- While most of the top NFL rookies have been on the offensive side of the ball, a few defensive rookies have managed to stand out.
- Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr. earned Rookie Defensive Player of the Month honors in September.
- Cleveland’s Jordan Elliott has come out of nowhere to make an immediate impact.
- As expected, second overall pick Chase Young has made his presence known early in his NFL career.
Antoine Winfield Jr., Buccaneers
Winfield’s father set the bar high, but he’s well on his way to living up to his father’s legacy, if not exceeding it. The former Minnesota safety is third on the Bucs in tackles and is also tied for second on the team with two sacks.
Winfield also has two passes defended and a forced fumble in his first three NFL games. The Buccaneers are playing him all over the field and in a variety of roles, and Winfield is proving that he can do it all.
Jordan Elliott, Browns
Not that many people would have pegged Elliott as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate before the season. The Browns took him in the third round out of Missouri and he’s becoming a key part of their rotation on the defensive line. The numbers don’t stand out, but Elliott has been more than willing to do the dirty work and put his teammates in a position to make plays on what is a talented Cleveland defensive line.
More than anything, Elliott has been solid and steady while out-performing other rookies at his position who were drafted ahead of him.
Chase Young, Washington
Despite leaving his team’s week 3 game with a groin injury, Young was outstanding in his first two games with Washington. He already has 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Only 10 players have more sacks at this point in the season, and Young could have easily added another sack or two if he had played the entirety of week 3. Not surprisingly, Young, who was one of the top NFL picks in the draft, already ranks among the best edge rushers in the NFL right off the bat.