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2015 NFL Rookie of the Year Watch (Defensive)

It hasn't been the highly selected, big-name prospects who have been making an impact so far as rookies on defense. See which rookies, many overlooked in the draft, are standing out. Click here for the Offensive Rankings.

By: Logan Fredrickson

Marcus Peters NFL Rookie

1. Marcus Peters (CB Kansas City Chiefs)

The runaway winner of Defensive Rookie of the Year, Marcus Peters, has already become a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. Peters tied for the league lead in INTs with eight; two returned for TDs, and led the NFL in passes defended with 26. The Chief’s current ten game winning streak can be largely attributed to their defense, led by Peters, which has given up less than 20 points in eight of their last ten games. The calculated risk Andy Reid and company took on Peters and his off-field baggage heading into the draft has paid off big time.

Stephone Anthony NFL Rookie of the Year

2. Stephone Anthony (LB New Orleans Saints)

New Orleans’ defense has been bad, really bad, but Stephone Anthony has played admirably for the Saints. The rookie linebacker led all freshman in tackles this season with 112, good enough for 20th overall in the NFL. Anthony added nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, as well as one sack and one interception. He recorded three double digit tackle games and had fewer than five tackles in only two games all year. While most of the Saint’s defense needs to be revamped, Anthony is a cornerstone the team can build around for the future.

Kwon Alexander NFL Rookie of the Year

3. Kwon Alexander (LB Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

One of the feel good stories of the season, playing out of his mind after the tragic death of his brother, Kwon Alexander had his ups and downs over the course of an eventful rookie season. Alexander's season ended early due to a PED suspension, but off-field events aside Alexander had a very impactful season for the Buccaneers. The 4th round pick out of LSU recorded 93 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and nine passes defended in only 12 games played. Alexander registered six games with double digit tackles and no games with fewer than four. Some might discredit Alexander on account of the PED suspension, but his impact on the field was too much for me to ignore.

Ronald Darby NFL Rookie

4. Ronald Darby (CB Buffalo Bills)

A 2nd round pick out of Florida State, Ronald Darby proved to be a very valuable asset for a Buffalo Bills defense which ranked seventh in the league in interceptions. Darby finished the season with 68 tackles and two INTs, while his 21 passes defended were good for fifth in the league. Darby’s true value comes from his versatility, whether lined up in the slot or out on the boundary Darby plays a physical brand of football for a guy who was considered to be undersized coming out of college. His man-to-man cover skills are as good as it gets, and he'll continue to be a most important part of Rex Ryan's defense moving forward.

Eric Kendricks NFL Rookie 5. Eric Kendricks (LB Minnesota Vikings)

In Kendricks the Vikings have finally found the middle linebacker they have been missing since the days of EJ Henderson. Playing alongside former teammate and last year's rookie sensation Anthony Barr, Kendricks racked up 92 tackles and four sacks for the Vikings. Kendricks provided Minnesota with the run fits they needed, but also surprised many with proving more than adept in coverage. Minnesota shocked a lot of people this year going 11-5 and winning the NFC North, with the arrival of Kendricks being a big part of that. Look for Kendricks to man the middle for Minnesota for years to come.

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