At one point, it looked like Derwin James had the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in the bag.
Instead, the award went to Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. The official announcement will come during the NFL Honors show on Saturday night.
Though Chargers fans aren’t going to like it, it’s hard to argue that Leonard didn’t deserve it. His 163 combined tackles led the entire league. He also had seven sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles while helping lead the Colts to the playoffs.
Somehow, he was left off the Pro Bowl roster.
James was outstanding in his own right. He finished the year with 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions while also deflecting 13 other passes. He showed the Chargers that he can line up and play all over the field and should be a dynamic force for many years in the defensive backfield.
The fact that the Bolts got him at No. 17 in the first round is still mind-boggling. He was selected to the Pro Bowl.
The entire rookie class was stellar this season. In addition to Leonard and James, Bradley Chubb had a huge season for the Denver Broncos. It had to be a difficult time for the voters to come up with a winner.
According to this tweet from Around the NFL, it appears that it was a close vote:
Defensive Rookie of the Year voting:
Darius Leonard – 29Derwin James – 20Bradley Chubb — 1
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) February 2, 2019
It definitely could have gone either way. Both players had similar stats and played on playoff teams. Both teams had a large impact on why their team’s defense improved this past season. In the end, a few more voters were swayed by the product that Leonard put out on the field.
Chargers fans won’t mind. They’ll say that the Colts can have Leonard because they have James and can build around him for many years to come.
And they wouldn’t be wrong.