The last award I will be going over in this series is that of the defensive rookie of the year. Being a defense guy, this one was actually quite a bit more difficult for me to narrow down like it was with the offensive rookie of the year one. With that in mind, let’s meet the candidates.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, St. Louis Rams
I remember my first mock draft last year had Jenkins as s surefire top 15 pick. Yes, there were character concerns, but surely the usual suspects like Dallas, Cincinnati or Oakland wouldn’t let a talent like him go by. But when he fell to the 2nd round, Jeff Fisher knew he had a steal and took Jenkins. He responded by recording four interceptions, three of which he returned for a touchdown, and became a shut down corner.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
Another guy that I had listed very high in my inaugural mock draft, Burfict’s draft stock fell faster than any prospect that didn’t have a serious injury that I have ever seen. Ultimately going undrafted, Cincinnati took a risk on him and they’re happy they did. He finished 14th overall in the league with 127 tackles and stayed out of trouble all season.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
I’m guilty of calling the pick of Kuechly at 9th overall in this draft a bit of a reach. I thought the talent was there, but wasn’t sure he was a top 10 guy. I stand corrected, as he led the entire league with 165 tackles. The switch to middle linebacker in season turned out to be a perfect fit for the tackling machine.
Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers
The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October, Hayward was able to make an incredible impact on the Green Bay defense after not even starting until week 6 of the season. With four interceptions in his first three games, he finished the season with 6 overall. His 21 passes defended led all rookie cornerbacks.
Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
David was a guy I really liked coming into the draft, but even I didn’t think he’d be selected prior to the third round. Tampa took a chance on him in the 2nd and their scouts proved to know what they were talking about as he helped make the Bucs defense tops in the league against the run. His 139 tackles, two sacks and an interception exceeded even the most optimistic Buccaneers fan projection.
Who Should Win?
This is tough for me, because there isn’t a single guy on this list that I wouldn’t take on my roster if I’m building a defense from scratch. All of them played like veterans and they all look to be here making some noise for the future. Corner is a premium position in the league, so they usually get all the eyes. But I’m all about the guys who get it done in the middle. So If I had a vote, it would go for Luke Kuechly.
Luke reminds me a lot of a Brian Cushing type who has a nose for the ball and just seems to be in every pile at the end of a play. He never takes plays off and he does whatever his coaches ask. Most guys sulk when they’re told they will be involved in a position change, but Kuechly trusted his coaches and excelled under their direction.
Who Will Win?
Man, this one is just going to be a guess. Like I said, the voting panel loves them some corners, so I think it will probably end up being Janoris Jenkins. Even though Hayward arguably outplayed him, having ten less starts than Jenkins will effect his stock here.
Jenkins’ four defensive touchdowns are the kind of things I haven’t seen since Deion Sanders was in his prime. His ability to hit the home run can break the morale of an opponent and that can’t be understated. His knack to take chances hurt sometimes, but his gambles paid off in big ways enough for him to likely take home the honors.
Filed under: NFL
Tagged with: 2012 NFL Awards, Brian Cushing, Carolina Panthers, Casey Hayward, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Deion Sanders, Green Bay Packers, Janoris Jenkins, LaVonte David, Luke Kuechly, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Vontaze Burfict