Dexter Lawrence
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawerence has had a monster first season while making a case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

When the New York Giants selected Dexter Lawerence with the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, not many fans were excited.

Several were upset with the selection of Daniel Jones 11 picks prior and others were still not over the fact the pick was a result of trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns.

Now, Dave Gettleman is looking quite smart with his second of three first-round draft picks as the former Clemson star is emerging as a real NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

Lawerence has started all six games so far this season and has recorded 17 total tackles, two sacks and has forced a fumble.

His two sacks rank fifth in the NFL among rookies only behind Carolina’s Brian Burns (4.5) New England’s Chase Winovich (4), Jacksonville’s Josh Allen (4) and San Francisco’s Nick Bosa (3).

According to Pro Football Focus, Lawerence is the highest-rated rookie defensive lineman and grades out as the eighth-best interior defensive lineman in all of football so far this season.

In Week 6 against the Patriots, he received the highest PFF grade of any rookie league-wide.

PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote, “After a crisp performance in Week 6 against the New England Patriots that resulted in a career-high 84.2 overall grade, interior defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence makes his debut as PFF’s highest-grade rookie.”

Lawerence recorded four total tackles, two pressures and played 62 snaps, which ranked most among Giants defensive lineman against the defending champions.

This strong effort came just one week after recording a single game carer high five total tackles against the Minnesota Vikings on a day that also saw him record a sack.

When comparing Lawerence to other top defensive rookies, one can surely make a case for “Big Dexy” to take home the top defensive rookie award.

Perhaps the early favorite to take home this award is Carolina outside linebacker Brian Burns, who was selected 16th overall by the Panthers out of Florida State and has proved to be an excellent selection.

Burns ranks 11th in the NFL in quarterback hits, and trail just Nick Bosa and Bears All-Pro Khalil Mack in pressure rate.

However, Lawerence has more tackles with 17 to Burns’s 11 and is even in forced fumbles with one. Burns has the edge with 4.5 sacks, but plays the outside linebacker position; thus, getting to the quarterback is more common than the nose tackle position Lawerence plays.

The other two names Lawerence is in close competition are Bosa and Pittsburgh’s Devin White.

Bosa, who was selected with the second overall pick by the 49ers, has recorded three sacks so far this season with seven total tackles and a forced fumble.

By far, the biggest game of his young carer came against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 as he got to Baker Mayfield for five quarterback hits and two sacks. In addition, he both forced and recorded a fumble.

Bosa’s numbers are excellent, but the one big game surely helped those stats which could go against him in his quest for the defensive rookie of the year award.

As for Bush, he was taken with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft after the Steelers traded up with the Broncos to snag the middle linebacker from Michigan.

Bush has recorded 52 total tackles (32 solo) so far this season with one sack and two interceptions.

The rookie earned Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 6 after grabbing his first two carer interceptions and scoring his first NFL touchdown.

While Bush’s numbers are impressive, he started the season slowly as he struggled mightily to defend the pass. If voters look at the full season, this could take him out of consideration.

Despite stiff competition, Lawerence will undoubtedly receive votes if he can sustain the success he has had early on this season. Especially given the pressure of being the player taken with the draft pick acquired in exchange for the popular Beckham Jr.

Weather Lawerence wins the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award or not, he has gone from “player Giants fans did not care much about” to one that many are counting on to be the face of the defense for several years to come.