After looking at potential NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates for each division, it’s time to consider who could be NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (ROTY) from the next young group of defensive stars.
As with the offensive players, I considered opportunity and, less so, history when selecting candidates.
Opportunity means most of these players will have an opportunity to get on the field early and often.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates is an interesting list
For example, defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens join a Chicago Bears defense with a massive talent vacuum on the defensive line, providing each an immediate opportunity to prove they belong on the field. Conversely, the Cleveland Browns added imposing defensive tackle/nose tackle Siaki Ika in the third round.
While he projects as a valuable roster addition and eventual starter, he’s probably not cracking the starting lineup in 2023 due to experienced depth at the position.
History with the Defensive ROTY paints a different picture than on the offensive side of the ball, where only quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers have won the award since 1964. You have a chance on defense if you make an impact and shine as a rookie.
Safety is the only defensive position statistically unlikely to win the award, where only Erik McMillian, Jets (‘ 88), and Mark Carrier, Bears (‘ 90), took home the honor.
With that background information, let’s look at this year’s batch of rookies and consider one from each division for the 2023 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year!