Black and Blue all over: A select class

September, 6, 2008
9/06/08
11:32
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Several Detroit-area news outlets confirmed this week that Lions first-round draft pick Gosder Cherilus will open the season as a backup to veteran right tackle George Foster. (Cherilus will also back up left tackle Jeff Backus.) (That's a lot of "backs." But, oh well, it's Saturday morning.)

After checking out an Oakland Press story on the topic, we started wondering about the rest of the NFC North draft class. And after taking a quick look around, it appears no more than four drafted rookies are expected to open the regular season as a full-time starter. That amounts to about 11 percent of the 35 players chosen by the four division teams. We don't have numbers from past years, but intuitively that seems a little low.

Here's the breakdown:

Detroit Lions (2 of 9 picks starting)

Cherilus and second-round linebacker Jordon Dizon remain with the second team. But the Lions do have a division-high two drafted rookies in the starting lineup: Third-round tailback Kevin Smith and fifth-round fullback Jerome Felton.

Chicago Bears (1 of 12)

Second-round tailback Matt Forte has been targeted to start from the day he was drafted and hasn't disappointed. The same can't be said for first-round left tackle Chris Williams, who couldn't make it through two training camp practices before suffering a back injury. He is out indefinitely. Third-round receiver Earl Bennett and third-round defensive tackle Marcus Harrison could eventually work into the rotation.

Minnesota Vikings (1 of 5)

Second-round safety Tyrell Johnson will start, but only because veteran Madieu Williams is sidelined by a neck injury. Because of the Jared Allen trade, Johnson was the Vikings' only selection in the first four rounds.

Green Bay Packers (0 of 9)

Second-round receiver Jordy Nelson projects as the No. 4 receiver, but only because of an injury to No. 3 receiver James Jones. Fourth-round pick Josh Sitton was on track to start had he not sprained his knee.

Elsewhere around the NFC North on a 48-degree morning in Minnesota:

  • Williams' replacement as the Bears left tackle, John St. Clair, is best known as a utility backup. But he told the Chicago Sun-Times: "I never considered myself anything but a starter in this league."
  • Brandon Lloyd will get a chance to resurrect his career because of the Bears' personnel issues at receiver. "I'm prepared," he told the Chicago Tribune. "I've been studying a lot. I'm ready."
  • You know you've turned a corner in the expectation battle when members of the local media think the team is ready to win. Here's what Rob Parker of the Detroit News wrote about the Lions: "[Coach Rod] Marinelli, whose team went 4-0 in the preseason, has no excuses."
  • Here's one highlight of the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Q&A with coach Mike McCarthy. Speaking about the decision to start Aaron Rodgers with two rookies backing him up, McCarthy said: "I guess I'm going to have to continue answering this question until we reach the point where it's evident to everybody that we made the right move, and I understand that."
  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel conducted a combative Q&A of its own with McCarthy. The highlight might be McCarthy admitting he thought Brett Favre might retire two years ago.
  • Minnesota Vikings right tackle Ryan Cook, who faces a potential mismatch Monday night against Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman, told the Star Tribune he is working to "take ownership" of the position.

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