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Saturday, June 16, 2012
NFC North breakout and versatile players

By Kevin Seifert

NFC North players assumed a prominent place on two top-10 lists produced this week by Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. Both require an Insider subscription to see fully, but I can pass along the names and offer a few comments of my own.

The first is Horton's top 10 breakout players for NFC teams in 2012 Insider. Each of our teams was represented:

1. Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb
Seifert comment:
Cobb's development suggested the Packers might not need veteran Donald Driver this season. But Cobb will compete hard for playing time regardless as he continues his development. Remember, Cobb was an early entrant in the draft and won't be 22 until August.

4. Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph
Seifert comment:
Rudolph and quarterback Christian Ponder have enjoyed good chemistry since last summer, and there is every reason to think Rudolph will be among Ponder's favorite targets this season. His ball skills and hands make him an especially intriguing player in the red zone.

5. Chicago Bears offensive lineman Gabe Carimi
Seifert comment:
Horton considers Carimi the Bears' best offensive lineman. The question will continue to be whether he can get on the field and stay there after a mostly lost rookie season.

7. Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young
Seifert comment:
Maturity is the key word for Young, who has drawn rave reviews for the way he rebounded from a fight with safety Louis Delmas. If that incident was the catalyst for getting Young in line and set to be a consistent contributor, then it was a small price to pay.

Four NFC North players also appeared on Horton's list of the NFC's 10 most versatile players Insider:

2. Vikings receiver Percy Harvin
Seifert comment:
Harvin has the rare skill set to appear more than occasionally as a running back. He is versatile and also unique, and in the end he can score on any play as a receiver, a runner or a kickoff returner.

6. Bears returner/receiver Devin Hester
Seifert comment:
This could be the year that Hester is no longer just a returner who is playing receiver. The Bears think they have devised an approach that can make him an elite player in both roles.

7. Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji
Seifert comment:
It's true. Raji can line up as a 3-4 nose tackle or end, as well as an under tackle in the 4-3. He's also contributed as an offensive player in the backfield. What's next? A touchdown reception?

9. The Packers' Cobb
Seifert comment:
It will be interesting to see if Cobb develops into a full-time receiver who also returns some kicks, or if the Packers will emphasize his special teams role given their depth at receiver.