X

Have feedback / suggestions? Let us know!

NFL

Top 10 Early Candidates For 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year

Top 10 Early Candidates For 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year

Jadeveon Clowney
Getty Images

Let's take a look at the 10 best defensive players in the 2014 NFL Draft who have the best chance to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in the upcoming season.

10. LB Ryan Shazier

Ohio State v Illinois
Getty Images

10. LB Ryan Shazier

Ohio State v Illinois
Getty Images

Shazier isn't the most explosive linebacker, but he makes smart plays and covers a lot of ground. He has solid anticipation and a strong football character. He's not a huge playmaker, but he will pile up a lot of tackles this season with the Steelers.

9. CB Justin Gilbert

Kansas State v Oklahoma State
Getty Images

9. CB Justin Gilbert

Kansas State v Oklahoma State
Getty Images

Gilbert may have been the first cornerback taken, but he's the third-best in my mind. Nonetheless, he's an extremely talented player who will enjoy a nice career. He has decent size and is able to cover speedy receivers because of his acceleration, vision and patience. Lining up across from Joe Haden will make a dangerous duo for the Cleveland Browns.

8. S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Tennessee v Alabama
Getty Images

8. S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Tennessee v Alabama
Getty Images

Clinton-Dix is a terrific pick for the Packers. He has tremendous range and hits ball-carriers with a lot of force. He displays excellent vision and has a good set of hands for pulling down interceptions. Clinton-Dix will make a huge impact for Green Bay and be one of the top rookie defenders this season.

7. CB Kyle Fuller

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Michigan v Virginia Tech
Getty Images

7. CB Kyle Fuller

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Michigan v Virginia Tech
Getty Images

Fuller could very well be the best corner in this year's draft. He's excellent in coverage and is extremely physical both at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. He's able to force a lot of turnovers by stripping the ball and using great anticipation to snatch balls out of the air. However, Fuller is in a division with tough offensive opponents, so his numbers will not stand out in his first year. He will be a star someday for the Bears.

6. S Calvin Pryor

Louisville v Kentucky
Getty Images

6. S Calvin Pryor

Louisville v Kentucky
Getty Images

The Jets made an excellent pick selecting Pryor. The young safety has an intimidating presence and is a forceful hitter. He has excellent awareness and is a sure tackler. He will be a force at the safety position and put up great numbers.

5. CB Darqueze Dennard

Michigan v Michigan State
Getty Images

5. CB Darqueze Dennard

Michigan v Michigan State
Getty Images

Dennard is the second-best cornerback in this draft but is in the best position to be successful his first year. His division contains subpar offenses and the Bengals have a solid defensive front that will make the secondary's job much easier. He's got long, disruptive arms and is a confident, physical defender. He has excellent ball skills and great anticipation and patience. He should have a great rookie season.

4. DT Aaron Donald

Virginia Tech v Pittsburgh
Getty Images

4. DT Aaron Donald

Virginia Tech v Pittsburgh
Getty Images

Donald is the most disruptive player in this draft and is an excellent player to plug into the Rams' defensive line. He is able to get after the QB, as well as make tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Donald has a quick first step, which allows him to easily beat his blockers. He will be a force this upcoming season and for years to come.

3. LB Anthony Barr

UCLA v USC
Getty Images

3. LB Anthony Barr

UCLA v USC
Getty Images

Barr has excellent balance and agility that allows him to make plays in the open field and hit ball-carriers with a ton of force. He's got good size and is a freak athlete. He possesses a solid burst and explosiveness that allows him to beat pass-blockers and get after the QB. Barr will add a lot in the blitz package for the Vikings and has the ability to put up solid numbers this season.

2. LB Khalil Mack

2014 NFL Combine
Getty Images

2. LB Khalil Mack

2014 NFL Combine
Getty Images

Besides Jadeveon Clowney, Mack is the best defensive player selected in this draft. He has the whole package a team wants in a linebacker. Mack is an elite rusher, can drop back in coverage, is a sure-tackler and forces turnovers in the open field. This kid is a monster and will make an immediate impact with the Raiders.

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney

Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin v South Carolina
Getty Images

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney

Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin v South Carolina
Getty Images

He is the best player in the draft. Clowney has a scary combination of size, explosiveness, strength and speed. He gets to the QB at will and displays good tackling ability on ball carriers. Clowney lining up across from J.J. Watt makes a dangerous defensive tandem for Houston. He has a chance to get double-digit sacks this season with most of the attention on Watt.