Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/4/12
It seems every year rookies are more and more capable of contributing Week 1 to their new NFL teams. This year has had more of the same, especially on the defensive side of the ball with standouts like Patrick Peterson, Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, and Von Miller. Below you will see the most deserving candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year, their statistics, and some explanation of how impressive they are.

CB Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals - 64 Tackles, 1 Sack, 2 INT, 13 PD, 4 TDs

This man is a weapon, plain and simple. 5th on the team in tackles, 2nd on the team in INT, 4th on the team in TDs and he doesn't even play offense. Peterson has 4 punt returns for touchdowns; he is the overall leader for the NFL in return TDs. The odd thing is, he has not returned 1 kickoff this year. If he would've returned kickoffs the whole year he could have easily added 2 more touchdowns to his resume. As for strictly defense; he can hit, tackle, blitz, play the ball, and intercept it. Of course he needs some more experience to be able to utilize all of his athletic ability, but when he figures it all out, opposing QBs better keep an eye out for this guy. 


DE/OLB Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers - 37 Tackles, 14 Sacks, 2 FF, 4 PD

After coming off the bench for the majority of the year, Aldon Smith still managed to rack up 14 sacks, which is good enough for 5th in the NFL. The closest 49er to his tally is Justin Smith with 7.5 sacks. He basically accumulated 14 sacks in 13 games; his first three games he saw little of the field which led to 0 tackles or sacks. The 49ers found themselves a premier pass rusher who should dominate for years to come. He is also part of the #2 Seed in the NFC and is ready to contribute to this playoff run.


DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins - 63 Tackles, 7.5 Sacks, 4 FF, 1 INT, 4 PD

This high energy, get after it every down rookie nearly outplayed the self proclaimed sack master, Brian Orakpo. Orakpo had 1.5 more sacks but Kerrigan had more tackles, one more PD, FF, INT, and a TD. His high energy ways caught up to him as he hit a wall in Week 13. In his last 4 games he had a total of 8 tackles and 1 sack. They say rookies tend to hit a wall toward the end of a season since they are used to their college seasons of about 12 games. His year could have been even more impressive if he kept up his intensity the whole year.  

 
DE/OLB Von Miller, Denver Broncos - 64 Tackles, 11.5 Sacks, 2 FF, 4 PD

Perhaps the most consistent of these candidates has been Von Miller. He has had 2 separate 5-game streaks with at least a 1/2 sack. Slowed by injuries in the past several weeks Miller has only had 2 tackles and no sacks in the past 3 games. So the majority of his numbers, like Aldon Smith, have been accumulated in a shorter period of time. Let's hope he is a bit healthier for his first career NFL Playoff game so he can give Big Ben some pressure. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will be quite a tandem on the outside for Denver in this Tebow era.

You have the statistics and some information on each of their seasons. Now you decide who deserves it the most. Comment below on who is your winner, or add someone who's not on the list!
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