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Rookie Buzz: A dozen Week 1 contributors?

8/27/2012

Our Rookie Buzz series has had some hits and misses. It's lost two of the original four members to season-ending injury, but in the end, it appears that NFC North teams will be getting early-season contributions from a dozen 2012 draft picks, depending on health. Let's take a look at who the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings appear to be counting on:

Bears defensive end Shea McClellin

Likely role: Nickel pass-rusher

Comment: As we've discussed, the Bears could follow a playing-time model similar to what the San Francisco 49ers did with 2011 top pick Aldon Smith: Less than 50 percent, but hopeful of high production in small doses.

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery

Likely role: No. 3 or No. 4 receiver

Comment: Has been productive in the preseason and is an especially big target down the seam.

Bears tight end Evan Rodriguez

Likely role: No. 3 tight end and/or H-back

Comment: Rodriguez has proved to be quick down the field and a nifty runner once he makes the catch.

Lions cornerback Bill Bentley

Likely role: Starter or nickel cornerback

Comment: Bentley's had a few roller-coaster trips on the Lions' depth chart, but if he is healthy he figures to be one of the Lions' top three cornerbacks.

Packers linebacker Nick Perry

Likely role: Starting outside linebacker

Comment: He's gotten almost every snap with the starters this summer, mostly to give him every opportunity to learn a new position. But his pass-rush skills are evident.

Packers defensive lineman Jerel Worthy

Likely role: Defensive tackle in the nickel

Comment: The Packers play their nickel defense more often than their base, which makes Worthy a quasi-starter.

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward

Likely role: No. 2, 3 or 4 cornerback

Comment: Like Bentley, he's made a few trips up and down the depth chart. But he has a chance to start soon opposite Tramon Williams.

Packers safety Jerron McMillian

Likely role: Nickel safety

Comment: McMillian is one of three players getting a chance to fill this role, competing against M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine.

Vikings offensive lineman Matt Kalil

Likely role: Starting left tackle

Comment: This assignment has never been in doubt.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith

Likely role: Starter

Comment: He hasn't let go of a spot he earned midway through the preseason.

Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson

Likely role: No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback

Comment: Dealing with a concussion but has outplayed veteran Chris Carr to be the nickelback.

Vikings place-kicker Blair Walsh

Likely role: Starter

Comment: Has demonstrated a powerful and accurate leg this summer.