The top half of the 2021 NFL Draft was dominated by quarterbacks and offensive skill players with eight of the first 10 picks playing on that side of the ball, including the first seven players off the board (3 QBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE. and 1 OL). That’s not to say the most recent class wasn’t stacked with defensive playmakers at all areas of the field, though.
The four first weeks of the new campaign has proven that there was plenty of defensive talent available, and some of the top performers have already made profound impacts on their new teams. That's why we’re paying extra close attention to BetOnline’s recently updated odds for the 2021 “NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year” award.
The current top 10 per the oddsmakers goes as follows:
- Micah Parsons (+225)
- Patrick Surtain Jr. (+450)
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (+800)
- Asante Samuel Jr. (+900)
- Jamin Davis (+1200)
- Jayson Oweh (+1200)
- Joe Tryon (+1200)
- Gregory Rousseau (+1400)
- Azeez Ojulari (+1400)
- Kwity Paye (+2000)
The current top 10 features a plethora of first-round picks, but it’s wonderful to see a trio of second-round players (Owusu-Koramoah, Samuel Jr., and Ojulari) performing at such a high level. These three defensive rookies stand out for obvious reasons.
THE FAVORITE AND MY PICK: MICAH PARSONS
You’d be hard-pressed to bet against Parsons right now. One of the ringleaders behind Dallas’ surprising defensive turnaround over the last few weeks, the former Penn State standout has been a jack-of-all-trades in his rookie campaign.
An injury to DeMarcus Lawrence forced the Cowboys to think outside the box in search of answers to their pass-rushing woes. Dan Quinn and staff began asking questions about Parsons’ ability to rush the passer and Parsons has answered the bell by recording an impressive 2.5 sacks in three games since making the change. Parsons is consistently getting after the quarterback, having recorded 17 pressures in four games.
Parsons entered the league as a rare, fluid, and dynamic athlete with excellent lateral mobility and flexibility. We have seen all of those traits and then some on display throughout the early portion of his career. There’s a good chance Parsons runs away with this award.
DARK HORSE: ASANTE SAMUEL JR.
Samuel’s ability to hit the ground running has been a godsend for this excellent Chargers defense that’s continuing to flourish under new head coach Brandon Staley. A second-round pick out of FSU, Samuel has allowed just six catches in coverage through the first four weeks. His excellent play quickly caught the eye of the league, and Samuel was named the Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.
Confidence and ball-skills were Samuel’s calling card coming out of college, and he continues to hang his hat on those traits as a professional. These awards typically favor pass rushers and defenders that impact the pocket, but Samuel has the look of a player that’s going to make this a fight to the very end.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH
The NFL appears to have made a grave error when they allowed Owusu-Koramoah to fall into the lap of the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The No. 18 overall player on our final Consensus Board, Owusu-Koramoah slipped all the way to 52nd due to health and size concerns.
Much like he was at Notre Dame, Owusu-Koramoah has been an explosive and impactful defender in Cleveland’s improved front seven. His range and closing burst as a tackler has been on impressive display through four weeks. It’s early, but Owusu-Koramoah has the look of a stud linebacker in the making. He could very well rival Parsons for the Defensive Rookie of the Year honor.
Read our final scouting report on Parsons here. Read our final scouting report on Samuel here. You can also read our exclusive interview with Samuel here. Read our final scouting report on Owusu-Koramoah here.