To start this off, this isn't an article diving into which defensive rookies will be good this season. This is a look at which defensive rookies can make a genuine impact their first season, resulting in real-time success.
If a defensive rookie goes out, plays great, but is on a three-win team, they didn't really impact the team. So, just because I leave out a really talented defensive rookie, that's not saying they won't be good for their team.
This will be more taking a look at defensive rookies in some of the best fits. Players that, if they play to their potential, will be a reason the team's still preparing for games in January and February.
Before I leave out a good player, just remember what this is looking at. It's not which rookie is on a path to winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. We're looking at which defensive rookies can make an immediate impact and maybe win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Let's get started.
Jordan Davis, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are a team that could make a very quick turnaround from last season. Even though they finished 9-8 last season, this year could be even more fruitful for Nick Sirianni and Co.
The NFC East really hasn't become more powerful than it was last year. So, there's nothing saying the Eagles can't win the division now. With the addition of A.J. Brown, the offense could really take a step forward.
And defensively, Jordan Davis is one of the most fun-to-watch defensive tackles in modern football, at least he was in his time at Georgia. Will the talent transfer to the NFL? Considering the fact that Davis played for the Georgia Bulldogs, most of his opponents were closer to NFL-talent than not. Sure, college is a different beast for players, but Jordan Davis is one of those guys that seems to be successful no matter where he goes.
That said, he goes to a team that has control of their destiny in the NFC East. The offense is powerful, and now, the defense added a 6-foot-6, 340-pound behemoth that also can run 40 yards in 4.78 seconds. To put that into perspective, Jordan Davis' 40 time was 0.01 seconds faster than Fletcher Cox, and Cox is two inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter.
Jordan Davis is an absolute monster, and as long as he can elevate his game to continue dominance, the NFL should be really scared of what he can do.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Baltimore Ravens
This is another rather easy choice. Going into training camp last year, the Ravens were looking like one of the teams to beat. That is, before about 50 percent of the active roster got all-expense-paid trips to the hospital. The Ravens were one of the most injured teams last season, and yet, they still ended the season 8-9.
Now, with a healthy team headed into training camp, the Ravens' defense got even scarier with the addition of Kyle Hamilton.
Prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, Hamilton, one of the best pure athletes of the draft class, was being mocked early in the first three picks. And as of right now, the Ravens' defense has Calais Campbell, Patrick Queen, Tyus Bowser, Marcus Peters, Marcus Williams and Marlon Humphrey. To say they have firepower on defense is an understatement.
In Hamilton's three-year career at Notre Dame, he had 138 total tackles (97 solo, 41 assisted), 7.5 TFLs and 8 INTs. Along with that, Hamilton was a 2021 Consensus All-American. It's clear to say Kyle Hamilton was quite the stud coming into the draft, and after said draft, he's heading to an almost perfect situation.
As long as the Ravens stay healthy, Kyle Hamilton should be an immediate impact-player this season.
Kaiir Elam, CB, Buffalo Bills
It's no surprise up to this point that the Buffalo Bills are a favorite to win the Super Bowl, and adding Kaiir Elam to the their defense only strengthens that belief. The Bills' defense is certainly more needy than their offense, so adding an SEC cornerback was an incredible move by the front office.
In 20 games for the Florida Gators, Elam wasn't afraid to get physical, as he had a combined 78 tackles (53 solo, 25 assisted), 2.5 TFLs, 5 INTs and 20 passes defended. As a corner in the SEC, you're facing some of the best talent college football has to offer. So, the transition to the NFL from an SEC school is much less of a challenge than someone coming from, say, a D-II school. That's not to say D-II players can't make it in the NFL, considering many have, but the transition takes much more work to catch up to the speed of play. For Elam, that transition shouldn't be as difficult. It's even been reported that Elam has been taking reps against Stefon Diggs, which is a promising sign he's ready to play with the big dogs.
Now, the reason he's on this list is due to the fact Tre'Davious White and Jordan Poyer are injured. Missing those two gives Elam a clear-cut spot on the defense to show he's ready to make an immediate impact.
And if he can recreate what he did in college, this shouldn't be too difficult for Elam.
Quay Walker (LB) & Devonte Wyatt (DT), Green Bay Packers
While many Twitter GMs expressed that the Packers should've taken a wide receiver with one of their two first-round picks, the route they went makes them a better football team than they'd be if they reached on a second-round receiver in the first round. A lot of attention was surrounding the wide receivers in this draft, and because of that, most of the top-end receivers were already taken by the time Green Bay was on the clock.
So, while their offense lost Davante Adams via trade, the Packers decided to bring in two members of the 2021 national championship defense with their first-round picks. While the moves hurt me as a Chicago Bears fan, both picks were good in terms of making the Packers better.
Green Bay also lost Za'Darius Smith in the offseason, so there was certainly reason to focus on the defense this draft. As long as the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, there's a high likelihood the offense will be just fine. Rodgers has had plenty of seasons with underwhelming receivers in which he elevated to a level of competence.
While the picks weren't glamorous due to positions, that's not why teams draft players. They draft players to improve their football team and that's what the Packers did. Just because CoolPackersDude8374927 on Twitter didn't like the players, these two are likely to make an immediate impact on the Packers' defense.
In four years at Georgia, Quay Walker combined for 137 tackles (79 solo, 58 assisted), 11 TFLs and 5 sacks. In the same amount of time at Georgia, Devonte Wyatt combined for 113 tackles (49 solo, 64 assisted), 12 TFLs, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Both of these Bulldogs were picked after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected pass rusher Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick.
So, with a strong secondary unit, a solid pass-rush, good defensive line, and good linebacker group, these two rookies have a lot of potential to be really impactful for a team that could be representing the NFC in this year's Super Bowl.
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions could be relevant this year, but it's likely they're still a season or so away from being competitive in the league. That said, the record of this team will still likely be poor, even if second-overall pick Hutchinson is lights-out.
Ahmad Gardner (CB) & Jermaine Johnson (LB), New York Jets
Similarly to the Lions, the Jets are in too strong of a division to compete now. In a season or two, the Jets could finally be beyond their years of being the league's punching bag. And it could absolutely be in-part to the Jets drafting these two for their defense.
Trent McDuffie (CB) & George Karlaftis (DE), Kansas City Chiefs
In my eyes, the Kansas City Chiefs got worse this off season, while the rest of the AFC West got better. Some of those teams, a lot better. The Chiefs are still going to be respectable, and they could certainly make the playoffs, but I'm not sure if this team will be in contention come December -- with or without McDuffie and Karlaftis.
Lewis Cine, S, Minnesota Vikings
Personally, I think the Vikings fumbled this draft, specifically this pick. They traded back to get a worse version of the player they should've and could've drafted. But, instead of drafting Kyle Hamilton, the Vikings traded to the bottom of the first round, and they got Lewis Cine. He's no player to scoff at, but in comparison to Kyle Hamilton, it's a botched pick. That said, of this list, Lewis Cine could certainly prove me wrong, as it's incredibly possible the Vikings finish the season second in the NFC North.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, New York Giants
The Giants are one of those teams that made a lot of changes, so their potential for this season is tough to analyze. Could they take over a weak division in the NFC East? Maybe, but they're the likely bottom-of-the-division team. Adding Kayvon Thibodeaux doesn't change that.
Kyler Gordon (CB) & Jaquan Brisker (S), Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a team that likely only have the attention of their fans. According to the national media, the Bears are going to be the worst team in the NFL, or at least in the company of those who are. That said, these two players were incredibly impressive in college, and due to the Bears' weaker roster, these two will absolutely make an impact on the defensive side. It's just not certain that the Bears will be relevant in the latter-half of the season, so they'll remain in honorable mentions.