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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.

Stephone Anthony NFL Rookie of the Year

1. Stephone Anthony (LB New Orleans Saints)

There was never any doubting Stephone Anthony had the physical tools to be an impact NFL linebacker, but we among others, questioned the Saints when they took Anthony in the first round. Anthony was nowhere close to a finished product coming out of Clemson, struggling to pair technique and fundamentals with his elite physical traits. However, Anthony has proved us critics wrong as he develops into one of the best young linebackers in the league. Anthony leads all rookie linebackers in tackles, and currently ranks 16th in the NFL with 56 total tackles. His emergence on defense has also correlated with a mini-hot streak for the Saints who have won four out of five. Even though New Orleans' win over the Giants Sunday wasn't exactly a defensive battle, Anthony had his highest tackle output of the season with 11.

Kwon Alexander NFL Rookie of the Year

2. Kwon Alexander (LB Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Not only is Kwon Alexander enjoying an exquisite rookie season overall, but his performance on Sunday had to be one of the most inspiring things the NFL has brought us in a long time. We've grown accustomed to Goodell and his cronies taking all emotion and human feeling out of the game, but Alexander's standout performance and subsequent receiving of the team's game ball less than 24 hours after his brother was murdered was a beautiful example of how sports, and a team, can give us something bigger than ourselves. Alexander, who nearly went home, played the game of his life making 11 tackles, intercepting a pass in the end zone and stripping Julio Jones for a fumble. And oh yeah, the Bucs won in OT. Way to go Kwon!!!

Ronald Darby NFL Rookie

3. Ronald Darby (CB Buffalo Bills)

Despite enjoying a week off, rookie Ronald Darby still enjoys the league lead in passes defended with 14. Proving wrong all the doubters wrong who said he was too small, Darby has been one of the best cover corners in all of football this year. His fluid hips allow him to swivel like few others can, combine that with his ball skills and grittiness, and Darby is one of the last cornerbacks opposing receivers want to go up against. With the versatility to play the boundary or out of the slot, the Bills have lined up Darby all over the field as they pick and choose matchups.

Marcus Peters NFL Rookie

4. Marcus Peters (CB Kansas City Chiefs)

He's cooled off some since his blazing hot start which saw him intercept two passes and defend seven in his first two games, but Marcus Peters is still right in the thick of things for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Last week Peters made a big statement by going one-on-one with Calvin Johnson and holding the star receiver to five catches for 85 yards and zero touchdowns on ten targets. The only doubts with Peters coming out of the draft where his character concerns, nobody ever questioned his talent. So far so good, but all it takes is one bad decision to undue all the good he's done so far.

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

Quietly under the radar, the 5-2 Vikings are one of the most improved teams in football. On offense they have found a rookie catalyst in Stefon Diggs, and on defense they have finally found the leader in the middle they have been missing since E.J Henderson. Eric Kendricks was a little slow to start training camp and preseason, but in the last month he has been the tackling machine we expected him to be coming out of UCLA. In the past three games Kendricks is averaging almost eight tackles per game, and has four sacks in the last four games. A thumper in the box, Kendricks has been helping stuff plays at the line of scrimmage and has also been a plus in coverage as well. You're looking at what couple be the Vikings captain on defense for the next decade.

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