The last part of our All-Rookie team: The defense and specialists! Just like our All-Pro defense we’ve moved away from traditional “defensive end” and “outside linebacker” positions and grouped players who perform similar tasks together. All 3-4 OLB’s and 4-3 DE’s fall under our “EDGE defender” position, all 4-3 DT’s and 3-4 D-Line are categorized as “Interior defensive line” and all 4-3 LB’s and 3-4 ILB’s are simply classed as “Linebackers”. We feel this allows for better comparisons between players when selecting a Best 11. As with the offense we are considering only players in their first NFL season. Even if they never played a snap before, being on a team in 2014 or any previous year bars you from consideration for this squad. Like with the offense a “*” denotes a unanimous selection and there is the 2nd team All-Rookie at the bottom. Agree? Disagree? Want to argue the case for your favourite player? Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter & Facebook
Preston Smith, Washington Redskins 8 sacks, 6 TFL, 10 QB Hits, 3 FF, 4 PD Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons 4 sacks, 2 TFL, 5 QB Hits, 2 FF, 3 PD, 1 INT Despite starting just one game Smith was a force as a pass rusher in limited work. His 8 sacks lead all rookies and he showed enough as a run defender to be a viable long-term running mate for Ryan Kerrigan on the outside of Washington’s defense. Beasley was surrounded by awfulness on the Atlanta defensive line and so couldn’t enjoy the benefits of playing next to quality. He missed 3 games and struggled at times adjusting to the NFL but he flashed enough of his fast hands and footwork to make Falcons fans feel good about him going forward.
Interior Defensive Line
Leonard Williams, New York Jets 3 sacks, 7 TFL, 21 QB Hits Malcolm Brown, New England Patriots 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 5 QB Hits Leonard Williams was everything the Jets could have wanted. It’s tough to stand out on the Jets defensive line when Muhammad Wilkerson is having a Pro Bowl year but Williams managed that as he was a handful for blockers from day one and a force against the run. Much like Williams, Brown fell a little farther on draft day than expected and landed in the AFC East. Brown had huge shoes to fill after a decade of Vince Wilfork’s presence on the inside for New England but he did an admirable job. Although overwhelmed and battling injuries early on, by the end of the season he was a reliable and forceful run defender for the Patriots, and more capable as a pass rusher than many gave him credit for.
Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 93 Tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 2 FF, 9 PD, 2 INT Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings 92 Tackles, 4 sacks, 8 TFL, 1 PD Stephone Anthony, New Orleans Saints 112 Tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 2 FF, 5 PD, 1 INT It’s hard to look impressive next to Lavonte David, but Alexander managed it as he flew around the field. Despite missing the last 4 games for a substance abuse violation he finished with 6 10+ tackle games and did enough in coverage to stay on the field in sub packages. Like Alexander, Kendricks had an impressive outside linebacker to compete with and quality up front looking after him. His true quality shone through when Anthony Barr was injured and the Vikings barely missed a beat. He flew around the middle of the field and took on the responsibility of organising the defense. Anthony started all 16 games this year and was the leading tackler for a Saints defense that was spectacularly poor. He impressed in the middle of the field given the lack of support and should be a vital piece in the revival of the New Orleans defense.
Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs* 60 Tackles, 26 PD, 8 INT, 2 TD Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills 68 Tackles, 21 PD, 2 INT Having made our All-Pro team it’s no surprise that Peters is a unanimous selection for our All-Rookie team. As impressive as some rookie corners were Peters was simply that much better. There was a lot of competition for the second spot behind Peters but Darby came away with it, thanks in part to the amount of man coverage he was asked to work by the blitz-happy Rex Ryan. Darby’s best play came early in the season as he shut down and frustrated experienced NFL receivers. While he hit something of a “rookie wall” late on it was a very impressive season given the strain Rex Ryan can put on his cornerbacks.
Landon Collins, New York Giants 108 Tackles, 9 PD, 1 INT, 1 FF Adrian Amos, Chicago Bears 67 Tackles, 2 PD, 1 Sack The pickings at safety were pretty slim outside of an impressive Landon Collins. He was just as great against the run as expected and improved in coverage through the season. Amos wasn’t great this season, though he was a marked improvement on what the Bears have had at safety recently. There were some bright spots, and with time he could definitely be a reliable piece for a constantly rebuilding Bears defense.
Josh Lambo, San Diego Chargers* 26/32 FG, 28/32 XP A good showing from Lambo. He was perfect on field goals under 40 yards and an impressive 4 of 5 from over 50.
Matt Darr, Miami Dolphins 92 punts, 39.7 net average, 30 inside 20 A solid but unspectacular season from Darr. He ended up 3rd in total punted yards in 2015, though that might have something to do with Miami’s poor offense than his own large leg.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (KR) 852 yards, 25.8 avg, 1 TD + (PR) 379 yards, 9.5 avg, 1 TD No surprise that Lockett wins this returner spot as well. The ever-deadly Lockett managed a 50 yard return in the playoffs just to put an exclamation point on his impressive regular season performance.
2nd Team All-Rookie:
EDGE: Marckus Golden, Arizona Cardinals & Shane Ray, Denver Broncos Interior DL: Eddie Goldman, Chicago Bears & Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers LB: Lorenzo Mauldin, New York Jets & Benardrick McKinney, Houston Texans & Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia Eagles CB: Damarious Randall, Green Bay Packers & Delvin Breaux, New Orleans Saints S: Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco 49ers P: Bradley Pinion, San Francisco 49ers KR: Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions