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NFC NORTH: Rookie report for all four teams

The first five weeks of the NFL season are in the books, and the pool of rookie players around the NFC North now have a little more than a quarter of the season under their belts. Experience counts for a lot in the NFL, so the more the rookies get, the better.

Who from this rookie class has stood out for each of the four teams in the division? What have been some of the surprises?

This week's NFC North column takes a look at how the rookies are doing five weeks into their first season:


Record: 4-1

Last week: Green Bay 34, Dallas 24

Up next: vs. Detroit (2-1-1)

Best rookie so far: Safety Darnell Savage Jr.

The second of the Packers' two first-round picks has had a really good start to his rookie campaign.

Savage has allowed just a 10.7 passer rating on throws into his coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the third lowest among all safeties. He's allowed just three receptions in five games, and also has defended three passes, with an interception and a forced fumble.

Green Bay's starting strong safety has shown to have the full package, and is making an immediate impact.

Biggest surprise: G Elgton Jenkins

Green Bay's second-round pick stepped into the starting left guard spot due to injury Week 3 and has been solid since. He made a number of key blocks to spring big runs for Aaron Jones' four-touchdown performance in Dallas last week.

As a pass protector, Jenkins hasn't allowed a sack or quarterback hit yet this year, and is credited with allowing just four quarterback hurries. He played tackle, guard and center at Mississippi State, and that versatility has been on display early in his NFL career.


Record: 2-1-1

Last week: Bye

Up next: at Green Bay (4-1)

Best rookie so far: TE T.J. Hockenson

Detroit's first-round pick (No. 8 overall) is also their third leading receiver through four games with 11 catches for 166 yards and a couple scores. Hockenson burst onto the scene with 131 yards Week 1. He was rather quiet in Weeks' 2 & 3, as defenses adjusted to his big Week 1 output, but he was coming on strong Week 4 vs. Kansas City before suffering a concussion in the third quarter.

Hockenson (15.1) is second only to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (15.4) in average yards per reception among Lions pass catchers. Hockenson needs to be a little bit more consistent in the blocking department, but he's otherwise been pretty good to start the year.

Biggest surprise: LB Jahlani Tavai

Not many people had heard of Tavai when the Lions selected him in the second round, mainly because he played college ball at Hawaii, but Tavai quickly earned a role with the first-team defense as a versatile linebacker. He's played both middle and outside linebacker, and as an on-the-line rusher at times.

He's got 12 tackles and forced a critical goal-line fumble in the Chargers game that helped Detroit beat Los Angeles Week 2. He's been a solid piece to Detroit's front seven early on.


Record: 3-2

Last week: Minnesota 28, New York Giants 10

Up next: vs. Philadelphia (3-2)

Best rookie so far: RB Alexander Mattison

The third-round pick out of Boise State has been a solid backup to Dalvin Cook early on. Cook, the league's second leading rusher behind Christian McCaffrey, has been terrific, but Mattison has stepped in and made plays when given his opportunities.

The rookie is averaging 5.6 yards per rush on 34 carries with a touchdown. He rushed for 52 yards on just seven carries in last week's win over the Giants. He's been a reliable No. 2 behind Cook this year.

Biggest surprise: C Garrett Bradbury

For those who believe in analytics, the Vikings' first-round pick is currently the No. 33 graded center in football by Pro Football Focus, which is last in the NFL. He's allowed the third most quarterback hurries (11), has the second most penalties (4) and the second worst run-block grade among all centers.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Bradbury's had some 'Welcome to the NFL' moments early in his career, but Bradbury is coming off his best game last week vs. the Giants, and he's been reliable starting all five contests for the Vikings. The Vikings also rank third in rushing (166.4).


Record: 3-2

Last week: Oakland 24, Chicago 21

Up next: Bye

Best rookie so far: RB David Montgomery

The Bears didn't have a lot of draft capital this year after trading for linebacker Khalil Mack last year. Their first pick didn't come until Montgomery in the third round. The rookie out of Iowa State is Chicago's leading rusher on the year with 69 carries for 225 yards (3.3 average) and a couple scores. He's also caught nine passes for 72 more yards.

It's been a tough go of it on the ground for the Bears, as they're averaging just 80.6 rushing yards per game, but Montgomery runs hard and has some versatility.

Biggest surprise: WR Riley Ridley

The Bears are a veteran team, and Ridley is one of only four rookies on the 53-man roster. As such, he's found himself fifth on the depth chart at wide receiver behind Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Cordarrelle Patterson. Ridley has been inactive for each of the Bears' first five games.

Ridley is one injury away from being asked to contribute, but it's a little surprising he's not been able to see the field just yet for the Bears.

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