In 2019, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bos took home the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Any rookie on the defensive side of the ball has the chance to take home the award. Unlike the offense, defensive players at any position have an opportunity to win DROY. In the ’00s, linebackers dominated the Defensive Rookie of the Year award with winning nine at their position.
However, the 2010s were much different. All three levels on the defensive side saw an award winner. Five defensive lineman won DROY in the 2010s, with three of the five being defensive ends. Linebackers had three winners, and two cornerbacks won the award in the 10s. This year, defensive end Chase Young leads the way as +250 favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year; followed by linebacker Isaiah Simmons at +550, and linebacker Patrick Queen at +1200.
|Julian Okwara||DE||Notre Dame||+2600|
|Willie Gay Jr.||LB||Chiefs||+2600|
|Antoine Winfield Jr.||S||Buccs||+3800|
Nick Bosa won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. Bosa won in a landslide receiving 43 of the 51 first-place votes. With 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 25 quarterback hits, Bosa dominated in his first year in the NFL. He also had nine sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Bosa was the first defensive end to win the award since 2016 when his brother Joey took home the honors.
Chase Young comes in atop the Defensive Rookie of the Year leaderboard with +250 odds to take home the award. The 2019 Ohio State all-American was the first defensive player drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. Also, Young lead the nation with 16 sacks in his junior year at Ohio State. Last year, Washington finished with one of the worst defenses in the NFL, ranking 24th in efficiency. Chase Young could be their best defensive player in 2020. However, the Redskins have a strong defensive line where Young might have chances to go one-on-one with opponents. Usually, a defensive lineman that wins the award is an absolute force for opponents to handle. Also, the talent around them is good enough where the Rookie has a chance to make impactful plays when he gets the opportunity. The Redskins D-line is good enough where Young could make an impact in his rookie season. Ryan Kerrigan is the other defensive lineman that will line up on the other side of Young. Also, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen has had back to back seasons with over 60 tackles, which is hard to do when fighting in the trenches. Young is the favorite to win DROY for a reason, and he has enough help on the defensive end where he should make his impact felt immediately.
Next In Line
Next is Isaiah Simmons, who sits at +550 to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Like Young, Simmons was also a consensus all-American in 2019. Also, Simmons was the Butkus Award winner last year for the best college football linebacker. Arguably, Simmons could be the most athletic defensive player in the draft. He has the size to rush the quarterback and the speed of a safety. At Clemson, Simmons did it all and had a significant impact on the Clemson defense. Last year, he had 104 total tackles, eight sacks, and eight pass deflections. Overall, Simmons is a beast and can play anywhere on the field. The Cardinals have a strong linebacking core with Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks playing alongside Simmons. Arizona could use some work on the defensive line, but this would be an opportunity for Simmons to step up and show everyone how he managed to get 16.5 tackles for loss in his last year at Clemson.
Patrick Queen rounds out the top three with odds at +1200 to take home Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Baltimore Ravens are known for their elite linebackers. Now, they grabbed another stud at the end of the first round. Arguably, Patrick Queen will be the best linebacker that the Ravens field in 2020. Baltimore finished with the fourth-most efficient defense in 2019, according to Football Outsiders. However, their rush defense finished 20th in efficiency. Queen will be an automatic upgrade to help slow down opponents rushing attacks. He had 85 tackles and 12 tackles for loss in 2019. Given the circumstances, Queen has an excellent chance to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Ravens finished with the best record in the NFL. There is talent on both sides of the ball, and defensively, they have multiple playmakers that will give Queen a chance to shine. The talent surrounding Queen will free him up for more opportunities to make plays throughout 2020.
Kenneth Murray sticks out as a guy that can find his towards the top of the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. At +2100, Murray had an incredible finish to his college career the linebacker out of Oklahoma had 102 total tackled and 17 tackles for loss in 2019. In 2018, he finished the season with 155 total tackles. Collecting 257 tackled in the last two seasons as a college football player is tough to do, but Murray proved he seek and destroy any ball carrier on the field. The Chargers were another team that needed help at the linebacker position. Murray is going to be the best linebacker on the field for the Chargers and will move around like how he did at Oklahoma. Also, the Chargers defensive line is one of the best in the AFC with 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Linval Joseph as three of the Chargers four starting defensive lineman. There shouldn’t be much of a shock if Murray finished the season with over 100 tackles in his rookie year. With hoe the Chargers offense looks going into 2020, their defense might be on the field more than expected, giving Murray extra opportunities to make plays.
Ever since the Jaguars got rid of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville has been looking for a guy to replace that level a talent. Well, they might have that in CJ Henderson, who sits at +2600 to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. SEC quarterbacks struggled to complete passes when they threw to Henderson’s side of the field. He had 11 pass deflections in 2019, and 20 for his career. However, injuries could hurt Henderson’s playing time. He missed seven games in his three years at Florida, including four games in 2019. Overall, Henderson played like one of the best cornerbacks in the country when he was healthy. Jacksonville’s secondary hasn’t been the same since their 2018 AFC Championship appearance. The Jaguars lost all four starting defensive backs from that roster. Now, they look to Henderson to solidify the secondary for years to come. A Defensive Rookie of the Year award would be a great start.
Jaylon Johnson sticks out as one of the best long shots on the board for Defensive Player of the Year. In 2019, Johnson was apart of an elite Utah defense that held teams to 15 points per game. Now, he heads to the Windy City to join one of the best defenses in the NFL. At Utah, Johnson finished with over 100 career tackles, and top-25 in the PAC-12 for passes defended in a career. Johnson also finished his career with seven interceptions while one college. Right now, Johnson will fight for a starting job with Bears cornerback Buster Skrine. Skrine was an average defender at best for Chicago last season, and the Bears could use an upgrade on the opposite side of Kyle Fuller. Johnson fits that job well as a lockdown corner in college. However, if Johnson doesn’t beat out Skrine, then he will most likely see time at the nickel cornerback position. In today’s NFL, the nickel corner is becoming a vital position for defenses to fill. Johnson will get a lot of opportunities to lockdown defenders whether he’s on the outside or inside in 2020.
Antoine Winfield Jr. comes in at +3800 to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. If Winfield Jr. wins the award, it will be the first time a safety has won since 1990. Since the start of awarding a DROY, only two safeties have won. This would be almost an unprecedented feat if Winfield Jr. can pull it off. In 2019, he had a breakout year with 83 total tackles and seven interceptions. He was a ballhawk for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and was able to play towards the line of scrimmage as he had three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Winfield Jr. might have found the right home in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL last season, and Winfield Jr. will help limit quarterback’s ability to move the ball downfield. With a weak secondary, Winfield Jr. might have a better chance to stand out, especially as a rookie. NFL quarterbacks could challenge rookie, where he could have multiple opportunities to make plays. Again, it’s a rare occurrence that a safety wins Defensive Rookie of the Year, but if there’s a safety on the board that has a chance, it’s Winfield Jr.
Best of the Rest
Jeff Okudah at +2100 is a prime candidate to be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. First, he was the first cornerback taken in the NFL Draft going to the Lions. Okudah had nine pass deflections and three interceptions in 2019 and was a consensus all-American. He will replace former Lions cornerback Darius Slay who was traded in the middle of the 2019 season. A fan favorite, Okudah, will have big shoes to fill. However, he will be up for the challenge. He’ll try to fight former Ohio State teammate Chase Young for the defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Also, Okudah will see Aaron Rodgers twice this season. Something that could help his DROY resume would be to give Rodgers fits when they meet. Okudah doesn’t insert himself into the best secondary. Depending on how the season goes, he could get picked on being a young rookie, but that’s ok. He’ll be able to show the NFL why he should be Defensive Rookie of the Year if he makes plays.
Derrick Brown comes in with the ninth-best odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year at +2500. In 2019, Brown had 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and managed to defend four passes at the line of scrimmage. At 6-5 325 lbs, Brown is a big defensive tackle that will clog up the trenches against any team. Also, he was a consensus all-American his Junior year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, the Panthers had one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. A guy like Brown clogging up the middle will do the Panthers defense wonders. Brown should have a lot of opportunities to wreak havoc in opponents’ backfields. However, one issue could be the Panther’s front four. Carolina doesn’t have the strongest defensive line, so if Brown has an impact early in the season, he could end up being double-teamed more often. Overall, Brown’s odds should move due to his size and ability. He should be able to create enough havoc in 2020.