It hasn’t been easy for a defensive back to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Since 1999, Falcons CB Dunta Robinson is the only DB to win the PFW/PFWA award.
A stats-heavy award, the front-seven players who can rack up tackles, sacks and forced fumbles tend to have an edge. In ’04, Robinson started every game and had 13 passes defensed, six picks and three forced fumbles. Statistically, it remains his best season in the league.
Devin McCourty made a run in 2010, but DT Ndamukong Suh set the bar too high that season. In 2011, Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson had the best résumé for a rookie starter in the secondary, but most of that was due to his returning abilities.
Some early candidates for defensive rookie honors this season include Patriots DE Chandler Jones, Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner and Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, but not one of the three is putting up the type of monster numbers we saw from Von Miller, Aldon Smith and Suh in the past two seasons, which could open the door for some DBs. Safeties Mark Barron and Harrison Smith have thrown their hats into the ring. If Packers CB Casey Hayward keeps up his recent pace (four picks in the last three games), he also merits consideration.
The second corner drafted, Bills CB Stephon Gilmore, leads all rookies with 10 passes defensed. Top-drafted corner Morris Claiborne got his first pick on Sunday. Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick has yet to play because of a knee injury suffered in the summer. Second-round CB Janoris Jenkins has seven passes defensed and 36 tackles.
Through seven weeks, it remains a wide-open race for defensive rookie honors, giving the DBs a chance to end the drought.
Now, onto the Week Seven Rookie Meter:
1. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (first round, second overall)
Last week’s ranking: 1
Griffin completed 20-of-28 passes for 258 yards two touchdowns and one interception in Washington’s loss to the Giants. He had nine carries for 89 yards and lost a fumble. Griffin’s three picks this season are the fewest among starting rookie QBs.
2. Redskins RB Alfred Morris (6, 173)
Last week’s ranking: 2
Morris is one yard back of the league lead in rushing and ranks third in rushing yards per game after his 22-120 performance against the Giants. He did lose a fumble, though. Morris is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season.
3. Colts QB Andrew Luck (1, 1)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Luck did it with his legs in Week Seven, rushing for two touchdowns in the Colts’ win. He completed 16-of-29 passes for 186 yards.
4. Patriots DE Chandler Jones (1, 21)
Last week’s ranking: 3
Jones notched four tackles in the Patriots’ win over the Jets. He still leads all rookies with five sacks.
5. Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (1, 31)
Last week’s ranking: 8
Martin rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in Tampa’s loss to the Saints. He also had three catches for 37 yards. His 553 yards from scrimmage ranks second among rookies.
6. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (3, 75)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Wilson continues to struggle on the road, as the 49ers’ defense gave him fits. He completed only 9-of-23 passes for 122 yards and had an interception in Seattle’s loss.
7. Browns RB Trent Richardson (1, 3)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Richardson was bottled up in Week Seven, rushing for eight yards on eight carries. He also had two catches for 11 yards.
8. Browns QB Brandon Weeden (1, 22)
Last week’s ranking: 7
Weeden completed 25-of-41 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, good for a 96.0 passer rating in Cleveland’s loss to the Colts. He leads all rookie QBs with nine touchdown passes, but also leads with 10 picks. He has thrown for the most yards, too (1,783).
9. Buccaneers SS Mark Barron (1, 7)
Last week’s ranking: 10
Barron had seven tackles and his seventh pass defensed in the Bucs’ loss to New Orleans.
10. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner (2, 47)
Last week’s ranking: NR
Wagner had eight tackles in the Seahawks’ loss to the 49ers, bringing his total up to 50 on the season, which is second among rookies. He also has six tackles for loss.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically):
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (undrafted)
Buccaneers LB Lavonte David (2, 58)
Bills CB Stephon Gilmore (1, 10)
Browns WR Josh Gordon (2, supplemental)
Packers CB Casey Hayward (2, 62)
Rams CB Janoris Jenkins (2, 39)
Panthers LB Luke Kuechly (1, 9)
Vikings S Harrison Smith (1, 29)
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (1, 8)
Titans WR Kendall Wright (1, 20)