The NFL regular season is nearly half way over. This is the time of year where the Mel Kiper’s of the world take a look at the tape to reevaluate each team’s 2016 draft class. NFL experts have enough video gathered to start making their predictions on which rookies will be crowned the offensive and defensive rookie of they year. And while the Offensive Rookie of the Year can be located in Dallas, Texas (Ezekiel Elliott); it is safe to say that the Defensive Rookie of the Year can be found right here, in the city of San Diego.
Over the last two games, Joey Bosa has provided a much-needed spark to a desperate San Diego defense. And while it is undeniable the level of impact he has brought to the Chargers’ pass rush; it is way too soon to crown him the best defensive rookie of the year. So sorry Bosa fans, while he has been stellar, this isn’t another article praising how great he has been. This is a piece to start a movement for the real defensive rookie of the year, Jatavis Brown. It is understandable for people who are unfamiliar with the Chargers to have a reaction of, “Who?!?”
Jatavis Brown, San Diego’s fifth-round selection out of Akron, that’s who! The same Jatavis Brown that was only invited to the regional combine in spite of recording 11.5 sacks and 116 total tackles for the 2015 season as Akron’s inside linebacker. Brown was the 2015 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and was a three-time first team All-MAC selection and was still overlooked by NFL scouts and experts.
San Diego’s projected starters an inside linebacker this year were supposed to be Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman. The Chargers lost Te’o to a torn Achilles in the game against the Colts. It was that season ending injury that thrust Brown into the starting lineup for San Diego. Brown replaced Te’o in the Indianapolis game and it would be an understatement to say he filled in admirably. During the game, Brown had 6 tackles, including 2 for a loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and defended 2 passes (including one against Phillip Dorsett, the Colts speedy wide out). Profootball Focus gave Brown the highest pass rushing grade of any off linebacker this season for this performance. Since the game against the Colts, Brown has improved every week and has been one of the center pieces of the Chargers much improved defense. This past week against the Denver Broncos, Brown recorded 14 tackles, 1 sack, and a timely forced fumble. It is easy to see why ProFootball Focus ranked Brown as the Chargers best defensive player for this game with an 84.5 grade.
In less than 4 games, Jatavis Brown has amassed 42 total tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and has defended 4 passes. His versatility to rush the passer and provide adequate pass coverage has made him an electric playmaker that is frequently around the ball. And even though, he is small in stature for an inside linebacker, Brown uses his high football IQ and his 4.47 forty speed to track down opposing ball carriers.
Brown will have some stiff competition for the 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He will have to fend off his own teammate, Joey Bosa, as well as a pair of Jacksonville Jaguars, Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue has been a terror on the edge as a situational pass rusher and has recorded 4 sacks and 1 interception for the Jaguars this season. As for Ramsey, he is already getting a reputation where opposing quarterbacks are avoiding him wherever he lines up because of his phenomenal coverage skills. The Baltimore Ravens attempted to “attack” Ramsey earlier this year and targeted him 6 times. Ramsey responded, and allowed 4 receptions for just 13 yards. Ever since then, teams look the other way.
Jatavis Brown’s versatility and production should separate himself from the other candidates as the year progresses. If he keeps up the pace, Brown will be on track for 100 tackles and 7 sacks which would make him the clear favorite for defensive rookie of the year.
The Chargers selected Brown with the 175th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. But from the way he is playing this year, you would think his name was called on the first night of the draft. Brown was snubbed by the NFL combine and hundreds of NFL scouts and now is playing at an elite level to prove to those 31 NFL teams they were wrong. Brown reminds me of a player that will always be fueled by those snubs and forever will play with a chip on his shoulder throughout his career.