This year, when looking at the top names for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, you will see Cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain, Linebackers Micah Parsons and Jamin Davis, and Edge Rushers Jaelan Phillips and Kwity Paye. However, as in every other draft, there are gems hidden throughout each of the seven rounds, and even some UDFAs. Here are some rookies who could be just the third player not picked in the first round to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Chazz Surratt- LB- Minnesota Vikings
The 66th pick in this year’s draft, Surratt has the potential to be an elite playmaker for the Vikings. A former quarterback in high school, Surratt has a unique sense for seeing the field and making the appropriate play. In his first season as a linebacker at the University of North Carolina, Surratt amassed 115 tackles, 15 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 PBUs. He followed that up in his senior season with 91 more tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 6 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 PBUs. He shows a good combination of speed and athleticism, is a willing tackler who’s willing to pop in the gap. He also shows the awareness to wrap up, and could contribute immediately on special teams. He can serve immediately on the defense as well, acting as a third playmaking linebacker on Mike Zimmer’s defense, who can act as a key rookie contributor and DROY frontrunner on a potential Minnesota resurgence.
Daviyon Nixon- DT- Carolina Panthers
A standout defensive lineman at Iowa, Nixon was scooped up the in the fifth round by the Carolina Panthers, despite reports that he could be picked within the first 75 picks. In Iowa, he played all 13 games in 2019, accumulating 29 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, and 3 sacks. In 8 starts in 2020, Nixon had 13.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and 45 tackles, earning first-team Associated Press All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, as well as Nagurski Trophy finalist honors. Nixon is a disruptive three-technique pass rusher who could be lost in the shuffle of the Panthers young, hungry Defensive Line. With defenses having to worry about speedster Brian Burns, massive space eater Derrick Brown, as well as newcomers Hassan Reddick and Morgan Fox, Daviyon Nixon will be lost in the shuffle, and have plenty of opportunities to rack up his sack totals. His rush moves, ability to get to his rush edge with finesse or power, as well as lower body flexibility make him a sneaky good candidate to get double digit sacks, and be the first defensive tackle since Sheldon Richardson to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Ronnie Perkins- EDGE- New England Patriots
The standout from Lutheran North High School was selected with the 96th pick in this years NFL Draft, by Vader himself. His impressive production relative to games played (24 TFLs, and 11.5 sacks over last 19 games), slips and slides off and around blocks, and heavy shoulders are all great weapons for the tough kid out of St. Louis. The former Sooner may have some physical deficiencies, but he ranked 3rd at push rush win rate among EDGEs. He also uses a timed-up stab to open up the edge and also has an adequate slap-and-run as an interior defender. He should be able to slide in well in Belichick’s pass rush rotation and with his relentless motor as a pash rush, he can easily rattle off enough sacks to warrant DROY consideration.