The 2023 NFL Draft included a number of disruptors on the defensive side of the ball that have a chance to be elite over the next decade.
Through Week 2 of the NFL slate, a few names have separated themselves from the rest of the pack despite most players still growing into the NFL's pace of play.
Current NFL superstars Aaron Donald, Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons are all former NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year, while New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner won last year's award with 75 tackles and two interceptions in his rookie campaign.
Who will emerge as the league's best defensive rookie over the 2023/24 season? We have looked into some of the leading candidates.
The rich got richer as the Eagles, who finished with the second best total defense in the NFL in 2022/23 and reached the Super Bowl, added Jalen Carter with the ninth pick of the draft.
Carter was also a 2022 All-American as his Georgia Bulldogs won their second consecutive national title.
He hasn't played every down in the NFL thanks to defensive coordinator Sean Desai's defensive line rotations, but in his time on the field through three games he has recorded five total tackles, two tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, two QB hits, and 1.5 sacks.
He has played 48% of the Eagles' snaps through three games. He only shortened his odds with a dominant performance while playing just 21 snaps during the Eagles' 25-11 win on Monday Night Football in Week 3 where he had 0.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Houston Texans are hoping for a swift turnaround in recent fortunes with an impactful 2023 draft that started with second overall pick, quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Houston also had the third pick in that draft, which they used on former Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr.
Anderson's presence on the defensive side of the ball will be just as important as Stroud's on offense. Through three games this season, he has 13 total tackles, five QB hits, and one sack.
The defensive end finished his Alabama career with 58.5 tackles, 34.5 sacks, 204 tackles and two SEC Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was also a two-time consensus All American.
The New England Patriots picked up Christian Gonzalez with the 17th pick after the long defensive back had 50 tackles and four interceptions in an impressive one-season cameo at Oregon after starting his collegiate career at Colorado.
Gonzalez got his first career interception when he picked off Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Week 2 of the 2023/24 season. In addition to his one pick, Gonzalez has 16 total tackles, three passes defended, a QB hit, a sack, and a tackle for a loss through the first three games of his career.
The Patriots' defense finished ranked eighth overall last season. Despite the Pats' 1-2 record, Gonzalez's presence has lessened the blow of losing defensive backfield stalwart Devin McCourty to retirement in the offseason.
A second-round pick out of the University of Alabama, Brian Branch started his career as well as he possibly could, picking off Patrick Mahomes in the season-opening game and taking it back for a touchdown.
Branch had a huge performance in the Detroit Lions' Week 3 win over the Atlanta Falcons, defending two passes, making 11 tackles, and making three tackles for a loss and playing every one of his team's defensive snaps en route to a 20-6 Lions win.
An undrafted free agent after earning unanimous All-American honors in college at Cincinnati in 2022, Ivan Pace Jr has covered plenty of ground for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
He has started two of his team's three games so far, recording 20 total tackles, 0.5 sacks, and three QB hits.
Odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.