Opening day draws closer. Around the NFL, rookies are working hard to earn their way into the starting lineup. Who has the best shot to make it?
Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – FS
Given the solid veteran roster the Green Bay Packers already have in place, it is going to be difficult for any rookie to crack the starting lineup, even 1st round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The young safety has plenty of ability, but thus far Micah Hyde, a converted corner has performed better in camp. Unless Clinton-Dix makes an impact in the preseason, the Packers may stick with Hyde to start the season.
Chicago Bears: Pat O’Donnell – P
Like the Packers, the Chicago Bears favor veterans in their starting lineup. Most positions play out that way. First round pick Kyle Fuller will see heavy action in nickel packages and 4th round pick Brock Vereen is in a race for the free safety spot, but the most likely rookie to crack the starting lineup will be 6th round pick Pat O’Donnell. A punter out of Miami, he has steadily improved throughout the preseason, going from 43.5 yards per punt in the opener to 48.3 in week two. His impressive size and power are hard to ignore, and his main competition Tress Way has struggled. Given how bad the Bears were punting in 2013, they’d like to get their draft pick on the field sooner than later.
Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr – OLB
Teddy Bridgewater is still in the thick of the quarterback race with Matt Cassel, but he has lost some ground since opening night against Oakland. Meanwhile, overlooked linebacker Anthony Barr looked right at home on the strong side for the Minnesota Vikings, flashing his impressive pass rush skill in sharing a sack his first game. Nobody else on the roster can match his talent at that position. Better to get him going right away.
Detroit Lions: Kyle Van Noy – OLB
Eric Ebron may be the odd on favorite to secure a starting role for the Detroit Lions, but his preseason debut quieted his stock. Throw in the fact he must battle veteran Brandon Pettigrew and red zone specialist Joseph Fauria for snaps and its a tough sell. On the other hand, BYU product Kyle Van Noy features plenty of assets to exploit on defense both in coverage and rushing the passer. Only veteran Ashlee Palmer sits ahead of him on the depth chart. Based on safe bets, Van Noy should reach the tape first.