NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year Race After Week 17

Photo: Stan Szeto - USA TODAY Sports

It's a wrap for the 2019 NFL regular season.

That also means the race for the NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year Award is over, but until we see the votes come in, we don't know the placement of each candidate. Throughout the year, I've attempted to gauge that placement in a power rankings format, and with Week 17 in the books, here is my final guess at what the scorecard will read when the award is announced.

Here are my top-five power rankings after the exciting action.

1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, San Francisco 49ers

If you look just at the statistics then Nick Bosa is not first on the list for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, but I'm confident he has this award wrapped up. You cannot quantify how impactful he has been this year off the edge; and nine sacks, a forced fumble and an interception don’t do his season justice. He was the only rookie defender named to the Pro Bowl, and I have a strong feeling voters will have the same thought. He has been one of the league's most disruptive defensive ends, regardless of his first-year status, and anyone who has watched him play this year knows that his game has been head and shoulders above any other rookie in the 2019 class. Additionally, he is one of the biggest reasons why the San Francisco 49ers now have home-field advantage in the playoffs. (Last week: 1)

2. Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If there is any rookie defender that is going to take first-place votes away from Bosa, it's Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White. He's recorded a takeaway in each of the last four games and he has looked like one of the league's elite in the second half of the season. He finished the year with 91 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, an interception and a pair of touchdowns. I've said it before: White's performance this year reminds me of what Darius Leonard did last season in his first year with the Indianapolis Colts. White has multiple Pro Bowl appearances in his future, and I think general manager Jason Licht hit a home run picking him in the top five last April. (Last week: 3)

3. Josh Allen, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars

On paper, it was Josh Allen who had the best year among rookie edge defenders. He finished the 2019 regular season with 10 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles, compared to Bosa's total (nine). Allen's performance this year will go down in history as one of the most quietly good rookie seasons we have ever seen from a pass rusher. The only rookies with double-digit sacks this decade? Ndamukong Suh, Aldon Smith, Von Miller, Joey Bosa and Bradley Chubb. I don't need to tell you how elite that group is. Allen is the real deal, and this season was just a glimpse of how dominant he could become. (Last week: 2)

4. Maxx Crosby, EDGE, Oakland Raiders

Believe it or not, there was another rookie edge defender who had more sacks than Nick Bosa, His name is Maxx Crosby, and he was the Oakland Raiders' fourth-round pick last April. I think it's safe to say first-year GM Mike Mayock got a bonafide steal in the Eastern Michigan product. He consistently looked more explosive than the Raiders' first pick, Clemson's Clelin Ferrell and his disruption was displayed in the box score with a double-digit sack total. With 10 sacks on the season, Crosby joins Allen as the second pair of rookies from the same class (Aldon Smith and Von Miller in 2011) to rack up double-digit sacks. (Last week: N/A)

5. Jamel Dean, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Has there been a more quietly impressive rookie this season than former Auburn cornerback Jamel Dean? Teams have consistently tried attacking Dean, and it has forced him to mature quicker than other first-year cornerbacks in the 2019 class, yet he has answered the bell each step of the way. His 17 pass deflections on the season tied for fourth in the NFL among all defensive players — that's in addition to the two interceptions he racked up. In fact, he could have had as much as six or seven interceptions, if he had not dropped multiple easy opportunities. The 2019 draft featured one of the most shallow CB classes this decade, and through the first year, third-round pick Jamel Dean looks like the best of the bunch with his combination of play strength, length and long speed to match receivers vertically. (Last week: 5)

Written By:

Jonah Tuls

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. As heard on ESPN radio, Sirius XM, and the Sports Illustrated podcast. Texas Tech University journalism graduate.

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