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Saints' Graham, Raiders' Jones among potential 2011 breakouts

Peyton Hillis, Arian Foster and Cameron Wake are three players who rose from relative obscurity to become stars last season. With that in mind, which non-star players are poised to have a breakthrough year in 2011?

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  • Dave Dameshek
  • Bay Area breakouts?

Hillis and Foster were forced into the spotlight after injuries to Montario Hardesty and Ben Tate. With that in mind, I'm circling guys who are behind injury-prone running backs. Because Darren McFadden and the newly rich(er) Frank Gore have been known to spend some time on the trainer's table, we might see a rookie star or two emerge from the Bay Area. Oakland's Taiwan Jones is a Chris Johnson/Jamaal Charles type -- slender build with scary speed. San Francisco's Kendall Hunter reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew -- tough little fella who's built like a bowling ball.

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  • Jason La Canfora NFL Network
  • Keep eye on Graham, Tolbert, Dunlap

  <table align="right" width="315px"> 
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  </table> Man, tough one here. I'm really high on tight end Jimmy Graham and believe he could be dynamic playmaker for the Saints on a consistent basis.  

If Ryan Mathews struggles, Mike Tolbert can get the job done for what should be a very successful and exciting Chargers team.

And on the defensive side of the field, Carlos Dunlap very quietly displayed some real pass-rush skills down the stretch last season. Even though the Bengals might be really bad, he could become a rising star in this league.

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  • Elliot Harrison
  • Two borderline breakouts

Well, depending on your perspective, Felix Jones and Tim Hightower aren't star players and could qualify as potential breakout guys. Both will be feature backs, Jones in Dallas and Hightower in Washington. Jones doesn't have to worry about Marion Barber cannibalizing his carries, while Hightower seems to have put Ryan Torain out to pasture. Will either replicate Arian Foster's breakout campaign of 2010? That's doubtful. But both could easily rush for more than 1,000 yards.

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  • Steve Wyche
  • Bishop poised for big year

One player who might deserve mention with that breakout group from last season is Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. I'm going with one of his teammates as a breakout player, inside linebacker Desmond Bishop. Bishop was a beast as last season wore on and flat-out erased opposing tight ends in the playoffs. Charles Woodson got a lot of the love but Bishop did a lot of the heavy lifting.

On offense, Falcons slot receiver Harry Douglas and Saints tight end Jimmy Graham could step into the spotlight. I'm also keeping my eye on Raiders rookie running back Taiwan Jones. He looks special.

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  • Adam Rank
  • Boffo on Blount

Saying that LeGarrette Blount will emerge from relative obscurity is kind of misleading considering that many still have the lingering image of him busting a Boise State player in the mouth following a tough loss a few years ago.

But Blount is going to give NFL enthusiasts a new reason to remember his name. He had a rather impressive debut for the Buccaneers in 2010 -- don't forget he spent the preseason with the Titans -- after not getting double-digit carries until Week 7 and did not make his first start until Week 11.

Blount is going to have a monster season as one of the few non-committee running backs in the NFL.

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  • Pat Kirwan
  • Potential household names

It's hard to predict breakout seasons like Peyton Hillis, Arian Foster and Cameron Wake had last year. Here are a few guys who jumped out at me during my training camp tour: Texans OLB Connor Barwin, Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Chiefs OLB Andy Studebaker, 49ers ILB Navarro Bowman and Redskins RB Tim Hightower. With a little luck, some second-tier guys poised to make a big move include Redskins QB John Beck, Ravens OLB Sergio Kindle and Titans OLB Akeem Ayers.

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