Here is a continuation of the 2023 All Rookie Team. Now for the defense.
Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Carter came into the NFL with much fanfare and delivered very early on the hype. He was a disruptive force on the Eagles defensive line, racking up six sacks, eight tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and nine quarterback hits through 17 games. His six sacks ranks third all-time among Eagles rookies. Pro Football Focus had Carter at 49 total pressures, a rookie record for them. Carter was hampered by a back injury that slowed him in the second half of the season, but optimistically he should be back to full strength for his second season. If Carter takes even a bit of a step forward, the Eagles have a truly special player in the middle of their line for the foreseeable future.
Kobie Turner, Los Angeles Rams: Kobie Turner made the most of playing next to Aaron Donald. His nine sacks led all rookies this year and he was also a force against the run. Turner was one of two excellent Rams rookie defenders who contributed to their turnaround this year.
Second Team: Calijah Kancey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bryan Bresee, New Orleans Saints
Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans: The Texans made a huge splash in the 2023 draft when they traded up to the third pick to take Will Anderson right after they drafted CJ Stroud second overall. It was a ballsy move but the payoff was immediate. Will Anderson was arguably the most disruptive rookie defensive lineman this year, getting seven sacks, ten tackles for a loss and a monstrous 22 quarterback hits. It’s very possible the Texans drafted the two best rookies in 2023.
Byron Young, Los Angeles Rams: Byron Young was a fantastic piece in the Rams defense this year. His speed off the edge was his calling card as a rookie as he sped his way to eight sacks, ranking only behind his teammate Kobie Turner. He will be a building block for a young Rams defense entering a new era.
Second Team: Tuli Tuipulotu, Los Angeles Chargers and Lukas Van Ness, Green Bay Packers
Jack Campbell, Detroit Lions: Jack Campbell played a big part in Detroit’s defensive turnaround this year. His athleticism and aggressiveness made him an asset as a run defender and blitzer. While his coverage ability is still coming along, Campbell has been a steady presence in the middle of the Lions defense.
Ivan Pace, Minnesota Vikings: One of the most pleasant surprises this year, Ivan Pace was a force on the Vikings defense. Pace went undrafted due to size concerns but those fears were minimized by his overwhelming speed and physicality. Brian Flores allowed Pace to blitz often and the rookie wreaked absolute havoc. Pace is a fun, aggressive player and should continue to be a defensive playmaker for the Vikings.
Second Team: Henry To’oTo’o, Houston Texans and Dorian Williams, Buffalo Bills
Devon Witherspoon, Seattle Seahawks: Devon Witherspoon had a slow start to his career due to injuries forcing him to miss the preseason and season opener. Once he got on the field however, he was a game changer. Witherspoon was uniquely physical and aggressive as a rookie cornerback, never shying away from the challenge of NFL speed. The Seahawks allowed him to blitz as he racked up three sacks on the year, including two in one game. He was a playmaker in coverage too, knocking away 16 passes and picking off one for a touchdown. Witherspoon is a complete defender and will be a difference maker in Seattle for a long time.
Joey Porter Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers: One of the feel-good stories of the draft was Joey Porter Jr. being drafted to play for his dad’s old team. Porter didn’t take long to find a place in the Steelers defense. His length, physicality, and athleticism were on display all year. At his best, he was able to lock up and shut down some excellent receivers. While his play was uneven throughout the year, you could see how special Porter will be in his career.
Second Team: Mekhi Blackmon, Minnesota Vikings and Tyriqe Stevenson, Chicago Bears
Brian Branch, Detroit Lions: Brian Branch plays a lot of roles in the Detroit defense. Primarily as a nickel defender, Branch has to cover the slot and defend against the run close to the line of scrimmage. He has been a a do-it-all player for the Lions, picking off three passes, forcing a fumble, knocking away 13 passes, and piling up seven tackles behind the line. He is just a damn good football player for Detroit and will continue to be a valuable part of their defense.
Second Team: Sydney Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
Jordan Battle, Cincinnati Bengals: Jordan Battle was excellent in his rookie season holding down the back end of the Bengals defense. Not only was Battle a dependable cover man, but he was a really great run defender right off the bat. It’s rare to see such a well rounded defensive back so early in their career. Battle’s great play made it easy to forget about Jessie Bates and he will continue being a force in the Bengals secondary.
Ji’Ayir Brown, San Fransisco 49ers: Ji’Ayir Brown wasn’t a starter for much of the year, but he made the most out of his opportunities. Not only was he a rangy playmaker in coverage, but he was a high impact tackler who made his presence felt in the run game. Brown got injured towards the end of the year and hasn’t played in the playoffs yet. If he can go for the NFC Championship, it would be a huge boost for the Niners defense.
Second Team: Ronnie Hickman, Cleveland Browns and Antonio Johnson, Jacksonville Jaguars