Heading into NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special airing nationally on Feb. 4, from 9-11 p.m. ET on NBC, we've asked our analysts to chime in with their own selections for the league's most prestigious individual accolades.
Today, we're talking Rookie of the Year. While Cam Newton is the overwhelming favorite to pick up the award on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive ROY race is wide open. San Francisco's Aldon Smith logged 14 sacks, while Denver's Von Miller racked up 11.5. Meanwhile, Arizona's Patrick Peterson proved to be the most electric returner this side of Devin Hester -- tying an NFL record with four punt-return touchdowns -- and improved in coverage throughout the season.
Let's open the floor to our analysts: Who deserves to win Defensive Rookie of the Year?
- Steve Wyche NFL.com
Denver's Miller barely edges out San Francisco's Smith
This is a close call, but I've got to give it to Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller over the 49ers' Aldon Smith. Smith is a monster, but he also has Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Ray McDonald and Patrick Willis to occupy offensive players. Miller doesn't have nearly that much help, yet he still managed 11.5 sacks. He also improved against the run, something a lot of people thought would take the pass rusher more time to do.
- Elliot Harrison NFL.com
Peterson was a dynamic returner, and rapidly improved as a corner
Patrick Peterson was my preseason pick for Defensive Player of the Year, and I'm not changing it now. He slowly developed as a corner, but was playing big-time football by the end of the season. The Cardinals defense, partially due to Peterson's play, was the biggest reason this club won seven of its last nine games. Overall, he allowed 62 receptions, but only a 55.4 completion percentage. Quarterbacks went after the kid early, but by December he was nobody's pushover.
Oh, and by the way, he returned four punts for touchdowns. Four! That was twice as many as the next closest guy ... some dude named Hester.
- Pat Kirwan NFL.com
In Smith, San Francisco has what every team wants
The Niners' Aldon Smith is my choice. As one NFL head coach said, "We are all looking for a guy like Smith, he will be a great pass rusher for years to come." Smith has only played five years of organized football and came to the NFL as a 21-year-old.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Even without the punt returns, Peterson's an elite talent
The Defensive Rookie of the Year is Patrick Peterson. Aldon Smith is a close second, but generally edge rushers can play well their first year in the league because they're playing on athleticism. A.J. Green said Peterson was the best CB he faced all year. (This from someone in a division with Ike Taylor and Joe Haden.) He'd be my choice if he didn't return one punt all season -- but we know how dangerous he is doing that, don't we? If you're looking for the next Deion Sanders, it's Peterson. Before the draft, I said I would take him No. 1 overall. He's that good already. By this time next year, we'll be debating "Revis or Peterson?"
- Charles DavisNFL Network
Smith's a dominant specialist, but Miller's an every-down terror