Week 1 Power Rankings: 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year
Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season is now in the books. Some moments suprrised, like the San Francisco 49ers destroying the Los Angeles Rams and the Garoppolo-led England Patriots putting the hurt on the Arizona Cardinals. Other moments seemed ordinary, like the tremendous performances of wide receivers Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.
Along with the roller coaster of the new season, came our first look at the 2016 rookie class making their professional debut. Some met or exceeded expectations while others fell short. It is early in the season though and the performances of Week 1 may be entirely different this weekend as teams prepare for Week 2.
Looking ahead to Week 2, we take a look at our post-Week 1 Power Rankings for 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year. While some may seem like the obvious candidates, a few players broke-out in a big way.
Players to Watch – On the Bubble
Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins selected Howard with the 38th overall pick in 2016 NFL Draft. Coming out of Baylor, Howard was a big, physical corner who impressed scouts with his speed and willingness to tackle. While his coverage abilities were still developing he had all the raw tools to excel at the next level. Week 1 against Seattle, Howard flashed the potential Miami was hoping for. While he didn’t record an interception, he totaled 11 tackles and flew all over the secondary. It’s important to note, Russell Wilson avoided him on the game-winning play.
Rashard Robinson, CB, San Francisco 49ers
LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson was selected by the 49ers with the 133rd overall pick and early expectations were formed on his role as a bench-player. However, if Monday’s game is any indication, Robinson may be in for quite the workload. While his stats were not impressive, he managed to finish the game not allowing a single receiving yard. Definitely somebody to keep an eye on.
Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars
There was a lot of hype surrounding linebacker Myles Jack entering he draft. However, injury concerns saw him fall to the 2nd round and the Jaguars scooped him up. Jack has tremendous athleticism and that was on display against Green Bay. If he can continue playing hard and producing, he may be the top candidate to jump up the rankings.
Carl Nassib, DE, Cleveland Browns
Penn St. defensive end Carl Nassib was drafted by the Browns with the 65th overall pick, with the expectation that he could use his unique physical abilities to help a struggling pass rush. At 6’6″, 245 lbs, Nassib was one of the more physically intriguing players in the draft with the length and speed to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Cleveland liked what they saw and spent a higher pick to get him.
Against the Eagles, Nassib put those talents on display when he finished the game with three tackles, one sack, and a total of four quarterback pressures. He was a consistent force against the Eagles offensive line and seemed to get pressure on Wentz and the Eagle’s running backs the whole game.
While Nassib has had a good start to the season, defensive end isn’t a common position to win the Defensive Player of the Year. The last time this was done was Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers) in 2002. The odds are against him, but Nassib has the potential to exceed expectation.
Leonard Floyd, OLB, Chicago Bears
Leonard Floyd came into the league as one of the draft’s biggest wild cards. His athleticism and speed around the edge made him an intriguing talent as a pass rusher and a hot commodity on Day one of the draft.
During the Bears’ 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans, Floyd’s athleticism and versatility were on full display as he registered six tackles including one for loss, one quarterback pressure, and half a sack. While thees numbers don’t exactly leap off the page, it was a steady afternoon that showed the potential Floyd has to be a solid contributor early on in his career. Does he have what it takes to win the DRTY? Possibly. A few more sacks with a continued showing of versatility and he’ll certainly be in the conversation.
Darron Lee, LB, New York Jets
When the New York Jets drafted Ohio St. linebacker Darron Lee, they did so under the pretense that he would work his way from the bench, providing valuable depth to the front-seven. However, his play quickly shot him up the depth chart and by the start of the season, he was playing more snaps than previous starter Erin Henderson.
In Week 1, he totaled seven tackles but seemed to be around the ball throughout the game. Just last night, Lee again totaled six tackles against the Buffalo Bills including an impressive tackle-for-loss when he stopped LeSean McCoy in the backfield.
Because of his athleticism and speed, Lee should have a pretty productive rookie season and fill the stat sheet. The more he does the more likely it is he remains in the conversation to win DROY.
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jalen Ramsey will receive consideration simply on name and draft position alone. Widely considered the top defensive player when entering the draft, Ramsey was selected by the Jaguars with the 5th overall pick. His versatility, athleticism, and sky-high potential made him a valuable commodity that would be able to make an immediate impact on the field.
While his productivity in Week 1 was mediocre at best, three tackles against the Packers, his versatility was on full display. The length and athleticism that made him so intriguing during the pre-draft process allowed him to make plays all over the field during the game. He was able to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Everything about his play showed he could become the defensive anchor the Jaguars needed.
He’ll have every opportunity to succeed in Jacksonville and his versatility and production should see him be a favorite to win DROY.
DeForest Buckner, DE, San Francisco 49ers
As mentioned before, a defensive end has won the DROY award just once in the last 15 years, so a rookie from that position would have to prove very impressive if they were going to win. Since entering the league as a top-10 pick, DeForest Buckner has already proven to be one of the top players on a young and growing 49ers defense.
His size and athleticism paired with his relentless and physical style of play have made him a force on the San Francisco defensive line. Pro Football Focus highlighted his play, saying “no rookie earned a higher pass rushing grade than Buckner in Week 1.” Buckner has proven to be one of the more talented rookies in this class and if his play continues, will be the favorite to win the 2016 DROY.
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