NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

Have at It: Rookie pass-catchers

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
10:35
AM ET
Adam of Winnipeg spurred an interesting thought during Tuesday's SportsNation chat:

Adam (Winnipeg)

I have to say, After Randall Cobb's week 1, I was reaaaally hoping that Titus Young would be good after the Lions chose him over Cobb. Now I feel good, Titus' hands are exceptional. What do you think?

Kevin Seifert (2:45 PM)

Very different players and being used in different ways. We did a Have at It on that during the offseason, and I think we concluded that Young would get a lot more chances on offense than Cobb. So far, it's gone that way.

[+] EnlargeDane Sanzenbacher
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDane Sanzenbacher has recorded touchdowns in each of the Bears' past two games.
Yes, in May we debated whether Young or Cobb would have a more productive rookie season. As it turns out, we could have expanded that question to a rookie pass-catcher for each NFC North team, three of whom were drafted in a span of 20 picks in the second round this past April. The fourth wasn't drafted at all.

The Minnesota Vikings selected tight end Kyle Rudolph with the No. 43 overall pick. The Detroit Lions followed by taking Young at No. 44 overall. Cobb went to the Green Bay Packers at No. 64, and Dane Sanzenbacher signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent.

Each of the four has demonstrated at least the potential of a rookie impact. None of their statistics jump out at you, but through three games you've probably seen enough to start forming an opinion. So we'll put it this way: Which rookie pass-catcher has most impressed you early on?

A few thoughts and notes:

  • Young has caught nine passes for 140 yards, making some particularly difficult catches over the middle along the way. "He's going to make a lot of plays in this offense," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's a young player and still has a ways to go, but he made some really big-time catches. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got really strong hands, and he's fearless going across the middle."
  • Cobb has caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 45.8 yards on four kickoff returns, most famously his 108-yarder in Week 1, and 7.3 yards on six punt returns. The Packers are picking and choosing their spots to use him on their talented offense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cobb has been on the field for 36 of 204 offensive snaps.
  • Rudolph has caught four passes for 54 yards in the Vikings' pass-challenged offense. He has looked smooth and run purposefully in the seams, and it's easy to envision him developing into a force when and if the Vikings' offense settles into a more efficient state.
  • Sanzenbacher instantly became a favorite of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in training camp and is getting extra playing time in the slot because of Earl Bennett's chest injury. He's caught nine passes for 66 yards and is tied for second in the NFL among rookie receivers with two touchdowns.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below. As always, I'll publish a representative sample, along with my own thoughts, by the end of the week. Have at It.

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