’s top pass rushers. Whatever the length of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s sentencing, the 49ers are optimistic that Lemonier can help pick up the slack. He came off the bench last year as a rookie to help Dan Skuta replace Smith during a five-game absence. More playing time in 2014 will give the 22-year-old Lemonier the chance to prove he can become a permanent starter if the 49ers ultimately decide Smith doesn’t fit into their long-term plans.
Getty ImagesMichael Zagaris
Seattle: Running back Christine Michael
Marshawn Lynch has served as Seattle’s workhorse rusher for three-plus seasons, but offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell recently said the Seahawks will be switching to a running back-by-committee approach in 2014. That opens the door for Michael to snare an expanded role. He had only 18 carries while appearing in three games as a rookie, but Seattle’s 2013 second-round pick has caught the coaching staff’s eye this offseason. "We really like what Christine is doing right now,” Bevell said in a video posted on the team’s website. “He has breakaway speed and power behind his pads.”
Getty ImagesHarry How
Tampa Bay: Strong safety Mark Barron
By no means should Barron be considered a bust, but more was expected in his first two NFL seasons after he was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Under new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Barron should be ready to deliver in a system that is less rigid and complicated than the one deployed under former head coach Greg Schiano. This should lead to Barron generating more turnovers, as he did at the University of Alabama. He has just three interceptions and one forced fumble in 30 NFL starts.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Tennessee: Wide receiver Justin Hunter
Wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson recently offered high praise, telling The Tennessean that Hunter “can be the receiver that puts us in the playoffs and helps us win our division … He has that much potential.” Snippets of that were evident last season, when Hunter had two 100-yard receiving performances in a three-game span. Hunter’s size – he’s 6-foot-4 and 203 pounds – should continue giving opposing cornerbacks fits as he enters his second NFL campaign.
Getty ImagesDustin Bradford
Washington: Inside linebacker Keenan Robinson
Though it sometimes appeared he would play forever, London Fletcher finally called it a career after 16 NFL seasons. That means Washington has an inside linebacker opening next to Perry Riley Jr., and Robinson is the favorite to fill it. The third-year veteran missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle but still attended defensive meetings while recovering, which helped Robinson better grasp coordinator Jim Haslett’s system. “He’s long and can run sideline to sideline in pass coverage,” new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s disruptive. He gets into zones and is a big guy to throw over. We have high hopes.”