The NFL rewards aren’t given out nine weeks into the season but it’s worth looking into since we are over halfway through the regular season already. The Rookie of the Year award is one worth looking at this year. While Saquon Barkley has the Offensive Rookie of the Year award locked up, the Defensive Rookie of the Year is a bit of a closer race. Let’s take a look at a couple candidates who could potentially end up with the hardware.
Darius Leonard,Linebacker, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 88 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles
Leonard was the 36th player taken off the board in last year’s NFL Draft but has made a huge impact for the Colts defense. He not only leads the Colts in tackles, but he also leads the league. Only Dee Ford, J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, and Von Miller have more forced fumbles than Leonard so far this season. If Leonard were to win this award, he’d be the first player in 12 years who wasn’t drafted in the first round. Nine weeks into the season, Leonard looks to be the early favorite but there is still more football to be played before that decision is made.
Bradley Chubb,Linebacker, Denver Broncos
Stats: 30 Tackles, 8.0 Sacks
Bradley Chubb was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 5th overall pick and has served as a very nice complimentary piece to Von Miller. Chubb has been looked at the least of these candidates, but it’s hard not to see what kind of impact he has made for this defense, especially in the pass defense. He’s constantly getting to the quarterback and has erupted for eight sacks in his first nine games. Chubb leads all rookies with 8.0 sacks and ranks sixth overall.
Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Cleveland Browns
Stats: 40 Tackles, 3 Interceptions, 1 Forced Fumble
Denzel Ward was the first defensive player taken off the board in last year’s draft, but when it comes to taking home this trophy, being the top pick doesn’t matter. In the last six years, only one of those top picks won the award. However, Ward is making a case this year. He’s already won Pepsi’s Rookie of the Week Award twice (Week’s 1 & 5).
Derwin James, Safety, Los Angeles Chargers
Stats: 55 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 1 Interception
Two of the last three winners of this award were defensive backs. However, a safety has only won this award twice in the history of this award and hasn’t been done since 1990. James is looking to overcome those odds.