It’s pretty easy to tell when an offensive player does well. It usually results in a big gain or a touchdown. Defense on the other hand can be more subtle. Things like eating blocks, generating pressure, tight coverage and shooting a gap and forcing a run outside don’t show up on the stat sheet.
With that in mind it was a little more difficult to select an All American rookie defensive team. Of course things like projected sacks, tackles and interceptions were considered. However, there are guys who will make an impact with what they add to their new team that won’t go on the stat sheet. After looking at the Offensive All American team here is the All American rookie defensive team.
Defensive Rookie All American Team
Edge – Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
Chubb was brought in to put the Broncos pass rush over the top. With Von Miller on the opposite side, Chubb will get ample opportunity to go against blockers one on one. This means lots of opportunities to make plays vs the pass and the run. I’m not sure he’s a perfect fit for the Broncos defense, but with his talent combined with the time he’ll see I’d expect him to have a very good rookie year.
Edge – Harold Landry, Tennessee Titans
In the NFL pass rush is king. If you can put pressure on the quarterback then little else matters. Landry is a pass rush specialist. He’s so good around the edge that he will be a real problem for NFL offensive tackles. If healthy, I expect him to lead all rookies in sacks.
DT – Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vea isn’t going to wow anybody with eye popping numbers as a rookie. However, he will make everyone around him better. This massive nose tackle will instantly improve the Bucs run defense and allow the players around him a little more room to work and make plays.
DT – Tavon Bryan, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s hard to gauge exactly what Bryan’s playing time will look like considering the stacked defensive line group he’s joining in Jacksonville. What I do know is he’ll be very disruptive while on the field. The depth and pass rush ability he brings could put the Jags over the top and into the super bowl this year.
LB – Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears
Smith is a super star in the making. My top rated defensive player in the class, there’s very little he can’t do. His range and tackling ability are excellent. His coverage skills are very good. He’s a plug and play starter and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got pro bowl buzz in his first season.
LB – Rashaan Evans, Tennessee Titans
Evans is a perfect fit for the Titans 3-4 defense. He’s a physical intimidator as a tackler and a great blitzer from the interior. I expect Evans to be a day one starter and the best linebacker on the roster. He’s a legitimate candidate to win defensive rookie of the year.
LB – Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys
Vander Esch is a great athlete who can make plays in every phase of the game. He’s very solid all the way around and with his tools he can become very good. He should see a lot of playing time in Dallas whose front seven needed an injection of talent. Talent plus opportunity is always a good formula in the NFL and in this case it equals out to a strong rookie season.
CB – Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
Ward will get every chance to play as a rookie. I expect him to be tested early and often. Will he have growing pains? Of course. But he’ll also have some splash plays to go with them. In a rookie corner class that doesn’t especially wow me, that would be enough to make my All American team.
CB – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Fitzpatrick joins a Dolphins secondary that has some talent around him. He can step in and see a lot of snaps early, but also not be asked to be the main man right away. He’s so smart, athletic and physical that he should have a very good season as a rookie, as long as they don’t expect him to be a lock down corner right out of the gate.
S – Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
James could be the missing piece the Chargers need to really make that defense dangerous. He can play in the box and is plenty athletic and skilled enough to cover at the NFL level. Expect him to have a great year on a potential super bowl team.
S – Justin Reid, Houston Texans
Reid may have an opportunity to start as a rookie. If he is able to win the starting job, or just for the snaps he is on the field, he will be in a great situation to make an impact. With a dangerous front seven to put pressure on the quarterback and his ability to cover combined with a high level of awareness, Reid should make several big plays as a rookie.