Top 5 Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidates
5. Elijah Molden DB Titans
I wasn't super high on Elijah Molden coming out of Washington this year, but I love where he landed because he is going to be a rock star in Tennessee this year. He is going to be the "Tyrann Mathieu" of Shane Bowen's defense. If it's dropping back into the middle of the field as a free safety, coming down into the box and guarding tight ends, playing the outside as a corner, or rushing the passer, Molden can do what ever you need. A term that gets thrown around a lot is "swiss-army knife", but Molden is a truly one. He can do anything that Bowen asks of him and he is going to help revitalize the Titans defense in 2021. While he will be a stud this year, it will be hard for him to win the award because he probably won't just have "one position". People will be trying to compare Molden's stats this year to other players, but his stats are not going to serve him justice. While his stats may not be overwhelming, his impact will be.
4. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah LB Browns
One of my highest graded players coming out of the draft this year that fell was Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK). The Browns got a steal with JOK in the middle of the second round. He played like an absolute menace in the preseason and is going to embrace a leadership role in the Browns linebacker core from day one. The first thing that stood out when watching JOK play was his range. He is an explosive athlete that can cover sideline to sideline. That is exactly what the Browns have been missing. JOK is going to play a pivotal role in the Browns game plan for stopping Lamar Jackson. A mismatch for tight ends, JOK's hands are so powerful. I'm excited to see JOK matched up against Mark Andrews and Najee Harris (in the slot). JOK is a sleeper pick for defensive rookie of the year in 2021.
3. Asante Samuel Jr. CB Chargers
One rookie who has stuck out like a sore thumb in preseason is Asante Samuel Jr. He is going to be the Chargers number one corner as a rookie and he's been able to learn from Chris Harris Jr. this offseason. As the son of a legendary defensive back, Samuel Jr. looks like he's been watching film since he was in the womb. His intelligence is on the same level as a 10 year veteran. In the AFC West, Samuel Jr. will be going against Tyreek Hill, Jerry Jeudy, and Courtland Sutton. In his first game, Samuel Jr. will have to get acclimated quickly. He'll be going head-to-head against Terry McLaurin. We get to see if his inner "dog" comes out. Samuel Jr. is going to get a ton of action this year, and if he locks down his side, he may win defensive rookie of the year.
2. Joe Tryon DE Buccaneers
Once again, there is a player on this list that I wasn't super high on coming out of the draft, but landed in the perfect situation to succeed. Out of Washington, I compared Joe Tryon to Justin Pierre-Paul, and now Tryon gets to learn from JPP. Tryon was firing off the line in the preseason and looked like a season veteran. Explosive would be an understatement. Offensive lines are going to be surprised by Tryon's speed off the line. With that being said, he's not necessarily a speed rusher. Tryon is strong and knows how to use his hands. Tryon is in a situation where he can't be double teamed because the Buccaneers defensive line is so talented. JPP, Shaq Barrett, Vita Vea, and Ndamokung Suh will bring the best out of Tryon. If it's a chop, swim, or rip, Tryon knows how to get to the passer, and he will be getting to the passer a lot in his rookie season.
1. Patrick Surtain II Broncos
It is rare to see a true lock down corner come out of college football. Surtain was tied with Jaycee Horn and Kelvin Joseph as my number one corner out of Alabama this year, but he has quickly separated himself as far and away my number one guy. I'm getting Jalen Ramsey vibes from Surtain. Similar to Asante Samuel Jr., Surtain will have to go against Tyreek Hill twice a year. He also gets to face Keenan Allen, one of the smoothest route runners in the NFL twice a year. Surtain is physical, but he's not grabby. He's a true technician, his hips are smooth and he's great at anticipating when his receivers break. I can't wait to see what Surtain does in his rookie season, he's my pick for defensive rookie of the year.