In 2017, safety Derwin James put together one of the best rookie seasons by a Chargers defender in recent memory. It was so good, in fact, that the league named him a First-Team All-Pro on top of being voted into his first Pro Bowl. That year, however, James finished as the runner-up for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award behind the Colts’ Darius Leonard. This rightfully upset the majority of the fan base but Leonard also had an immense year for a rookie linebacker drafted out of mid-major South Carolina State.
This year, the Chargers drafted another defensive player in the first round with the type of talent to make a run at the annual honor. In early odds released by BetMGM.com late last month, Murray was third behind only Chase Young and Isaiah Simmons.
On Monday, CBS Sports Chris Trapasso released his own personal top-10 candidates for the 2020 DRoY honor and to my astonishment, Murray was not included. Listed below are his rankings with their odds to win the award by Williams Hill Sports Book.
1.) Patrick Queen, LB, Ravens (+1100)
2.) Chase Young, DE, Washington (+350)
3.) Isaiah Simmons, S/LB, Cardinals (+800)
4.) Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Lions (+2000)
5.) Javon Kinlaw, DT, 49ers (+2500)
6.) Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Buccaneers (5000)
7.) K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, Jaguars (2500)
8.) Kyle Dugger, S/LB, Patriots (+4000)
9.) Michael Ojemudia, CB, Broncos (N/A)
10.) Jaylon Johnson, CB, Bears (+3300)
In the intro of Trapasso’s article, he mentions several trends when it comes to predicting the the eventual DRoY. One of those was the statistic that 16 of the last 18 players to win the award were drafted in the first round. Following that up, Trapasso says that recent history would tell us to “select a player on a team you expect to have a high-caliber defensive unit.”
Looking at those trends, it’s head-scratching that Murray would not be included in his initial predictions. He was the second off-ball linebacker to be selected and the 10th defender taken in the entire draft. He also is going to a team expected to have a “high-caliber” defense after the Chargers signed two former Super Bowl champions in Chis Harris and Linval Joseph. That same defense also includes the aforementioned Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Casey Hayward.
The quickness in which Kenneth Murray @KennethMurray diagnoses plays is elite. His read/react ability coupled with his sideline to sideline speed is going to be a perfect fit in Gus Bradley’s system. Inject THIS into #Chargers defense. #BrawlNetwork— Jake Hefner (@JakeTHefner) May 1, 2020
So again, Murray’s absence is a little mind-boggling but it looks like Trapasso is trying to think outside the box with this list. That idea is only solidified by the inclusion of Broncos CB Michael Ojemudia who wasn’t even given opening odds for the award in the first place. But Ojemudia is set to join a defense that recently added former Jaguars corner A.J. Bouye, former Titans DL Jurrell Casey, and already has Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. With that in mind, I get the justification.
An argument could be made for Kyle Dugger to be left off as a non-former first rounder and the fact he’s going to a Patriots defense that lost key starters in Kyle Van Noy and Duron Harmon.
At the end of the day, maybe Trapasso doesn’t think Murray will win the starting job, or maybe he doesn’t believe the Chargers defense can live up to the hype. I could see both. But I truly think, given the proper opportunity, Murray will enjoy a Darius Leonard-esque rookie season and maybe even earn himself his own nickname similar to Leonard’s “Maniac” moniker.