Top NFL defensive rookie? Bucs' Alexander in the mix
Sunday's emotional, inspiring game for Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander -- read Tom Jones about the brother he lost Friday and the team that rallied around him -- puts more of a national spotlight on the fourth-round pick from LSU. Fans are asking if Alexander could be NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Alexander is certainly in the conversation nearly halfway into his debut season.
Until he had a 90-yard interception return Sunday -- negated by an offsides penalty -- Alexander hadn't missed a snap in the Bucs' first six games. He's been prolific in a way few NFL players (veterans or rookies) can boast: Of the NFL's top 40 tacklers, he's one of only two players (with Carolina's Thomas Davis) that also have at least two interceptions and a sack.
Alexander has 49 total tackles -- third among NFL rookies -- and his two interceptions are tied for second behind Chiefs corner Marcus Peters. He was the eighth inside linebacker taken in the draft, and he has more total tackles than all but one: the Saints' Stephone Anthony, who has a team-high 56, along with a sack and an interception.
Here is Alexander's toughest competition for any league-wide defensive rookie honor. Some of the top defensive players taken -- the Jets' Leonard Williams, the Browns' Danny Shelton, the Patriots' Malcom Brown -- haven't been overwhelming statistically but have played well.
Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs: First-rounder leads all rookies with three picks, returned one for a touchdown.
Stephone Anthony, ILB, Saints: Late first-rounder leads all rookies with 56 tackles, with a sack and an interception.
Eric Kendricks, ILB, Vikings: Second-round pick is tied for rookie lead with four sacks is second on the Vikings with 42 tackles.
Jordan Hicks, ILB, Eagles: Third-round pick leads Eagles with 43 tackles, with a sack, INT, forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB, Saints: Second-rounder ties for NFL rookie lead with four sacks, has 36 tackles as well.
Bud Dupree, OLB, Steelers: First-rounder ties for NFL rookie lead with four sacks, with 16 total tackles.
Landon Collins, S, Giants: First pick of second round is 2nd among NFL rookies with 51 tackles, faces Bucs this week.
Ronald Darby, CB, Bills: Second-rounder from FSU has two interceptions for Buffalo.
Quinten Rollins, CB, Packers: Second-rounder has two INTs, one for a TD. Watch teammate Damarious Randall as well.