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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Rookie Buzz: Midseason report

By Kevin Seifert

ESPN.com's midseason extravaganza continued Thursday with some Insider analysis from Scout Inc.'s Matt Williamson. You can see an updated list of his 50 top players Insider as well as his all-rookie team. Insider

You'll need an insider subscription to see both files, but I'd like to dive into Williamson's analysis of rookie play. Five NFC North rookies appear in some form, and while I don't think he left off anyone obvious, now is probably a good time to review our class of rookies now that everyone has played at least eight games.

We'll start with the players Williamson included and go from there. Players Williamson named to his first team are noted with an asterisk (*). Those he included as an honorable mention get a plus sign (+).

Player: Minnesota Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil*
Seifert comment: Kalil has solidified what was a position of weakness last season. You haven't heard much about him this season, and with left tackles, that's a good thing. Pro Football Focus (PFF) has debited him with one sack allowed this season.

Player: Vikings safety Harrison Smith*
Seifert comment: Smith has injected a level of energy and playmaking the Vikings haven't had at safety in several years. He's been credited with 52 tackles and has one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.

Player: Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward*
Seifert comment: Hayward has made three starts and leads all rookies with four interceptions and 13 passes defensed. It will be interesting to see what the Packers do when Sam Shields returns from a shin injury.

Player: Vikings place-kicker Blair Walsh+
Seifert comment: If it weren't for St. Louis Rams rookie Greg Zuerlein, Walsh would be the pick here. He's connected on 19 of 20 field goal attempts, including all five from 50-plus yards, and leads the NFL with 35 touchbacks.

Player: Packers safety Jerron McMillian+
Seifert comment: McMillian hasn't started a game, but has been part of the rotation at safety in the nickel defense. He's been a sure tackler and has one interception.

Player: Detroit Lions offensive lineman Riley Reiff
Seifert comment: Reiff hasn't been needed at offensive line, so the Lions have carved out an interesting niche as a sixth lineman/tight end to help their running game. He played on nearly half their snaps last Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Player: Lions receiver Ryan Broyles
Seifert comment: Broyles didn't have a reception until the Lions lost veteran Nate Burleson to a broken leg. Since that point, he has 12 receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

Player: Lions cornerback Bill Bentley
Seifert comment: Bentley started three games before a shoulder injury ended his season. It would appear he is in the mix to start next season.

Player: Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin
Seifert comment: He has 2.5 sacks while playing on 44.2 percent of the Bears' snaps. That's about the playing time we expected the Bears to give him as a rookie.

Player: Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery
Seifert comment: Jeffery was emerging as the Bears' No. 2 receiver when he broke his hand in Week 5. At that point, he had scored two touchdowns among his 14 receptions.

Player: Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson
Seifert comment: Won the Vikings' nickel job, but did not elevate to a starting role when Chris Cook was lost to a wrist injury. That job has gone to veteran A.J. Jefferson. He has one interception, and the Vikings don't want to give him too much to handle.

Player: Packers defensive lineman Jerel Worthy
Seifert comment: Worthy has two sacks in eight games and has played 59 percent of the Packers' snaps.

Player: Packers linebacker Nick Perry
Seifert comment: Perry had two sacks in six games before wrist and knee injuries ended his season. He started five of those games, but was rotating with Erik Walden and Dezman Moses. All in all, the Packers' top pick had an incomplete rookie season.