New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. Just like the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, this award can also only be won once. Who are the likely candidates to win Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2018?
The first player that comes to mind is Denver Broncos outside linebacker/defensive end Bradley Chubb. He was the fifth overall pick in the draft and Chubb is most likely the best defensive player in this draft. It was shocking the Cleveland Browns passed up on him at number four. Bradley Chubb will be a force with Von Miller and it will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Chubb recorded 72 tackles last season at North Carolina State and 23 of them were tackles for loss. He also had 10 sacks, two pass deflections, and one forced fumble.
The second player that comes to mind is Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith. He is a hard hitter and Smith won the Butkus Award last season at the University of Georgia. He is a very good tackler and Smith is also good in coverage. He could turn into a leader on the Bears defense right away. Roquan Smith recorded 137 tackles last season and 14 of them were tackles for loss. He also had 6.5 sacks, two pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Smith was the seventh overall pick in the draft.
The third player that comes to mind is Cleveland Browns is cornerback Denzel Ward. He was drafted fourth overall by the Browns and it came at a surprise. They passed on Bradley Chubb, but the Browns needed a true number one corner and Cleveland might have found one. Ward is physical and he enjoys playing that way. By doing that, it will make wide receivers uncomfortable. Marshon Lattimore went to Ohio State and that is where Denzel Ward also played college football at. Ward had 37 tackles last season and two of them were tackles for loss. He also picked off two passes and had 15 pass deflections.
The fourth player that comes to mind is Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Tremaine Edwards. He will thrive in an environment that preaches defense first. Edwards is another hard hitter and he can cover as well. Tremaine Edwards will can also pressure the quarterback. He had 102 tackles last season at Virginia Teach and Edwards also recorded 5.5 sacks. He had two pass deflections and also had three forced fumbles. Tremaine Edwards was the 16th pick in the NFL Draft.
The fifth player that comes to mind is Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James. The Chargers were missing a key safety on the back end to help them in coverage and in the run game. James is the best safety in this draft and he could turn into a future pro bowler. Los Angeles's identity will be how good their defense can be in 2018. Derwin James was the 17th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and he played college football at Florida State last season. James had 84 tackles and 5.5 of them were tackles for loss. He also had one sack, two interceptions, 11 pass deflections, and one defensive touchdown.
The sixth player that comes to mind is Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. He is capable of playing anywhere on the football field. Vander Esch will be one of the starting linebackers to start the year and he will probably be one of the outside linebackers. If Sean Lee ever gets hurt, Leighton Vander Esch has the capability to be the inside linebacker and be the quarterback of the defense. He was the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Vander Esch recorded 141 tackles last season with Boise State and 8.5 of them were tackles for loss. He also had four sacks, two interceptions, five pass deflections, and four forced fumbles.