NFC NORTH

NFC NORTH: How are the four draft classes performing?

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at the draft classes of the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings and how each player is performing thus far.

We're nearly a month into the season and the 34 total draft picks from the four teams in the NFC North have had three games to make an early first impression.

The Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings are all getting some impact plays from their rookie class early on this season.

In this week's NFC North, we take a look at the impact the 2013 rookie class is having on the Division:

BEARS

Record: 3-0

Week 4 opponent: at Lions (2-1)

Draft picks:

Round 1: Kyle Long, G, Oregon.

Round 2: Jon Bostic, ILB, Florida.

Round 4: Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers.

Round 5: Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech.

Round 6: Cornellius Washington, OLB, Georgia.

Round 7: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington St.

Best pick so far: Kyle Long -- He's stepped right in at the right guard spot and has been even better than the Bears probably hoped he's be. He's solidified the interior of that offensive line. He'll get a real good test this week, though, with All Pro Ndamukong Suh lining up on the other side of the ball.

Honorable mention: Jordan Mills – Like Long, Mills stepped right in and earned the starting right tackle spot and has been steady.

Needs to step up: Jon Bostic – He's making an impact on special team, which is good, but the Bears didn't draft him in the second round to play special teams. My guess is they were hoping he'd have more of an impact than he is.

Twentyman: The Bears are getting contributions from their top four picks and two of them have become starters. That's not too bad. It's a credit to the Bears and their scouting department that we're talking about an improved offensive line this year that features two rookie starters on the right side.

LIONS

Record: 2-1

Week 4 opponent: vs. Bears (3-0)

Draft picks:

Round 1: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young

Round 2: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State

Round 3: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky

Round 4: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

Round 5: Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State

Round 6: Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech; Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame

Round 7: Michael Williams, TE, Alabama; Brandon Hepburn, LB, Florida A&M

Best pick so far: Larry Warford – An argument can be made for Ansah, certainly, but the fact the Lions got a starting caliber guard in Warford in the third round is nice work by general manager Martin Mayhew and Co. Warford has stepped right in and played well and looks like he'll be the team's right guard for the next 10 years.

Honorable mention: Ezekiel Ansah -- Even though he was the No. 5 overall pick, there were still some question marks coming into the season about how raw he was and how long it would take him to adjust himself at this level. Well, he leads all rookies with 2.5 sacks through the first three games.

Honorable mention No. 2: Sam Martin – The NFC Special Teams Player of the Week is currently sixth in the NFL in punting average (48.5).

Needs to step up: Devin Taylor – With starter Jason Jones now lost for the season, the Lions are going to rely on Taylor to slide into that defensive end rotation and make plays.

Undrafted impact: Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA: A big body in the red zone at 6-foot-7, Fauria has two touchdowns in the team's first three games.

Twentyman: The Lions are currently getting three starts from their rookie class (including Martin). Slay was demoted from a starting right cornerback last week after starting their the first two weeks. He's still making an impact on special teams, but he needs to start picking things up a little quicker. All and all, this is shaping out to be the best draft class Mayhew has had so far.

PACKERS

Record: 1-2

Week 4 opponent: Bye

Draft picks:

Round 1: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA.

Round 2: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama.

Round 4: David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado; J.C. Tretter, OT, Cornell; Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA.

Round 5: Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa.

Round 6: Nate Palmer, LB, Illinois St.

Round 7: Charles Johnson, WR, Grand Valley St; Kevin Dorsey, WR, Maryland; Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida.

Best pick so far: Micah Hyde – The former Iowa product is the team's third cornerback and has already made a start Week 1 vs. San Francisco. He's got good size and length and the Packers have been pleasantly surprised by their fifth-round pick.

Honorable mention: David Bakhtiari – He became the starting left tackle when Bryan Bulaga suffered a torn ACL in early August. He's had an up-and-down start to the season, as one would expect, allowing 2.5 sacks and 10 pressures.

Needs to step up: Datone Jones – This may be nitpicking a little because Jones hasn't been the same since suffering an ankle injury in the preseason. He's been relegated to basically substitute packages the first few weeks of the season.

Undrafted impact: Chris Banjo, S, Southern Methodist: He earned the Packers fourth safety job out of training camp and has already made a start replacing ineffective players ahead of him. Some worry about his size (5-10), but he's made the most of his opportunities so far. We could also mention undrafted linebacker Andy Mulumba from Eastern Michigan, who's earned a special teams role on the active 53-man roster.

Twentyman: It's too early to make any real determinations on Jones and Lacy, because they've both been dealing with injury. Johnathan Franklin had his first 100-yard game of the season in a Week 3 loss to the Bengals. When Jones and Lacy get back to 100 percent, we'll be able to tell how good this class really is. Stay tuned.

VIKINGS

Record: 0-3

Week 4 opponent: vs. Pittsburgh (0-3) in London, England

Draft picks:

Round 1: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee.

Round 4: Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State.

Round 5: Jeff Locke, P, UCLA.

Round 6: Jeff Baca, G, UCLA.

Round 7: Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State; Travis Bond, G, North Carolina; Everett Dawkins, DT, Florida State.

Best pick so far: Cordarrelle Paterson – The rookie out of Tennessee has been electric as a kickoff returner thus far. He's averaging 37.4 yards per return and has a touchdown. As a receiver, he's second on the team with a 14.6 average per reception.

Honorable mention: Jeff Locke – The first punter taken in the draft (Detroit's Sam Martin was the other one 10 picks later), Locke ranks in the top third in the league with a 47.1 average.

Needs to step up: Sharrif Floyd – He's been a reserve player the first thee weeks and has just two total tackles. Not the impact the Vikings were probably hoping for from the first of their three first-round picks.

Twentyman: Patterson is going to be a really good player and Rhodes has shown some good things in a mostly reserve role. This was a top-heavy draft for the Vikings and I'm guessing they were hoping to get more out of Floyd and Rhodes than they are right now.