Five top 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates

The best candidates for NFL Rookie of the Year awards aren't just about who is the best player. A confluence of factors -- from raw talent, to the opportunity to start immediately, to being surrounded by the right cast of teammates -- is required for one rookie to rise above all others. Here is a look at five strong possibilities for the 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Leonard Williams, DL, New York Jets

Who could argue with the most-talented and pro-ready player in the entire draft as an ROY candidate? The addition of Williams to a Jets defensive line that already includes Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson is nothing short of fearsome. And the presence of the veterans will go a long way toward keeping Williams in the one-on-one situations that he dominated routinely at the college level. The last two defensive ROYs have been defensive linemen, including Richardson in 2013 -- why not another Jet at the same position?

Randy Gregory, LB, Dallas Cowboys

The last time a defensive ROY was picked later than Gregory was (No. 60 overall) was Erik McMillan, whom the New York Jets drafted in 1988 at No. 63 overall. Still, Gregory's slip in the draft had more to do with character concerns than what he can do on the field. He just might prove to be the best pass rusher in the entire draft, and if that's the case he's a major threat for the honor. He's in a big market playing for "America's team," so there will be no shortage of attention on him. If he delivers, he'll be in the conversation.

Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Think Peters won't get tested as a rookie? He's got Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in his division, along with an up-and-comer in Derek Carr, who has added Amari Cooper to his arsenal. Out of division, he'll get a look at Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger. Whether he passes those tests or just gets picked on as an easy target remains to be seen, but there shouldn't be any shortage of balls thrown his way.

Bud Dupree, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers were desperate for a fresh face on the edge of its pass rush, and got just that in Dupree, who brings more size than most of the top pass rushers in the draft at 265 pounds. New defensive coordinator Keith Butler worked under Dick LeBeau, and should have no problem carrying forward LeBeau's ability to put a pass rusher in a position for success. If Dupree doesn't win the ROY award, expect him to be a serious contender for it.

Landon Collins, DB, New York Giants

You know an NFL rookie is special when it looked like he was playing with kids in college, then with old men in the NFL. Collins' physicality at Alabama certainly gave the former impression, and the latter could be coming. The Giants moved up seven spots and gave up a fourth-round pick to make Collins the first pick of the second round -- he'll get every chance to be a starter from Day 1. Collins is more of a hitter than a ball hawk, but has a knack for making big plays one way or another. If things go well for the Giants' defense, he'll have a significant hand in it.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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