Dark Horse Candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year


The 2019 NFL Draft has come and while most experts and pundits are picking the low hanging fruit when it comes to their predictions for possible candidates for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. The entire draft was filled with gifted defenders that possess elite level talent and are jockeying for early dibs on DROY. Here are some rookies that aren’t being talked about as likely candidates but deserve serious consideration and could very well bring home the honor:

DE Montez Sweat, Washington Redskins: He’s a top 10 talent that fell into the bottom of the first round because of minor health red flag but that didn’t stop the Redskins from trading back into the first to select him. The former Mississippi State Bulldog has the unique blend of size and athleticism to make an immediate impact off the edge and will have a chip on his shoulder from sliding so far down the board.

Predictions for 2019: 12.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 61 total tackles and six forced fumbles

CB Byron Murphy, Arizona Cardinals: He was the top-rated corner according to many draft experts and pundits but fell just outside of the first round where the Cardinals took him with the first pick of the second round at No.33 overall. The former Washington Huskie will team up with a learn from All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson in Arizona. Since Peterson will be locking down on side of the filed and will follow the opposing team’s best receiver, Murphy will likely get targeted early and often, but he possesses the skills to make quarterbacks pay dearly for thinking they could take advantage of him.

Predictions for 2019: 14 pass breakups, 58 tackles, five interceptions, and one pick returned for a touchdown.

CB Joejuan Williams, New England Patriots: The defending Superbowl champions now have two big bodied outside corners that excel at playing tight in coverage and rack up a lot of pass deflections in the rookie out of Vanderbilt and Stephon Gilmore whose interception in the title game that essentially secured the franchise’s sixth Lombardi trophy.

Predictions for 2019: 17 pass breakups, 54 tackles, and three interceptions.

S Nasir Adderley, Los Angeles Chargers: The former Delaware Blue Hen is one of the best center fielders and ball hawks in this entire class and couldn’t have landed in a better spot. He’ll join 2018 DROY finalist Derwin James, who made the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors as a rookie, in the Chargers secondary to form a scary young safety tandem.

Predictions for 2019: 10 pass breakups, seven interceptions, 50 total tackles, and two picks returned for touchdowns.

S Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs: He used to watch film and highlights of Tryann Mathieu before games at Virginia and now the former Cavalier will be lining up next to him in the back end of Kansas City’s reshaped defense. He’s versatile defensive back that can make plays all over the field from sideline to sideline, near the line of scrimmage as well as down the field much like the player he idolizes.

Predictions for 2019: 12 pass breakups, five interceptions, two sacks, and 45 total tackles.

OLB/DE Chase Winovich, New England Patriots: He was much more productive off the edge both as a pass rusher and run defender at Michigan than his fellow Wolverine Rashan Gary who went to the Green Bay Packers (12th overall) in the first round and the same could happen at the pro level now that he finds himself at the disposal of the defensive mastermind that is Head Coach Bill Belichick.

Predictions for 2019: 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 60 total tackles and four forced fumbles.

OLB Jaylon Ferguson, Baltimore Ravens: He might be the biggest dark horse of them all but shouldn’t be considering his college production and great understanding of how to rush the passer. He not only led the FBS in sacks last season with 17.5, the former Louisiana Tech star nicknamed “Sack Daddy hold the record for the most career sacks in FBS history with 45 in four years. He couldn’t have landed in a better situation than on a Ravens team that saw 15.5 sacks walk in free agency from their outside linebacker position which included the player whose college career record he broke in Terrell Suggs.

Predictions for 2019: 10.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 55 total tackles and five forced fumbles.

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