On Wednesday I predicted who I believe will win the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but what about the other side of the ball? Last season, St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald took home the award. While Donald nabbing the honor wasn’t as obvious as New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. being named the 2014 Offensive ROY, it was still very much deserved. With the defensive talent selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, who will earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors this season?
2015 NFL DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR PREDICTION
VIC BEASLEY, OLB, ATLANTA FALCONS
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who was the third overall pick in this year’s draft, was expected to see the field a lot in 2015, and be in consideration for Defensive ROY honors come the end of the season. But the former Florida Gator tore his ACL less than an hour into the first day of rookie minicamp, and he will miss the entire 2015 season. Due to off field issues, defensive end Shane Ray fell to No. 23, where the Denver Broncos selected him. Ray may very well end up being one of the steals of the 2015 NFL Draft, and the former Missouri Tiger will probably wind up being a very productive player in the league. That said, his opportunities will most likely be limited in 2015.
With Fowler, Jr. out for the entire season and Ray probably not seeing the field enough, which player should be considered the frontrunner to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award? The answer is Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley.
The Falcons drafted Beasley with the eighth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and they are expecting him to contribute immediately on defense. Atlanta released their first official depth chart this week and the former college standout is currently listed as the starting defensive end, along with Tyson Jackson. The Falcons were impressive on offense last season, but they struggled on defense. They are hoping that Beasley’s presence helps them to improve on that side of the ball. Dan Quinn, hired by the Falcons to take over the heading coaching duties, will be looking for any all opportunities to turn Beasley loose to go after opposing quarterbacks.
The former Clemson Tiger has size, (6’3″, 246 pounds), and incredible speed, along with a ridiculously fast first step. He has quick feet and fluid hips, and a devastating spin move that he needs to utilize more. He can drop back into space, close quickly, and he has incredible instincts. He had 12.0 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss last season while at Clemson, and amassed a total of 33 sacks and 52.5 tackles for loss in college. Those numbers prove just how disruptive he can be, and they are why he was selected as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Bednarik, Lombardi, and Hendricks awards in 2014. Beasley was a huge reason for Clemson’s success on defense last season. When a team has someone as talented as Beasley coming off the end, and getting after opposing quarterbacks, that helps the other 10 guys on defense. Beasley will both put up numbers and make the rest of the players on defense better.
New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams certainly has the potential to produce at a level worthy of Defensive ROY honors, but the Jets seem to always manage to squander opportunities. Beasley is in a much better environment, with a really good, defensive minded head coach. The smart money should be on the former Clemson standout to add 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year to the other awards he has received.