The NFL finally returned to the normalcy of the NFL draft: Some teams got better, some seemed to stay pat, and others left us shaking our heads. However, dreams did come true, and lives have now changed forever. Eight of the first ten picks were on the offensive side of the ball. With no defensive players selected in the top seven picks, there isn’t a clear-cut favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The league is, and has been, more about the offenses, but defenses are starting to catch back up again. Let’s take a look at the candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Broncos: He’s the son of one of the best Cornerbacks of his era, Patrick Surtain. Vic Fangio’s aggressive scheme should bring plenty of big-play chances. Surtain II will be going against Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, and Justin Herbert. The signings of Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby will allow Surtain II to get some favorable matchups. It was a bit of a surprise that the Broncos selected the Cornerback, but the AFC West offenses are very loaded so this selection will help out quite a bit. Outside of Defensive Back play, the Broncos’ Edge Rushing duo of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller are playing for contracts. The better they play, the easier Surtain II’s job will be. Add that to Surtain II’s readiness, and I think it’s a safe bet that he’ll be a standout player in this league.
Micah Parsons, LB, Cowboys: It was a must for the Cowboys to improve their defense. While they did want some Defensive Back help, it was the Linebacker Parsons who was the best prospect remaining on the board when they selected him. Dan Quinn’s scheme is about reaction and playing fast, and it helps that Parsons can also rush the passer. Quinn has always been able to get rookies in a spot to produce. Parsons can play all three phases of the Linebacker role. He shines in the run game, has the athletic ability to play coverage, and can put his hand in the dirt. Parsons is also a great blitzer, and his timing is perfect. Parsons will be a playmaker right away for Dallas, especially in a subpar NFC East.
Jamin Davis, LB, Washington Football Team: Jamin Davis will be playing behind one of the best Defensive Lines the league has to offer. The Washington Football Team’s DC, Jack Del Rio, will not limit Davis to just one role in year one, since Del Rio loves his Linebackers. The 6’3″ Linebacker posted an impressive 4.37s 40-time before showing agility with his vertical (42″) and broad jump (11′). Add that to the 102 tackles, three interceptions, two pass breakups, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in his 2020 season, and you can see why I think that Davis makes a case to be DROY. The Defensive Line can handle the dirty work while the Linebacker cleans up and plug holes in the running game.
Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, Carolina Panthers: Son of former 4x Pro Bowl WR Joe Horn, Jaycee certainly has the talent to possibly become better than his dad. Many regard Horn to be the best Cornerback in the 2021 draft class. A Cornerback hasn’t won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year since Marshon Lattimore won it in 2017. Horn is known to be physical at the line of scrimmage. He’ll have a chance to match up against Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and 4th overall pick Kyle Pitts. If he holds his own, he could be taken more seriously in the DROY race, maybe even win it!