The Offensive Rookie of the Year predictions were much easier to break down when Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are both rookie quarterbacks this year. However, I’m having a much harder time deciding between who is worthy of Defensive Rookie of the Year. All of my below candidates have been outstanding this season and are worthy of mention. Here is my breakdown of “Who should win”, “Who will win”, and “Honorable mention”.
Who should win:
Bobby Wagner – MLB – Seattle Seahawks
Wagner has quickly become a leader of one of the more surprising dominant defenses in the NFL this season. Wagner has 109 tackles (67 solo), two sacks, four passes defensed, and three interceptions for a total of 55 yards (18.3 average). His longest returned interception was for 45 yards. Wagner has been a big part of why the Seahawks have been a surprise this season aside from teammate Russell Wilson, which is why I believe he deserves the award.
Who will win:
Casey Hayward – CB – Green Bay Packers
Similar to the Luck and RGIII race, both Wagner and Hawayrd are incredibly talented and both deserve the award, but Hayward has been flashier that could turn the heads of voters. Hayward has 45 tackles, 18 passes defensed, one forced fumble, and five interceptions which he’s returned for a total of 57 yards (11.4 average). The Packers did a great job of finding this guy after the first round. He’s been a great asset to a defense that has struggled for the most part this season.
Chandler Jones – DE – New England Patriots
The Patriotes front seven has gone from dismal last year, to super quality this year. Jones is the difference. He has the athletic nature not far off from players like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants. Jones has 36 tackles, six sacks, three passes defensed, and three forced fumbles. It’s players like him, Watt, and Pierre-Paul that are changing the way defensive ends play football. All are a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Jones doesn’t stand out against the two rookies above, but next year could be a monster year for him. It seems to be the trend as Watt and Pierre-Paul also exploded onto the NFL scene in both of their second years.
Janoris Jenkins – CB – St. Louis Rams
Jenkins fell late in the draft due to questions of character, but the Rams have done a great job with him and have really utilized his athleticism and talent. He’s shown flashes of dominance, but has made too many mistakes along the way which could keep him from winning the award. Jenkins has 58 tackles (49 solo), 13 passes defensed, and three interceptions for 109 yards (36.3 average). His longest return was for 39 yards.
Check back tomorrow for my Comeback Player of the Year predictions
You can follow Kelsey O’Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell