NFC North Tour: Rookie Review

Our experts take a look at the NFC North draft classes and their potential first-year impact with the season on the horizon.

Green Bay Packers

Rd. 1/23, T/G Bryan Bulaga, Iowa — Hip injury late in the preseason cost the powerful, quick and assignment-sure Bulaga from overtaking veteran incumbent Daryn Colledge for the starting job at left guard. Bulaga may not have to wait long to be pressed into action, since he's also backing up injury-prone Chad Clifton at left tackle.

Rd. 2/56, DE Mike Neal, Purdue — Strong is a one-word description for Neal the football player and also for how he fared in the preseason. Pass-rush ability both at right end behind Cullen Jenkins and inside in sub packages will keep Neal active on a weekly basis in the defensive-line rotation.

Rd. 3/71, S Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech — Incumbent Atari Bigby's contract holdout the entire offseason and then his injury setback before training camp allowed Burnett to ease into and snag the starting job at strong safety. His playmaking skills will be needed right away in a short-handed secondary.

Rd. 5/154, TE Andrew Quarless, Penn State — Out of the mold of rising standout Jermichael Finley with his pass-catching abilities, yet Quarless needs plenty of refinement to get in Finley's league. Entered the home stretch of the preseason on the bubble to make the opening-day roster at a crowded position.

Rd. 5/169, T/G Marshall Newhouse, Texas Christian — The imposing Newhouse (6-4, 320 pounds) made gains throughout the preseason despite bouncing between left guard and his natural position of left tackle. He figured to survive the final roster cut but a couple of penalties on Thursday won't help.

Rd. 6/193, RB James Starks, Buffalo — The Packers are keeping the faith with Starks. His injury woes, which date back to shoulder surgery that cost him his final college season in 2009, landed him on PUP for at least the first six weeks of his would-be rookie campaign because of a nagging hamstring pull.

Rd. 7/230, DE C.J. Wilson, East Carolina — Bubble candidate who was lackluster for much of the preseason but would be hard to give up on because of his pass-rush skills from the left side, typically the strong side for opposing offenses. He finished the preseason strong with four tackles, including one for a loss.

Chicago Bears

Rd. 3/75, S Major Wright, Florida — On pace to challenge for starting job until finger surgery after preseason opener. Back at practice and still could be starting by early in the season. Has shown willingness to hit and ability to make plays on the ball.

Rd. 4/109, DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern — Has flashed some pass-rush skills but is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle at a crowded position.

Rd. 5/141, CB Joshua Moore, Kansas State — For now, only chance to make an impact will be on special teams.

Rd. 6/181, QB Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan — Showed amazing improvement in third preseason game after poor outings in first two contests but looks like practice squad for him.

Rd. 7/218, OT J'Marcus Webb, West Texas A&M — Raw talent who is worth developing but remains a project for now.

Detroit Lions

Rd. 1/2, DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska — Installed as the starter the first day he arrived at camp and hasn't budged. He's been a force.

Rd. 1/31, RB Jahvid Best, California — He has easily beaten out incumbent Kevin Smith and will be the Lions' every-down back.

Rd. 3/66, S Amari Spievey, Purdue — After a slow start he was moved from cornerback to safety and he's taken well to the position. He's not fast enough to be a cover guy, but he's a big hitter and plugs running lanes well.

Rd. 4/128, OT Jason Fox, Miami — He hasn't been able to really show his stuff because of a knee injury. He's tried to play through it but hasn't been effective. Still, the Lions want to find a way to keep him.

Rd. 7/213, DE Willie Young, North Carolina State — A pleasant surprise here. He's 6-4 with long arms and has made several key plays during the preseason, including two game-saving sacks/fumbles.

Rd. 7/255, WR Tim Toone, Weber State — He's caught everything thrown his way and handled punts in the swirling wind in Denver without a hitch. But he's just not fast enough for this level.

Minnesota Vikings

Rd. 2/34, CB Chris Cook, Virginia — He has impressed with his play through all of the preseason and has a chance to be starting right cornerback to open the season while Cedric Griffin continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Rd. 2/51, RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford — Running back is still learning on the job but is going to get every chance to serve as Adrian Peterson's backup. Whether he can play on third down remains to be seen.

Rd. 4/100, DE Everson Griffen, Southern Cal — Hasn't shown much in the preseason but figures to stick because of his potential. He likely will be inactive on a frequent basis as a rookie unless the Vikings suffer injuries on the line.

Rd. 5/161, G Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest — Has proven he can play both guard spots and eventually might get a shot as a backup tackle. Has good size, 6-4, 335 pounds, and could move into a starting role at right guard sooner rather than later.

Rd. 5/167, LB Nate Triplett, Minnesota — Appears to be a long shot to make the roster, but is hoping to stick based on his special-teams play.

Rd. 6/199, QB Joe Webb, Alabama-Birmingham — The Vikings' original intention was to move the college quarterback to wide receiver, but that is no longer the plan and the Vikings could keep the raw but athletic Webb on the 53-man roster in hopes of developing him.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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