2011 NFL Power Rankings: 3 Best Candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year

Since 1967, the Associated press has given out a Rookie of the Year Award to the best first year players on offense and defense.

The NFL lockout was a set back for these rookies, and the defensive guys will have a harder time transitioning than some offensive rookies. 

Seven of the last eight defensive Rookie of the Year awards have gone to a linebacker, but unlike the offensive award, their is much more variation in the positions of the defensive winners. 

Here are the 3 best candidates to win defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Von Miller

The second pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and the first defensive player drafted, Von Miller of the Denver Broncos is going to have a stellar season. 

A versatile defender, Miller plays well all over the field, and his skills will be on dull display in 2011. Miller is a phenomenal pass rusher, which is something the Broncos needed help with. 

He won't be after the quarterback on every play, but when he is let loose opposing quarterbacks need to beware. 

Patrick Peterson

The Arizona Cardinals ignored the fact they needed a quarterback when they selected the best athlete in the draft. Peterson will start right away and be an impact player for Arizona in 2011.

He is the best rookie shut down corner, and you can argue he is better than some starters in the NFL. Peterson will find a way to get the ball in his hands quite often this season.

Whether that be through interceptions or kick and punt returns, Peterson is dangerous whenever he has the ball.

J.J. Watt

The Houston Texans hired Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, which is going to do wonders for their defense. They drafted J.J. Watt because he is a dominant pass rusher, and we will see him after the quarterback a lot this season. 

The 6'5", 290-pound defensive end wasn't picked in the top 10, and he wants to prove to all those teams that passed on him that they were wrong. 

Watt is a beast in the trenches, and it will show in his rookie season. Peyton Manning better watch out for this kid, because he's coming for him. 

These three rookies will flourish in their first season in the NFL, which will make it very hard to determine who will take home the award.

-Eric Bowman