In the NFL, a team is only as good as its defense. In the post Monsters of the Midway and Legion of Boom eras, teams are constantly scouting for the linebacking legends of tomorrow. From pass rushers to defenders of the deep ball, the 2019 draft ushered in a new class of heavy hitters ready to lay roots in the professional ranks. Now into the second half of the season, it’s clear several teams have scored contenders for rookie-year honors. Sorting through these elite newcomers, here are our top five NFL candidates for the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
1. Nick Bosa, Edge Runner for the San Francisco 49ers
With 17 tackles and seven sacks to his name thus far, many analysts have begun drawing comparisons between Nick Bosa and Lawrence Taylor, one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the league. This speculation alone explains why Bosa is the current popular favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. After his dominant performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7, the former Ohio State defensive lineman proved why he deserved to be the second overall draft pick. Racking up three sacks and an interception in a single game (something achieved by only two other defensive linemen since 1982), Bosa was a bully on the field. Now that the 49ers are the only undefeated team left in the league, Bosa and company will be more determined than ever to keep it that way – a daunting prospect for opposing offenses.
2. Devin White, Linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After suffering a knee sprain that forced him to sit out for several games, it appeared as if the Bucs had wasted their first-round draft pick on Devin White. However, following the former LSU star’s return to the league, he has been nothing short of remarkable. In the Bucs’ Week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans, White produced an enormous hit during a fake field goal attempt that had announcer Matt Millen exclaim, “Boom!” In the following week against the Seattle Seahawks, White chased down Chris Carson during a 59-yard-run few linebackers could have made in order to save a touchdown. With eight weeks left in the regular season, it will be interesting to see what other miraculous plays Devin White has to offer.
3. Quinnen Williams, Defensive End for the New York Jets
Despite exiting early from the opening game against the Buffalo Bills due to a sprained ankle, Quinnen Williams returned to the NFL in Week 5. Since then, he has continued to steadily impress. The Alabama alum had a landmark game against the Miami Dolphins during Week 9, picking up his first career sack on Ryan Fitzpatrick and forcing three tackles. From the five games he’s played, the number three overall draft pick has had 19 tackles, 10 of which being unassisted. Several teams recently expressed interest in Williams, offering a plethora of deals in exchange for the star rookie defensive end – all of which head coach Adam Gase refused. While the 1-7 Jets are already focused on the future, it’s clear that Quinnen Williams will be a big part of it.
4. Darnell Savage, Safety for the Green Bay Packers
Like his name suggests, Darnell Savage has been anything but tame on the field. With great range and quick wits, the safety out of Maryland has been a tackling machine, totaling 28 tackles and one interception so far this season. After a twisted ankle forced him to sit out during Weeks 6 and 7, the safety’s absence was noticeable in the Packers’ secondary. Now that he’s returned, Savage will no doubt continue to serve as a lethal weapon that receivers won’t look forward to squaring off against.
5. Devin Bush, Linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers
As a team that favors drafting as opposed to signing free agents, it’s no surprise that the Pittsburgh Steelers found a star addition to their roster by trading into the top ten. Devin Bush has been a valuable defensive asset to The Black and Gold. In seven games alone, Bush had 59 tackles, four fumble recoveries, three defended pass attempts, two interceptions and one sack. Aside from allowing a few big plays down the seam, there is little to nitpick about the former Michigan linebacker’s performance.
In 2016, Joey Bosa was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year as a defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers. Now in 2019, it seems that Nick Bosa may very well follow in his brother’s footsteps. However, there is still a fierce cluster of competition in the league with substantial claim to the title. Whether it’s Alabama prospect Quinnen Williams or the well-rounded Devin Bush, the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Award is still well up for grabs.