Challengers to Micah Parsons for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The 2021 NFL season has reached the home stretch and the Defensive Rookie of the Year race is heating up.
At the beginning of the season, many expected Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons to be the top rookie at the end of the year. Through 12 weeks, it looks like the experts were correct as Parsons has become an established star at multiple positions on the Cowboys' defense. But Parsons isn't the only rookie to have found success in his first season as a pro.
Denver Broncos CB Patrick Surtian II, Baltimore Ravens DE Odafe Oweh, New England Patriots DL Christian Barmore, and New York Giants DE Azeez Ojulari are all in the mix for a shot at the award.
Here's everything you need to know about the Defensive Rookie of the Year race heading into the final six weeks of the regular season:
Who is the favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Micah Parsons is currently the favorite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, according to our partner, PointsBet. Parsons currently has 52 tackles, two forced fumbles and leads all rookies with nine sacks. Parsons has had a record-setting rookie season registering the league-best QB pressure rate at 19 percent.
His versatility has been a blessing in disguise for the Cowboys as a player who can work from the defensive end position or traditional linebacker spot with ease. While the Cowboys weren't expecting to be in the market for a linebacker when they drafted Parson No. 12 overall last April, the move proved to be the right call.
Parsons has the potential to be a staple of the Dallas defense for years to come and maybe even a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
What are the odds for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award?
Micah Parsons: -800
Patrick Surtain II: +800
Odafe Oweh: +1500
Christian Barmore: +2500
Azeez Ojulari: +3300
Asante Samuel Jr.: +3300
Jamin Davis: +4000
Gregory Rousseau: +5000
Jevon Holland: +5000
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: +6000
Editor's note: All odds are provided by our partner, PointsBet. PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.
Who are the top contenders for Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Patrick Surtain II
Denver Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II had a game to remember last Sunday against the Chargers, tallying two interceptions and two passes defenses. With the offense struggling behind Drew Lock at quarterback, Surtian gave Denver a spark, intercepting Chargers QB Justin Herbert that led to a 14-point swing.
On the next Chargers' possession, Surtian picked Herbert off again, taking it all the way back for a touchdown.
Surtain has 31 tackles and three interceptions so far this season and is living up to his potential as the best defensive back selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Baltimore Ravens surely got a steal when they drafted outside linebacker Odafe Oweh out of Penn State with the 31st pick in last April's draft. Oweh became the NFL's first rookie this season to have a sack, forced fumble and a fumble return in the same game.
He joined Ravens legend Terrell Suggs as the only Ravens rookies in team history to have at least five sacks, multiple forced fumbles and at least one fumble return in their first season. Oweh currently has 17 solo tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles through the first 12 weeks of the season.
Christian Barmore entered the 2021 NFL Draft as the interior defensive line prospect in a fairly weak class. However, concerns of his ability to stop the run at the next level and his maturity led Barmore to slip out of the first round and be scooped up by Bill Belichick.
Belichick has never been one to hand rookie roster spots, regardless of where they are drafted and Barmore had to muscle his way into the defensive line rotation.
He's shown massive improvements as a pass rusher and ranks second in pressure by a rookie just behind Oweh. Barmore has 16 tackles and a half a sack so far this season.
Azeez Ojulari's development has been a bright spot in a rather ugly season for the New York Giants. The rookie second-round pick recorded a sack in each of his first three games and then went off for 2.5 sacks in a Week 7 win over the Carolina Panthers. His 5.5 sacks are tied for first on the team with Leonard Williams. While he isn't the safest bet to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, his production so far leaves some room for optimism.