Who are the Early Candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Who are the Early Candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year?

We’re in the middle of Week 7 of the NFL regular season, and as fans, we’ve gotten to see what the rookies of our favorite teams have been able to accomplish thus far. A few weeks prior, we discussed potential offensive rookie of the year candidates, and today we talk defense.

Personally, I think the DROY race is much more fascinating than the OROY race. Why? The sheer talent on the defensive side has been impressive. I look forward to seeing the progress of these defensive studs for the remainder of their rookie year.

8. Donte Jackson, CB, Carolina Panthers 

Carolina Panthers CB Donte Jackson.

In starting five games for the Panthers, Donte Jackson has shown that he can ball out, despite his pedestrian frame of 5’10”, 180 lbs. Thus far, he’s amassed 28 tackles, a forced fumble and 3 interceptions.

To move up in the rankings, Jackson must assert himself as a ball-hawking corner. He’s tied for being the league leader in interceptions, so if he can continue this trend by finishing the season as the interception king, some voters will give him the nod.

7. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch.

To quote Skip Bayless, the “Tackling Dutchman” has been a welcomed addition to the Cowboys’ linebacker corps. His 50 tackles on the season may not be a wildly impressive stat, but his influence on the field, as well as the fact that he plays for “America’s Team” may push him into consideration.

If Vander Esch wants to win DROY, he’ll have to collect a few sacks and prove to be a quality coverage linebacker. The trio of him, Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee will be an exciting one to watch for the rest of the season.

6. Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears 

Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith.

Like Vander Esch, Smith’s production hasn’t been stellar, but his impact has been. In his four games starting, Smith has racked up 31 tackles and 1 sack. Again, not wildly impressive, but his impact can be felt by helping other defensive standouts like Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd get to the QB through his good coverage ability.

Smith must become a more proficient and active tackler to receive DROY consideration. He must also get to the quarterback more, as 1 sack isn’t going to cut it. Regardless of the DROY race, Smith has a promising future in the Windy City.

5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Before the draft, Fitzpatrick was labeled the “safest” prospect to select. Thus far, it’s hard to argue with that logic. His hard-working mentality has been a welcomed edition to Miami’s lax culture. Through his three games starting and his six overall games playing, the Alabama product has 37 tackles and 1 interception to his name.

Again, his presence is felt through the culture change he’s given this Dolphins squad. To receive more consideration, he’ll have to assert himself as an elite cover safety.

4. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns 

Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward.

The highest picked defensive player in the 2018 NFL Draft ranks #4 in the DROY race (for now). Ward has had a strong start to his rookie campaign. He’s amassed 28 tackles, a forced fumble and 3 interceptions thus far.

I’d give Ward the same advice as I did Donte Jackson – assert yourself as a ball hawk. If Ward becomes the interception king and is regarded by season’s end as a top 10 corner, he should win DROY.

3. Bradley Chubb, DE, Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos DE Bradley Chubb.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a massive Bradley Chubb fan during the draft process, but I am now. He’s been as dominant as anyone, with 20 tackles and 6.5 sacks through seven games.

If Chubb wants to run away with the DROY trophy, he has to finish with 13+ sacks and show that him and Von Miller are going to be an issue in the AFC West.

2. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard.

Is this my Colts bias talking? Potentially, but Leonard has the stats to back me up. In five games, “The Maniac” has put up 62 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. It’s safe to say that he’s been an issue for opposing QBs.

To be DROY, Leonard just has to keep playing his best football and stay healthy. Leonard should aim to get at least one or two interceptions, as well.

1. Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers 

Los Angeles Chargers S Derwin James.

Derwin James is laughing at all the teams who passed on him on draft day. Through six games, James has eclipsed 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 1 interception. What separates James from Leonard is his reputation of being a thumper, but it will be interesting to see who take it home.

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Who are the Early Candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year?

We’re four weeks in and this season has been nothing short of riveting. As a draft geek, I love seeing how rookies fit with their new teams, and there have been some standouts thus far on both sides of the ball.

Today, let’s take a look at who are the early offensive rookie of the year candidates.

8. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns RB Nick Chubb.

Just barely nudging into consideration is an emerging weapon for Baker Mayfield. Chubb has been an afterthought thus far, but his performance against the Oakland Raiders put the league on notice.

Chubb rushed for 105 yards on 3 attempts (yeah, that’s an average of 35 yards per carry) against Oakland, and the Browns are looking to give him more carries moving forward.

7. Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals QB Josh Rosen.

This is a true dark-horse pick, but if Rosen can turn this struggling franchise around, then he’ll most definitely be considered for OROY. I thought it was foolish to throw him into the fire against the Bears, but he showed some encouraging traits in his first start against Seattle.

Against the Seahawks, Rosen went 15 for 27 for 180 yards and 1 touchdown. Although these aren’t great stats, given that this was his first start and he didn’t throw any picks, it’s not bad. If Rosen can show that he can be an upper-tier QB in the NFL, he’ll OROY consideration.

6. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay.

Lindsay is the only undrafted rookie I have on this list, but boy is he deserving of it. I wanted to also include Lindsay’s teammate, Royce Freeman on this list, but Lindsay has shown way more explosiveness and he jumps off your screen.

So far this season, Lindsay has 267 yards rushing and he’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry. If Lindsay can continue with this type of production and be a factor in the passing game, Lindsay should get be in the OROY discussion.

5. Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets

New York Jets QB Sam Darnold.

In some aspects, it’s been a tough transition for the former USC quarterback. He’s thrown 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and his first appearance on Thursday Night Football ended in a loss to Baker Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns. However, Darnold has shown that he’s the future of the Big Apple.

His performance against the Detroit Lions put him on a pedestal that was probably too high for him, but he showed some spark. If he can revive this season and put the Jets in the middle of the pact, Darnold could become this year’s OROY.

4. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions 

Detroit Lions RB Kerryon Johnson.

Johnson has had a quite, but impressive first four weeks of the NFL season. He became the first Detroit Lions running back since 2013 to rush for over 100 yards in one game.

Through four weeks, Johnson has run for 216 yards for 5.7 yards a carry. He has also been a factor in the passing game, too. In order for Johnson to become OROY, he must be entrusted to be the bell-cow and he must be given the ball more in the passing game.

3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns 

Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield.

It looks like Hue Jackson’s plan of benching Baker for Tyrod Taylor for a year didn’t work in his favour. That’s alright, though, since Mayfield has shown promise in both his first appearance and first start, respectively. Could Mayfield become Cleveland’s saving grace? If so, would a mediocre record be enough of an accomplishment for him to win OROY?

In his first appearance against the New York Jets, Baker went 17 for 23 and 201 yards. In his first start against the Raiders, the Oklahoma QB went 21 for 41 and 295 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Not a stellar performance, but Cleveland’s offence putting up 42 points is noteworthy. The title of number one overall pick has lofty expectations, and if Baker can meet them, he’ll be OROY.

2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley.

Let’s not lie to ourselves, everyone thought Saquon would be the unanimous OROY coming into the 2018 NFL season. Has he lived up to expectations? I don’t think he has, but I blame a lot of that on how poor the Giants are as a collective. It’s no secret: Barkley is versatile. However, in order to win OROY, he must demonstrate that he is an elite running talent.

Over the first four weeks, Saquon has accumulated 260 rushing yards with 3 touchdowns. As well, Barkley has 27 receptions for 193 receiving yards. He’s been good, but he has to push it into the next gear to get my OROY vote.

1. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley.

Perhaps an unlikely leading candidate for OROY, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley has been incredible in the first quarter of the season. Ridley has been an excellent complimentary piece to Julio Jones, and while that isn’t translating into wins, the Falcons must be happy with what they’ve seen.

Ridley has 264 receiving yards and a league-leading 6 receiving touchdowns. Julio takes a lot of targets, as he leads the league in receiving yards, but Ridley will get his fair share of attention from Matty Ice. Look out for Ridley to be my pick for OROY.