Who Will Be The 2013 Defensive Rookie Of The Year?
By Bill Lund
Last week, we looked at the top candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now, we turn our attention to the other side of the ball.
Defensively, a number of players can be projected to have immediate impacts on their respective clubs. Sharrif Floyd will be able to plug into the Vikings defensive front and provide the type of disruption their scheme requires. Ziggy Ansah in Detroit has raw talent, but may take a bit of time to adjust to the pro game. Dion Jordan also has tremendous upside and will be a situational rusher as he adjusts to playing with his hand in the dirt on a more consistent basis with the Dolphins. Matt Elam has a chance to plug right in the lineup with the Super Bowl champs and impact a Baltimore defense moving forward without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Alec Ogletree has a chance to step into the Rams defense and become a great sideline-to-sideline tackling machine.
It is important to remember that nine of the last 10 Defensive Rookies of the Year have been linebackers (the other was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh). When looking at the results of the 2013 NFL Draft, there are two players who appear to have the best chance to become the Defensive Rookie of the Year. And both are linebackers: Arthur Brown and Jarvis Jones.
Brown was drafted by Baltimore to replace Lewis. If we’ve learned anything about the tenure of Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta, it is that they are masters of finding “new parts” in the draft. Lewis cannot be replaced, but Brown has a chance to play behind a defensive line that allowed Lewis to be Lewis, a sideline-to-sideline tackling menace. Brown will be an every-down backer. He has the instincts to diagnose and the speed to run things down. The Ravens coaching staff will put Brown in a great position to rack up tackles and make the kind of plays that will make Lewis, the future Hall of Famer, proud.
Jones landed in a dream situation. He gets to play his OLB position for a Pittsburgh defense that has a long-standing tradition of menacing edge rushers, and he'll be playing for Dick LeBeau, one of the greatest defensive minds of all-time. Jones was an ultra-productive player in the best conference in the country (SEC), then questions rose after a lackluster pro day. In the end, his productivity was what won over the Steelers. He has a great first step, and with LeBeau’s ability to utilize Jones’ strengths, he will be in line to continue his production at the pro level. In 2003, Terrell Suggs was coming off a questionable pro day to become Defensive Rookie of the Year; Jones may be in line for such a season.
Both players will have their share of opportunities to make their mark. Brown has the ability athletically to come in and be a very productive player behind a strong Ravens defensive line. Jones gets a dream opportunity to continue a long line of great defenders along the “Steel Curtain”. He will be able to rack up sacks and make game-changing plays much like he did for Georgia.
When it’s all said and done, I feel Brown will get the nod as Defensive Rookie of the Year. Perhaps it's a matter of trusting the draft history of Newsome and DeCosta, but being able to roam sideline to sideline in the Ravens scheme will help Brown make a ton of tackles as well as the plays needed to garner the title of best defensive rookie.