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In a little under 3 weeks, the greatest sport and the best sport to gamble on returns. People have started to break down who will be on their fantasy team, and fans have convinced themselves that this will be their year, even though their team missed the playoffs last year. This is the time when fans are the most hopeful, training camp has just begun, there’s an excitement in the air, and your heart isn’t broken because you haven’t yet realized that your team sucks.
These players could be the face of the NFL, and for them, it’s their first season in the pros. Offensive players might get all of the news, and it’s the flashy, fun part of football, but defense wins champions. Patrick Surtain II is the favorite at +600. Three DE, two CB, and one LB have won the award in the last six years. Five out of the last six years, the player has been drafted in the top twenty; the only outlier was Darius Leonard in 2018, who was drafted 36th. The other players were drafted 2nd, 2nd, 11th, 3rd, and 18th. Unlike the offensive rookie of the year, where your team record doesn’t matter on the defensive side four out of the last six years, the team has had a winning record. The two outliers were when Chase Young won last year, but Washington did win the NFC East regardless of their 7-9 record. Then in 2016, Joey Bosa won the award while the Chargers finished the year 5-11. Individual stats don’t matter as much for this award, but how the overall defense plays matters more. Last year Washington had the 6th overall defense; in 2019, the 49ers had the 3rd; in 2018, the Colts had the 26th; and in 2017, the Saints had the 4th overall defense.
The new cornerback for the Broncos was drafted 9th and has already made a huge impact. He already has an interception in camp, and in his preseason debut, he had a pick-six. Vic Fangio is, of course praising his play. Fangio is one of the greatest defensive minds in the NFL, and Surtain II will get to play in a great defense that a healthy Von Miller will lead. Even though Denver didn’t have their best player last year and went 5-11, they still finished with the 15th overall defense. It won’t be the defense who will let the team down, but it will be up and down on the offensive side of the ball as they still don’t know who their starting quarterback is. Will the Broncos’ record keep Patrick Surtain II from winning the award, or will his individual play be enough? With how great of a defensive coach Fangio is, it’s worth throwing a little on Patrick Surtain II.
The new linebacker for the Cowboys was drafted 12th and, according to reports, has been tearing it up in camp. Reports always say that players are doing amazing in camp. In the limited time he had in the Hall of Fame Game, he recorded three tackles and recovered a botched snap. The world didn’t get to see Parsons last year at Penn State as he sat out. In 2019 he had 109 total tackles, 5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Parsons has a couple of things going against him by being drafted by Dallas. Last year, the Cowboys finished with a 6-10 record. That could’ve been because of Dak’s injury, but their defense was horrendous, finishing with the 28th overall defense. Parsons will need to have a great individual year to win the award, and I don’t think that’ll be enough.
The new linebacker for the Browns was drafted 52nd. If Koramoa wins this year, he will be the highest draft pick in the last 6 years. Unlike everybody else, he has had a slow camp since he tested positive for COVID and was forced to miss time. Will that missed time hurt his play at the beginning of the season? It didn’t seem to slow him down in his first preseason games since he played 70% of the snaps, had 8 combined tackles and 1 sack. In 2020 he recorded 62 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 interception for Notre Dame. The Browns will have a winning record since they are no longer the biggest embarrassment in the league. On the other hand, their defense might be led by Myles Garrett, a great player, but their overall defense finished 21st last year. I don’t think that Koramoa will have a great enough season to win the award on his own.
The new linebacker of Washington was drafted 19th overall. In 2020 Davis had 102 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble for Kentucky. Can Washington go back to back defensive rookies of the year since Chase Young won the award last year? Even though Washington had an under 500 record last year, they did win the NFC East, going 7-9. Washington has one of the best defenses in the league, finishing with the 6th overall defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington go back to back for rookie defensive players of the year. With how great Washington’s defense is, Davis can add another level in the middle of the defense to go along with Chase Young upfront.
The new linebacker for the Dolphins was drafted 18th overall. Everything about Phillips is a red flag since he has a long injury history. He has suffered three separate concussions, and the last concussion made him retire from football. After a year off and transferring to Miami from UCLA, he was medically cleared to play again. If he suffers one more concussion, it could end his playing career. It’s not only concussion problems that Phillips has suffered, but he has wrist damage from a moped accident. The fact that Phillips hasn’t participated in training camp because of an injury is alarming. In 2020 he had 45 total tackles, 8 sacks, and 1 interception for Miami. Maybe Phillips can stay healthy all year and have a great season that leads him to win the award, but I’m not touching this bet. Injuries constantly happen in football, and I don’t want to put my money on a player who has a long injury history.
The new defensive end for the Colts was drafted 21st overall. This is another player that has dealt with injuries. Last year ,Paye only played four games for Michigan because of a groin injury. In 2019 he played 12 games, 50 total tackles, and 6.5 sacks. Head coach Frank Reich had this to say about Paye from training camp: “Man, he looks good. He looks fast, really talking to coaching well, relentless effort, really a lot of talent but really a smart player.” The Colts had a great defense last year, and Paye will look to add to that defense. I don’t think that Paye will have enough stats to win this award, and who know who will be healthy for this Colts team as an injury bug is taking over Indy.