The case for Sheldon Richardson: Selected 13th overall by the Jets, Richardson didn't take long to get acclimated to the speed and power of the NFL game. The former Missouri Tiger appeared in 16 games (starting 15) and by the time the Jets put the finishing touches on an improbable 8-8 season, Richardson had emerged as not only one of the league's most dynamic defensive linemen, but proved to be a dominating run-stuffer. His conventional stats -- 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble -- don't begin to tell his story.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Richardson ranked fifth among all 3-4 defensive ends, behind the inimitable J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, Kyle Williams and Cameron Jordan. Richardson's run-stop grade (+34.0) was second only to Watt.
The case against Sheldon Richardson: Frankly, there isn't much of one. Richardson can improve as a pass rusher, but he was originally drafted for those skills so we know he has the ability. And while there are other deserving candidates -- linebacker Kiko Alonso has already been named PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year for what he accomplished in Buffalo, and cornerback Tyronn Mathieu proved everybody wrong after a solid campaign with the Cardinals -- the reality is that Richardson was a complete player from Week 1 to Week 17. In fact, in the season finale against the Dolphins, he even played running back and scored a one-yard touchdown.
Why Richardson is our choice: Dominant in the run game. Only going to get better as a pass rusher. Richardson's also not afraid to back up the smack talk; in October, he said the NFL babies Tom Brady and then went out and helped the Jets beat the Pats 30-27. He doesn't lack confidence, either. In November, the rookie said teammate Muhammad Wilkerson was better than Watt, then added: "I don't feel like Mo's the best defensive player in the league ... I am. I'm dead-ass serious." We can respect that.
Will Richardson win the hardware? The only competition he faces is from Alonso, the second-round pick who already convinced the PFWA folks he was a worthy defensive rookie of the year. That said, if we're starting a team and can have our choice of defensive rookies, Richardson's a no-brainer.
Others receiving votes: