It seems a million years ago. In reality, it was 18 months. In the second round of the 2011 draft, three pass-catchers of diverse backgrounds and skills entered the NFC North. I've checked in on their progress at various times, and at the midpoint of their second seasons, let's take stock once again.
As you recall, the run started with the Minnesota Vikings selecting Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph with the No. 43 overall pick. The Detroit Lions followed by drafting Boise State receiver Titus Young at No. 44, and the Green Bay Packers picked up Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, No. 64 overall.
On the whole, the trio appeared to be luxury picks. The Vikings seemed set at tight end with Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan. The Lions already had Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson on their roster, while the Packers could boast a receiver group of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones.
Not even two years later, we can see the value of judging draft picks with a long(er) term view. Rudolph's arrival allowed the Vikings to bid farewell to Shiancoe, who is 32 and has spent this season on the New England Patriots' injured reserve list. Kleinsasser and Dugan retired. Rudolph ranks third among NFL tight ends with five touchdown receptions, despite a quiet two-game stretch, and has played on 506 of a possible 540 snaps in eight games.
Young provided a much more dynamic three-receiver set as a rookie, and this season the Lions have appeared anxious to make him their No. 2 receiver. After a slow start, he caught two touchdowns among nine passes last Sunday in the Lions' first game since Burleson suffered a season-ending leg injury.
Cobb, meanwhile, gave the Packers an immediate bump as a punt and kickoff returner last season. In 2012, he has helped the team navigate injuries to Jennings and Nelson. He leads the Packers with 42 receptions, has caught three touchdowns in the past two games and "is probably going to go down as one of the best picks in [Packers general manager] Ted Thompson's career, if not the best," according to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The chart shows each player's relevant statistics as well as his playing time. It's worth noting that Cobb's production has come in less than half of the Packers' snaps, an important development as the Packers work to keep his playmaking skills part of their special teams as well.