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NFC North Rundown: Rookies are leaving strong first impressions

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From first round picks to undrafted free agents, rookies around the division have been catching the eye of coaches and media alike in early team activities.

SEC Championship - Auburn v Georgia Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With 11 draft picks and a slew of undrafted free agents jockeying to make the Green Bay Packers’ final 53-man roster, competition among young players will be high this summer. Early indications are that the Packers’ first two selections, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, particularly have bright rookie seasons ahead of them, while much will be expected from at least one of Green Bay’s trio of wide receiver draftees.

Elsewhere around the NFC North, early round picks have drawn rave reviews, with second round picks on each team quickly grabbing attention. Not to be overshadowed by the picks on days one and two of the draft, mid-to-late round prospects are looking to make their own marks in upcoming minicamps, including a particular undrafted cornerback in Minnesota.

Some news and updates on the division’s rookies are below in today’s NFC North rundown.

Detroit Lions

Johnson adjusting to NFL, working with veterans

As a second round pick, running back Kerryon Johnson looks to transition from a bellcow role at Auburn to a change-of-pace back in year one with newcomer LeGarrette Blount and returners Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah in the backfield.

Lions’ rookie OL Tyrell Crosby moves on from draft disappointment

After a significant draft weekend drop, the former Oregon Duck looks to prove his value on the Lions’ offensive line as a fifth round pick.

Rookie fullback Nick Bawden leaves Lions minicamp with apparent knee injury

Detroit’s seventh round pick is expected to compete for a fullback position that will be more emphasized in the 2018 offense. The Lions hope the injury is just a scare for Bawden, who walked off the field under his own power after clutching his knee during a special teams drill.

Chicago Bears

Fangio impressed with Smith’s progress

The Bears’ defensive coordinator likes the speeds, smarts, and instincts of the team’s first round pick, who is expected to make an immediate impact in Chicago’s defense.

Athletic Bears rookie Kylie Fitts must prove his durability

As a sixth round pick, the rush linebacker out of Utah brings plenty of upside as a sixth round pick. Although he’s had a few injuries and isn’t going to be counted on for immediate help, Utes Head Coach Kyle Whittingham thoroughly details the kind of player Chicago is getting right now with Fitts.

How has Anthony Miller fared?

Chicago traded up to acquire the Memphis product in the second round. In this Q&A, it appears Miller has made a positive impression on quarterback Mitch Trubisky, while fellow picks Roquan Smith and James Daniels are initially running with the second team.

Minnesota Vikings

Vikings believe rookie Holton Hill has ability to start

The Vikings may have found an undrafted gem in Hill, who has turned heads since joining the organization. Character red flags were a deterrent for teams during the draft, but Hill has caught the attention of Head Coach Mike Zimmer early and Hill has even been considered the most physical cornerback in this year’s draft class by the team.

Mike Hughes ‘pretty close’ to signing rookie deal with Vikings

Minnesota appears to be gaining steam on a contract with first round pick Mike Hughes, another corner that carried some character concerns into the 2018 NFL Draft. For Hughes, the expectation is that he can provide the Vikings with special teams and return duties while he catches up to speed on defense.

‘See food diet:’ How Vikings rookie transformed from TE to OT

Second round pick Brian O’Neill has an opportunity to start at right tackle for the Vikings eventually in year one. But in order to do so, he needs to increase his size and strength, something he is familiar with after transitioning from tight end to offensive line at Pitt.