Mid-Season Report: Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

With Week 9 over and done with, the NFL is officially halfway through the 2022 regular season. That means it's time to check in on the progress of various teams and players. Here are three young stars whose sensational debuts have them in contention for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Cornerback Sauce Gardner, New York Jets

Few players have entered the NFL with as much swag as Sauce Gardner did when he joined the New York Jets as their fourth-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Gardner has lived up to the hype. He currently leads the entire league with 13 passes broken up, and he's allowing a mere 54.9 passer rating on passes in his direction this year. His excellent play has been a huge part of the Jets' resurgence: the team sports a shocking 6-3 record and has allowed the seventh-fewest yards in the league.

Cornerback Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks

Much less heralded but similarly impressive, cornerback Tariq Woolen has been a revelation for the Seattle Seahawks. Woolen has nabbed four interceptions in nine games with the 6-3 Seahawks, and his 54.2 passer rating allowed even narrowly edges out Garnder's. However, Woolen's anonymity coming into the draft and the relative mediocrity of the Seahawks' defense will make it difficult for him to overcome Gardner's superstar qualities.

Defensive End Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions

If any player entered the NFL with a higher profile than Sauce Gardner, it was defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Drafted second overall, Hutchinson joined his hometown Detroit Lions after a stellar four-year career at Michigan, giving him a rare chance at becoming an all-time local legend. Hutchinson has been solid so far, notching 4.5 sacks and an athletic interception in Week 9's surprising upset over the Green Bay Packers. Given his feel-good story and enormous fame, a strong second half to the season could still propel him past the two cornerbacks on the list.

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