Examining the draft classes of each division team:
KnoxHit: Receiver Johnny Knox (No. 5a) ranks fourth among NFL rookies in catches (45), eighth in yards (527) and fourth in touchdowns (5). That is premium production for any fifth-round pick, especially a near-complete unknown out of Abilene Christian. Knox also has averaged 28.9 yards per kickoff return, including a 102-yard touchdown.
Miss: Rookie receivers don’t always contribute immediately, but it’s a major disappointment that Juaquin Iglesias (No. 3b) hasn’t so much as appeared in a game for a team that sorely lacks receiver depth. Iglesias fell behind Knox and Devin Aromashodu during spring drills and hasn’t been in uniform for a game this season.
Needs patience: Defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert (No. 3a) is a tremendous athlete who has spent the season learning the pro game from line guru Rod Marinelli. Stuck behind Tommie Harris and Israel Idonije on the depth chart, Gilbert has played in only two games. But he has high athletic upside.
DelmasCo-hits: Safety Louis Delmas (No. 2) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (No. 3a) have demonstrated athleticism, powerful hitting and playmaking ability. Both should be fixtures in future starting lineups.
As advertised: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (No. 1) has a powerful arm and excellent football instincts. Questions about his accuracy (53.3 percent) haven’t dissipated, but his competitive zeal and willingness to play in pain have solidified him as a cornerstone of the franchise.
Needs patience: Running back Aaron Brown (No. 6) is a bona fide playmaker when he has the ball in the open field. The Lions have been hesitant to expand his role because of repeated mental mistakes, but they hope Brown will minimize those as he develops.
MatthewsHit: Linebacker Clay Matthews (No. 1b) opened the season as a backup, but has put on a late run for defensive rookie of the year honors. He has 10 sacks in 11 starts, making good on general manager Ted Thompson’s decision to trade back into the first round to draft him.
Sleeper: Linebacker Brad Jones (No. 7) was the 218th player selected in the draft and slated for a deep reserve role, at best. But since taking over for the injured Aaron Kampman, Jones has more than held his own with three sacks.
Patience: The Packers haven’t gotten the kind of big plays they hoped for from defensive lineman B.J. Raji (No. 1a), who has spent the season adjusting to the 3-4 scheme while nursing an ankle injury. But he’s shown enough flashes to indicate he could be a dominant force on the line.
HarvinHit: For most of the season, receiver Percy Harvin (No. 1) has been a leading rookie of the year candidate. His open-field running has added a new dimension to the Vikings’ offense, and he’s also been the NFL’s most dangerous kickoff returner. Only migraine headaches have slowed him down.
As advertised: The Vikings had a need for a right tackle and waited patiently until Phil Loadholt (No. 2) fell to them at No. 54 overall. They had every intention of inserting him immediately into the starting lineup, and Loadholt has been a fixture from the first day of minicamp.
Needs patience: Cornerback Asher Allen (No. 3) displayed aggressive instincts during the preseason and in his relatively few appearances in the regular season. He’s spent the season as the Vikings’ No. 5 cornerback but projects as a regular contributor in the future.