Whole Nine Sports

Defensive Rookie of the Year

John Esposito
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It has forever been said that defense wins championships.  I sentiment I fully agree with.  You cannot have a great defense without some great rookies.  1967 started the awarding of the Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Detroit Lion great Lem Barney took home the inaugural award grabbing his first 10 interceptions, in a career that ended with 56.  He returned 3 for TD’s and was selected for the Pro Bowl.  Hall of Famers like Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, and LT; to name a few have started their illustrious careers with this award. 2020 has some great candidates for the award and I will break down the top candidates along with their odds to win.

Jeff Okudah CB Detroit Lions +2000

The top cornerback in the 2020 draft has the combination of size (6’1 205 with 32 5/8” arms) and speed (4.48 40).  He is athletic enough to play press man against the best, using his size to be physical and overall freakish athleticism to stay with even the quickest WR.  Landing in Detroit might have been the best fit for him, as a defense the Lions played straight man 54% of the time (#1 in the NFL).  He will have to see the likes of Davante Adams, Adam Thielen, and Michael Thomas, but if his college success translates to the NFL with some interceptions against these guys he will be in the discussion.

Patrick Queen LB Baltimore Ravens +1200

This LSU standout showed serious speed and athletic ability (4.5 40/35” vert) prompting the Ravens to pull the trigger at 28 and select Queen.  That speed and athleticism will allow the Ravens to use him as a blitzer, but not worry about him in pass coverage.  His sideline to sideline play will lead to tackles, throw in some sacks; maybe a few interceptions and Queen might join some Raven LB’s (Peter Boulware ‘97/Terell Suggs ’03) to win the award.

Isaiah Simmons LB Arizona Cardinals +550

The Swiss Army knife of players Simmons was one of three to play 100 defensive snaps on the defensive line, in the slot, in the box, and at free safety.  He of the 3 was the only to have success no matter where he was.  Cardinal DC Vance Joseph said Simmons won’t play much in the secondary, but they will use him all over the field if he adjusts to the NFL.  Simmons was a combine monster posting ridiculous measurables with a 4.39 40, 39” vertical and 11’0” broad.  No matter where he plays, he will make a difference and if healthy he will have a run the award.

Chase Young EDGE Washington Redskins +350

Chase Young has been the odds-on favorite since being picked 2nd overall behind Joe Burrow.  At 6’5 265 Young dominated the college ranks and quite possibly was the best prospect out of college at the edge we’ve seen.  Yes, that includes the Bosa brothers, whom both have won this award.  Out of Ohio St like the Bosas they were all coached by Larry Johnson.  Incredibly quick off the ball with his massive size he does not lose speed to the QB.  He will not only hit the QB, he forces turnovers.  He will have to become a bit better against the run in the NFL, but Young seems like a cannot miss player and should make a beeline to the award.

Xavier McKinney S NY Giants +2500

The 36th overall pick in the draft the Giants got themselves a first-round talent in the second round.  He is an absolute steal. Coming into a bad defense that needs safety help McKinney will surely start.  He is a playmaker who need to do just that in order to make a run.  The Giants could conceivably be down, and tackles won’t do it, he’ll need picks.  He will play next to another playmaker in Jabrill Peppers who could stela some of this thunder, but McKinney is good enough to overcome to make a run.

There are some great rookies that are going to start for their respective teams and help in a big way.  There are several that will be in the discussion, a few laid out here.  I am an underdog guy and tend to fade heavy favorites, but in this race, I think the heavy favorite is a runaway.  I am looking at Chase Young to sack enough QB’s and force enough turnovers to give the Redskin fans something to cheer for in a what could be another disappointing season.