Around the NFL

Who will win Defensive Rookie of the Year?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written prior to Dante Fowler's season-ending ACL tear on Friday.

Interior linemen have won the last two Defensive Rookie of the Year awards with Sheldon Richardson and Aaron Donald earning the last two honors. Could Leonard Williams or Danny Shelton make it three in a row?

Two of the Around The NFL writers believe so. Below are the rest of our picks for Defensive Player of the Year

Landon Collins, Giants safety

I'll feel more confident about this exercise when we do it again in August with more information to bolster our picks. The Giants traded up for Collins because they had a glaring vacancy at the position following the departure of their top three veterans. Collins is an aggressive downhill safety rather than a single-high centerfielder, which means he will be filling the box and racking up high tackle numbers on a weekly basis. It will be a major upset if he's not a Week 1 starter for an improved G-Men squad. -- Chris Wesseling

Danny Shelton, Browns defensive tackle

You know who wasn't a sexy pick for this award last May? Aaron Donald. I know voters fall for interceptions and highlight-reel plays, but the Rams defensive tackle was a wrecking ball on film. I expect the same from Danny Shelton in Cleveland.

Coach Mike Pettine comes from the Rex Ryan tree, running a scheme that helped Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison dominate inside last season after fellow Gang Green defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson won rookie honors two years ago. Shelton won't play every down, but Donald won the medal in 2014 off just 724 snaps. Shelton is an ideal fit for this front seven -- he will help them improve statistically -- and has the benefit of playing in front of a talented secondary. He displayed a genuine knack for the getting to the quarterback in college, leaving him as a candidate to also pile up sacks down the stretch. -- Marc Sessler

Shaq Thompson, Panthers linebacker

Defensive Rookie of the Year will be an award largely based on glamour statistics like interceptions, sacks and tackles for loss. So, who is in a better spot than anyone to accumulate all of these things? Thompson will be a Swiss Army knife for the Panthers and could be a nightmare as a dime linebacker, especially if the Panthers get a lead and teams can't keep a running back in to block him off the edge. Might the Jaguars' Dante Fowler put more singular pressure on an offense? Absolutely. Could Leonard Williams cause more adjustments to the opposing team's game plan on the Jets' monstrous D-line? Probably. But if Thompson ends the season with a handful of picks and sacks, his name will vault up the list quickly, especially if Carolina's defensive line develops around him. -- Conor Orr

Landon Collins, Giants safety

Most rookie defenders drafted ahead of Collins have impediments to playing time sitting in front of them in the form of veterans or scheme adjustments. Collins has none of those. Big Blue has a gaping hole at safety that the rookie will fill immediately. He will aid the run defense as a box-help safety who can hit and tackle. His coverage skills are underrated, and he'll display better-than-average range in the deep third, opening the eyes of some detractors who viewed him merely as a thumper. His opportunity to pile up stats from Day 1 gives him the inside track on this train. Also, as the draft was unfolding last weekend, my nephew was born. His name: Landon. So, karma is on my side and it's as good a reason as any to pick a Defensive Rookie of the Year winner in May. -- Kevin Patra

Leonard Williams, Jets defensive lineman

The Jets aren't used to getting gifts from the football gods. So consider the surprise when USC star Leonard Williams, the consensus best player in the 2015 draft class, fell to the Jets with the sixth overall pick. The Jets smartly selected Williams, getting past the fact that D-line already was an established strength. Williams can only benefit from playing alongside young stars like Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, and his size, athleticism and college pedigree will allow Todd Bowles to be creative in how he deploys the rookie. Simply put, the Jets haven't had a defensive player come out of the draft with this much upside since Darrelle Revis. -- Dan Hanzus

Dante Fowler, Jaguars linebacker

Voters respond to sacks. Fowler was the No. 3 pick in the draft because he was the most natural pass rusher available and had the fewest weak spots in his game. Unlike Shane Ray in Denver, another strong candidate to win this award, Fowler won't have to worry about his number of snaps. The interior line in Jacksonville is only going to help. With Sen'Derrick Marks and Jared Odrick attracting attention inside, Fowler is a decent bet to rack up double digit sacks as a rookie. --Gregg Rosenthal

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.