Rookie Recap: NFC North
The NFC North's two playoff representatives both got major contributions from their rookie class. Steve Palazzolo examines how every draftee in the division fared.
Rookie Recap: NFC North
Only three divisions remain in our Rookie Recap series, and today’s focus is the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers spent the majority of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball and they got major contributions from a number of first-year defensive players. The Minnesota Vikings may have gotten the division’s best immediate return on their rookie investments, as they shored up some major weaknesses on their way to reaching the playoffs. On the other side of the division, the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions had rookie classes filled with limited roles and injured players so their 2012 draft grades are still a work in progress.
Be sure to check out our PFF Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team which are both good reference points for the best rookie performances of the season — and check out the rest of our recap series: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East.
In the meantime, let’s see how the NFC North’s rookie class shaped up.
Notes: McClellin was thought to be more of a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect coming out of Boise State, but the Bears put him at defensive end and threw him into the mix as a sub-package pass rusher. He had moderate success as he graded at -2.8 as a pass rusher with 29 pressures on his 268 rush attempts. His 8.8 Pass Rush Productivity ranked 27th out of the top 62 qualifiers at 4-3 defensive end.
Alshon Jeffery, WR
Draft: Second round, 45th overall
Snaps/Usage: 445 snaps, 400 at outside wide receiver
Notes: After a strong start, Jeffery was sidelined by injury in the middle of the season before returning to play the final four games. He finished the year with 367 yards on 24 catches (15.3 yards/reception) to go with three touchdowns and only two drops. The Bears really tried to incorporate Jeffery into the deep passing game as 17 of his 48 targets came beyond 20 yards. He caught five of the deep balls for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffery also picked up four penalties on the season, including a disastrous three-penalty game against the Packers in Week 15.
Other Bears rookies:
Fourth-round fullback Evan Rodriguez was targeted only six times with four catches for 21 yards to show for it, but he graded at +2.8 as a run blocker. The only other rookie to see significant time was guard James Brown who saw action in the last five games of the season, including three starts at left guard to finish the year. He showed well with the exception of a difficult game against the Packers in Week 15 where he graded at -7.4. He finished at -6.3 overall for the season.
Notes: With two veteran returning starters at both tackle spots, Reiff was eased into the action as a blocking tight end for much of the season. He did fill in for LT Jeff Backus in a relief role in Week 11 and then in a spot start the following week, but those two games represented the worst of Reiff’s season as he graded at -4.7 over the two-week stretch. For the year, he graded at +6.3 overall, including +6.4 in the running game as he took advantage of being the sixth offensive lineman on the field throughout the season.
Ryan Broyles, WR
Draft: Second round, 54th overall
Snaps/Usage: 284 snaps, 184 in the slot
Notes: Broyles was thought to be more of a mid-round option due to a knee injury suffered during his senior season, but the Lions pounced on him in the second round. He played more than 36 snaps in a game only once as he logged 81 against the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving on his way to picking up a career-high 126 receiving yards. For the year, Broyles caught 22 of his 30 targets for 310 yards (14.1 yards/reception) including 7.2 YAC/reception.
Jonte Green, CB
Draft: Sixth round, 196th overall
Snaps/Usage: 408 snaps, 269 at RCB
Notes: Green made his first start in Week 4 and showed well at times before tapering off and finishing the season with an average 0.0 overall grade. His 1.23 Yards/Cover Snap ranked right in the middle of the pack and opponents had a QB Rating of 117.2 when throwing into his coverage.
Other Lions rookies:
Third-round cornerback Dwight Bentley was limited to only four games that saw him miss five tackles and commit five penalties on his 177 snaps. Fourth rounder Ronnell Lewis saw his only defensive snap at defensive end in Week 4. He added three special teams tackles on the season. Seventh-round linebacker Travis Lewis picked up a tackle on his three defensive snaps.
Click below for the Packers and Vikings