The Los Angeles Rams have seen a stellar draft class that has produced several key contributors who will hopefully play in LA for a long time. Wide receiver Puka Nacua has created headlines all season long for obvious reasons. Linebacker Byron Young is just as deserving of the spotlight despite his production routinely falling under the radar by seemingly everyone outside of Hollywood.
Young has been one of the top rookie defenders in the league since he was selected in the third-round of this year’s draft out of Tennessee. Yet, his odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year are quite slim. Depending on which sportsbooks you come across, Young is often slotted behind players such as Devon Witherspoon, Jalen Carter and Will Anderson.
DROY Rankings | Week 11— SCOUTD (@scoutdnfl) November 15, 2023
1️⃣ Devon Witherspoon (#Seahawks)
2️⃣ Jalen Carter (#Eagles)
3️⃣ Will Anderson Jr. (#Texans)
4️⃣ Byron Young (#Rams)
5️⃣ Tuli Tuipulotu (#Chargers)
6️⃣ Brian Branch (#Lions)
7️⃣ Joey Porter Jr. (#Steelers)
Who is your DROY so far? pic.twitter.com/FgYv1WSBgY
For as great as those three players have been, Young has outpaced them in several notable defensive categories. According to the Los Angeles Rams PR department, Young was leading all rookies in defensive snaps (493), pressures (31), QB hits (15), sacks (5.0) and forced fumbles (2) entering LA’s Week 10 bye.
Upon seeing seeing the stats and most importantly, watching him play every week, why isn’t Young considered the favorite for DROY? The stats never tell the full story but Young has passed the eye test with flying colors.
Much like the MVP award has strictly become a quarterback award, I’m afraid DROY honors is at risk of becoming a popularity contest. If the media wants a popularity contest, they should try voting for the Pro Bowl instead. Carter has proven to be a menace to opposing signal callers in Philadelphia but are we really going to give him a trophy for being fearsome enough to triple team? Seriously?
Jalen Carter is a rookie getting triple teamed I don’t wanna hear about nobody else being DROTY— ʟᴇᴇᴍ (@RunHurts) November 12, 2023
His pass rushing potential is evident with the Eagles but selecting him as the definitive winner is making the popular move instead of the correct one. Anderson has been hit-and-miss for the Texans. He has been one of the best edge rushers across the NFL in regards to run stop win rate and has been excellent in pass rush as well.
Will Anderson Jr (1st) and Jonathan Greenard (2nd) continue to dominate against the run— Patrick Storm (@PatrickStormHTX) November 15, 2023
The duo ranks 1st and 2nd in Run Stop Win Rate amongst all EDGE defenders in the NFL.
Anderson Jr. (3rd) and Greenard (13th) are also excellent in Pass Rush as well.
Anderson is being… pic.twitter.com/eUDtS3fVYo
The main competition for Young should be the Seahawks’ Devon Witherspoon who the Rams will see up-close this weekend. In my mind, Witherspoon is a complete lockdown corner and will be a perennial All-Pro talent in the seasons to come. Seattle nailed this pick which really sucks as LA will have to see him twice a year.
Devon Witherspoon in single coverage— PFF (@PFF) November 15, 2023
️ 16 targets
️ 3 catches allowed
️ 7 forced incompletions
️ 39.6 passer rating allowed pic.twitter.com/JIIhKfUr0x
Again, each of the players in the running for DROY are deserving of the award. I’m not trying to take away anything from them. However, Young has to be the favorite for how he’s playing at this time and I have a couple theories as to why he’s not.
One theory has to deal with draft status. Witherspoon, Carter and Anderson were all selected within the top-10 picks. All first-rounders are put under a microscope the second their names are called. That is something Young doesn’t have to deal with as again, he was taken in the third round.
The other theory relates to team success. Carter plays for the Eagles who appeared in last year’s Super Bowl while Witherspoon and Anderson suit up for teams currently in the playoff hunt. LA is on a three-game losing streak and might not win many matchups in the second half of the year, Young’s efforts be damned.
Combine the typical media fanfare that comes with being a first-round pick and tack on team success and you can see the forces working against Young. He should at least be a top finalist for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Perhaps at the end of 2023, the media will make the right call in giving Byron Young the credit he rightfully deserves.