This year’s NFL draft class has been assumed by many supposed experts to be weak or lacking bona fide star players. What that equates to is that there weren’t a lot of poster-boy franchise quarterbacks within the first-round of the draft. There may not have been any once in a generation players like Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck at the glamor position in this particular draft, but if past drafts are any indication, it’s safe to assume that there will be a handful of surprises from this class at several positions other than quarterback.
In order for the newest players drafted into the league to succeed it’s going to take the combination of opportunity, system fit, and their own heart and desire. One player that has to potential to thrive in his rookie season and take home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award would be DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner.
The ninth pick in the first-round by the New York Jets, Milliner is another product of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban. Roll Tide! As a true freshman, Milliner started 11 games and was named a 2010 Freshman All-American. Over his college career, the cornerback was a key contributor to back-to-back National Championships. Individual achievements aside, why might Milliner be destined to take home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award? Two words: Rex Ryan.
To elaborate, Ryan, the Jets head coach since 2009 heading into what appears to be a make or break year, is thought of by many to have a brilliant defensive mind. For example, during the 2012 season with Darrelle Revis out for the majority of the season, the Jets defense finished the year ranked eighth in total defense and second in the league in fewest passing yards allowed with 190 yards against them per game. Long story short, Ryan can coach ’em up, and with Milliner who had 20 passes broken up in his final season at Alabama, the Jets potentially have a player they can leave in single coverage which will put the defense in a better position to blitz the quarterback.
Milliner has a long way to go in order to distance his name from the man he replaced on the Jets roster in Revis. However, his connection to Saban as well as his stellar play in two National Championship games for Alabama leads one to believe that the newest cornerback will have J-E-T-S fans forgetting the last cornerback, and the best way to accomplish that goal would be for him to take home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.