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Will Anderson got matching Rookie of the Year hardware with Texans teammate C.J. Stroud after the two were drafted with back-to-back picks in the 2023 draft. 

Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner did the unthinkable in 2022 -- he aptly followed a legendary rookie campaign from 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons with a legendary rookie year of his own en route to winning the prestigious NFL award. 

Gardner's cruise to DROY in 2022 made him just the third cornerback to take home the award since Charles Woodson's win in 1998. Historically, the DROY award is predominantly won by defenders who sack the quarterback and those who tackle the ball carrier. Also, like Offensive Rookie of the Year, this is a first-round pick-dominated distinction. Only two of the last 21 DROYs were selected outside of Round 1.

BUT, maybe this year is primed to feature an outlier, seeing as though only nine of the first 32 selections in the 2024 draft were defensive players. 

10. Michael Hall, DT, Browns

I had such a large draft crush on Hall, I would have felt like I betrayed him had I not given him on a nod on this list. He won't be 21 until mid-June, so there very well could be some growing pains early on. Then again, I adore young, highly productive, athletic prospects, and I'd be voicing concern with Hall's NFL future if he were a 24-year-old just entering the NFL. 

By the way, Hall is a young, highly productive, athletic specimen. And I love his inclusion on a Cleveland defense front already featuring perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett, Za'Darius Smith, and Obo Okoronkwo, a ferocious edge-rusher trio. Jim Schwartz needed an upfield rusher, and he certainly has that now with the youthful, promising Hall he got right down the road in Columbus. 

9. Cole Bishop, S, Bills

Bishop is a rare second-rounder to make this list, mostly because I think if Sean McDermott had the option to create a safety in Madden, he'd probably decline and just add Bishop to the roster instead. 

He's 6-foot-2, 206 pounds with tight-end blanketing 4.45 speed and the honed mental capabilities of a defensive coordinator on the field. The first thing you noticed with Bishop's film at Utah -- his constant pointing and aligning his teammates. And that he played ev-er-y-where for the Utes over the past two seasons. 

McDermott was integral in the vast development of former seventh-round pick and low-level free-agent add Jordan Poyer at safety, and while those are sizable shoes for Bishop to fill, he is bigger and faster than Poyer. Expect Bishop to shoulder a large workload early playing next to slot/linebacker stud Taron Johnson

Two reasons I don't have Bishop higher in these rankings -- he tends to miss a few more tackles than expected and wasn't a dangerous ballhawk in college. 

8. Chop Robinson, EDGE, Dolphins

Robinson was my EDGE1 in the 2024 class. So he doesn't currently possess a wide variety of pass-rush moves around the corner. Those can be developed in time. Remember, around three years younger (!) than fellow classmates Jared Verse and Laiatu Latu. In the interim, the Penn State star can win with eruption off the line, tightly wrapping the corner, and surprising speed-to-power conversion. 

His situation in Miami is a bit murky. There's Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb ahead of him on the depth chart but both productive veterans are returning from late-season injuries in 2023. And the club made the shrewd free-agent add of Shaq Barrett as more than just insurance for those two. 

My adoration for Robinson as a prospect was mainly centered around the player I believe he can be in, say, three years, as opposed to what he can provide a team in Year 1. The development of those pass-rush moves needs to happen, and while he's not weak at the point of attack now, Robinson does need to get stronger. Those truths along with the crowded edge-rusher room in South Beach are why he's probably lower on the list than you'd expect for my top edge-rushing prospect. 

7. Braden Fiske, DT, Rams

The Rams are going about a "replacement" of Aaron Donald perfectly. This is no easy task of course, Donald is arguably the best defensive player in NFL history, and even in what ultimately was his final season as a pro, he led all interior defensive linemen with 84 pressures. Unreal. 

Fiske, the most athletically gifted defensive tackle in the 2024 class, will now pair with Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Kobie Turner on the interior of the Rams front. Yes, Les Snead is taking a page from MoneyBall playbook, and attempting to replace Donald on the aggregate. 

On film, Fiske is like a rodeo bull on every snap. He's unleashed, and then all hell breaks loose for the opposing offensive line. Magnificent burst, rapid swim move, power, it's all there. In Los Angeles, I foresee a noticeably impactful Year 1 for the Western Michigan turned Florida State stud. He's so darn talented. 

6. Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Eagles 

Another top prospect on my board in April, the Toledo Rocket alum was my No. 1 cornerback, narrowly edging Alabama's Terrion Arnold for that billing. 

You'd be hard-pressed to find a cornerback prospect who more emphatically checks the boxes than Mitchell. Over 6-foot, 195 pounds, with 4.33 speed and elite explosiveness demonstrated by his 38-inch vertical. We always reference "processing speed" with quarterbacks. How about corners? Mitchell processes receiver's routes and the offense's concepts in fast-forward, giving him an advantage when he needs to break on the football. 

While not the most talented mirrorer I've scouted, his reaction time and that speed allow him to essentially be a suction cup to wide receivers. I mean, I don't care what level of football you're playing -- 45 pass breakups and six interceptions across six seasons is damn impressive and an indication of supreme cornerback gifts. 

And in Philadelphia, the Eagles may have actually upgraded their defensive front, which seems impossible given Howie Roseman's emphasis on building through the lines. Gone is Haason Reddick, a spectacular add from Roseman a few years ago, but in his place is the ascending, highly efficient outside rusher Bryce Huff

Mitchell will assume No. 1 CB duties instantly in Philadelphia and will get plenty of opportunity to charge toward passes from hurried quarterbacks. The Eagles were 14th in team pressure-creation rate at 36.1% a season ago, and that number very well could be closer to 40% in 2024. 

5. Jared Verse, EDGE, Rams

The NIL universe in college sports has been met with so much criticism, but let's counter some of that with Verse's story. Before the NIL/transfer portal era, he would've been stuck at University of Albany, terrorizing lower-level competition. Highly unlikely he would've been a first-round pick. 

Instead he transfers to Florida State and wreaks havoc in the ACC for two seasons en route to going inside Round 1. Tremendous. Verse isn't quite Khalil Mack but I got Mack-like vibes as a reasonably bendy but stunningly powerful outside rusher who meets most explosiveness thresholds. 

With the Rams, he set a strong edge on first down before showcasing his varied pass-rush move arsenal on second and third. Los Angeles got 50 pressures from 2023 rookie Byron Young, but they need a true one-on-one winner and that's precisely what Verse proved to be with the Seminoles. 

4. Byron Murphy, DT, Seahawks 

A defensive tackle hasn't won DROY since Aaron Donald in 2014, and while we probably won't see another Donald for a while -- if ever -- in the NFL, Murphy has comparable juice off the line of scrimmage and a similar frame. What I, and believe every other draft analyst, loved about Murphy's game, which gave me Donaldian vibes, was how stellar he held up against the run at under 300 pounds, even dropping to one knee to devour doubles at times. 

Murphy doesn't have 50 pass-rush moves like Donald did in his prime, but he went in the first round not solely due to his major explosiveness and bendy as a rusher. He understands how to win at the point of attack with hand work -- his swim move is nasty. In Seattle, Murphy will have reasonable support on the backend from Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen and Co., and fellow upfield interior rusher Dre'Mont Jones will likely serve as a tremendous mentor for the youthful defensive tackle (he's not 22 until September). Last season at Texas, Murphy had a pressure-creation rate of 16.4%, astronomical for an interior player, and frankly, would be a solid figure for an edge rusher. He's that gifted. 

3. Laiatu Latu, EDGE, Colts

Latu probably could've been a late first-round pick in 2023 had he declared. Heck, a year ago, he was fresh off a season at UCLA in which he generated a pressure on more than 18% of his 284 pass-rushing snaps, and all you need is one look at the film to notice his NFL-caliber body. 

Instead he returned to the Bruins program and confirmed that 2022 was not only a fluke but not him playing to his full capability. In 2023, the ultra-slippery Latu's pressure-creation rate was a whopping 20.3% on more pass-rush opportunities. 

At nearly 6-5 and 259 pounds, Latu can win with strength but mostly makes blockers look silly with his highly calculated, diverse pass-rush maneuvers at the point of attack. On film, it felt like right when a tackle was expecting a specific move from Latu, he'd deploy another, then instantly counter off it. The Colts have been desperately in need of a true No. 1 rusher on the outskirts of the defensive line for years, and they drafted a ready-to-go type in the middle of Round 1. Latu's continuous presence in the opposition's backfield will lead to plenty of Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration. 

2. Dallas Turner, EDGE, Vikings

Turner's best football probably won't start until Year 2 or Year 3 in the NFL, but the way the lights came on for him in his final season at Alabama indicates to me he can be a highly impactful rookie in Minnesota. Remember, this is a recently-turned 21-year-old defender with premier explosiveness and overall athletic traits around the corner. He's only just started to learn how to consistently deploy his hands and pick and choose the correct times to do so. 

And with Brian Flores, a pressure-generating master, Turner can be a pass-rushing specialist in Year 1. There's also Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard ahead of him to begin his professional career in Minnesota, so Turner doesn't need to hit the ground running to be deemed a successful first-round pick.

But by November, Turner should be reasonably acclimated to what he'll deal with from NFL blockers on a consistent basis, which is when the game can slow down for him, and he can utilize that tornado-like spin move with more regularity when he's not simply winning with his first step and bend alone. 

1. Terrion Arnold, CB, Lions

Arnold was probably the cleanest defensive prospect on film in the entire draft, he just didn't have a ridiculous combine workout. A decade ago, he may be considered small for the outside cornerback spot. Not today, with the way receivers -- even perimeter ones -- around the league are getting smaller and lighter. 

At Alabama in 2023, Arnold did it all. Tackled like a seasoned veteran, floated to the football in zone, played air-tight man coverage, found the football in the air routinely, and was a dynamic returner once he snagged the interception. 

And how about his "fit" in Detroit. This was a defense in dire need of a highly confident and also awesomely gifted cornerback. Now they have one. In the 2023 regular season, the Lions finished fourth in defensive pressure rate at 41.6%, and they added butt-kicking nose tackle D.J. Reader to the front along with Marcus Davenport. The Lions are going to disrupt the quarterback. Often. 

Music to the ears of Arnold, who, alongside former teammate Brian Branch, is going to be a magnet to the football en route to winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.