While the NFL season is a fair distance away, it is never too early to predict the next wave of stars and superstars across the NFL. However, every team has one piece that fails to live up to the hype entering the new season. The NFC North teams are no different. “Bust” is a relative term. Not all of these players will be bad in 2022, but they could underachieve based on the expectations they have for the season. Rookies are ineligible and will not be included.
Check out the NFC North’s potential breakout stars here.
Green Bay Packers – Jarran Reed
Reed had a massive breakout campaign in 2018, delivering 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss to a playoff-bound Seattle Seahawks team. In the three seasons since Reed has 11 total sacks and seven tackles for loss in 43 games. Since 2018, he has yet to replicate his pressure numbers even on a per-snap basis. 2021 was the worst season of Reed’s career so far as he graded 56.0 or below in all five PFF categories. His 54.5 overall grade and 54.6 run-defense grade are troubling.
Reed is not exactly expected to be a star, but it could be even more underwhelming. Current depth charts have Reed listed as a starter. Rookie Devonte Wyatt could ruin these plans through the season, hurting Reed’s overall production. In fairness to Reed, picking a bust on the Packers is difficult as many of their pieces have depreciated value whether through injury or through an unwillingness to keep Davante Adams.
Minnesota Vikings – Irv Smith, Jr.
Similar to the Packers with Reed, Smith is in an unfortunate situation because the Vikings do not have many clear-cut bust candidates. Adam Thielen, for example, is entering his age-32 season. He also only had 726 yards in 2021, so a bust season is not exactly surprising. (To his credit, he did have 10 touchdowns, and he has 39 receiving touchdowns in his last 54 games.) Smith has some expectations after missing the 2021 season.
Before missing the 2021 season, Smith was a popular breakout candidate. He had 66 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two seasons. While he might take a step up in the offense, he is still likely to be the fourth option at best. Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook will be the two major focal points. Thielen will continue to be a red-zone threat. and Smith will be competing with K.J. Osborn for the tertiary receiver role.
Chicago Bears – Robert Quinn
Quinn is plagued by probability here. First, he is entering his age-32 season, meaning it is increasingly less likely that he will be as effective. Second, he had an unsustainable conversion rate for his 2021 sacks. From 2011 to 2020, Quinn turned 20% of his pressures into sacks (87 PFF sacks on 434 pressures). In 2021, Quinn recorded a sack on 38% of his pressures, finishing 18 of 47 pressures off. Quinn had the same number of sacks as Myles Garrett on 31 fewer pressures. In the other direction, Quinn had 13 more sacks than Daron Payne despite having the same number of pressures.
Quinn is still a good pass rusher (79.7 grade in 2021), but his gargantuan sack total is likely unsustainable. If he matches his pressure rate from 2021, he would be expected to get between 8.0 and 10.0 sacks based on historical tendencies. Coupled with his deteriorating run defense, Quinn could be primed for an underwhelming season. However, Quinn might not be suiting up for the Bears.
Detroit Lions – DJ Chark
Chark falls into the same boat as both Reed and Smith. He could be passed on the pecking order soon by younger players. Chark will be one of the Lions’ three main receivers, but the other two could surpass him. Throw in a stud tight end and potentially strong rushing attack, Chark could be the odd man out. While he has underperformed since his 2019 Pro Bowl season, he is expected to be a playmaker for the Lions. With Jameson Williams (when he returns from injury) and Amon-Ra St. Brown in the receiving corps, Chark could become obsolete.
Chark could get off to a hot start while Williams works back from a torn ACL, but expect his value to slip throughout the season. Chark could slip to as low as sixth on the receiving pecking order behind Williams, St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson, D’Andre Swift, and Jamaal Williams. Jameson Williams will replace much of Chark’s value as a deep threat, and St. Brown will be the go-to in the slot. Perhaps Chark will regret signing in Detroit.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
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