2013 NFL all-rookie team, defense: Sheldon Richardson runaway Defensive Rookie of the Year

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A few defensive rookies became immediate stars in 2013.

Of the three best defensive rookies in the NFL this season, none were taken in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft. In fact, the all-rookie defensive team is littered with players who weren't even selected in the first round, let alone the top 10.

Some stars were born on defense in the 2013 NFL Draft, even if the class was largely disappointing at some of the key positions on offense. The first round would likely look a lot different if teams could do the draft all over again.

Here's the all-rookie team for defense and a pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Defensive end

Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets: Few players in the NFL were more dominant at their position than Sheldon Richardson was in 2013. He ate up a ton of snaps for the Jets but still managed to be consistently disruptive throughout the end of games and into the second half of the season. He didn't rack up a ton of sacks, but he was in the backfield constantly and was a big part of New York's dominant defensive line.

Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions: Consistency was an issue for Ekekiel Ansah in 2013, but he was productive as both a pass rusher and run defender in his rookie season. The nine sacks were what turned heads, but it was his play in the running game that the Lions likely appreciated the most as the season wore on. Few expected him to make a big impact as a rookie, so he will be an exciting player to watch grow in years to come.

Defensive Tackle

Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers: Teams have to be kicking themselves for letting Star Lotulelei pass them by. The former Utah defensive tackle graded out as one, if not the top player in the entire draft. A medical scare at the NFL Scouting Combine caused him to slip some, and the Panthers got a steal with the 14th pick. The Panthers got a dominant season from their rookie at defensive tackle. He had four sacks and was impossible to block at times in the running game. For most of the year, he looked like the top-five pick everyone initially thought he was.

Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers really struck gold in Round 2 when they picked up Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short. While Lotulelei was more of the run-stuffing defensive tackle, Short was getting penetration as a pass rusher. He only hit home on two sacks, but he compiled 24 quarterback hurries. Carolina has a pair of dominant defensive tackles to build around now.

Inside Linebacker

Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills: Many people are picking Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and for good reason. He made most of his impact in coverage, where he intercepted four passes. Tackle statistics are always up for debate, but Alonso was actively around the football in just about every Buffalo game. He added two sacks to his impressive rookie totals, but pass rush is an area he could improve on.

Outside Linebacker

Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders: From a scheme fit standpoint, Sio Moore may have been the best pick the Oakland Raiders made in the 2013 NFL Draft. He played a balanced game for the Raiders at outside linebacker. He had five sacks at season's end and was just as reliable in run support. His coverage skills are a still a work in progress, but he improved throughout the season in that area.

Jamie Collins, New England Patriots: Jamie Collins was just supposed to be a pass rusher in his first season with the Patriots. While he didn't record a single sack, he was in the backfield enough to warrant some praise in that area. The four passes he broke up in coverage may have been more surprising, though. In time, Collins will develop into a quality pass rusher, but in the meantime if he's able to be a reliable linebacker in coverage, his value to the Patriots will only go up.


Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints: Maybe it was Rob Ryan or some of the additions the Saints made in the offseason, but the New Orleans defense was much improved this season. There are still some holes, but safety certainly isn't one of them. Kenny Vaccaro came in and played as advertised in his rookie season. His range was on display in the running game and the passing game. He broke up six passes as a rookie and even had a sack.

Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers: Often times, rookie defensive back struggle in at least one area of their game. But 49ers safety Eric Reid was the epitome of balance in his first NFL season. His four interceptions were third among NFL safeties, but he was just as solid in the running game, recording 60 tackles.

Robert Lester, Carolina Panthers: After going undrafted out of Alabama, Robert Lester latched on with the Panthers and made a big impact. He wasn't quite as balanced a player as Reid or Vaccaro, but he was better than both in coverage. Quarterbacks had a 49.6 rating when throwing his way in 2013.


Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons: As most rookie cornerbacks are, Desmond Trufant was targeted often in Atlanta. With teams throwing his way consistently, Trufant had the opportunity to make plays, and he did. He tied for the league lead with 15 pass breakups and picked off two passes. Not a bad start to his career.

Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals: Tyrann Mathieu wasn't the typical cornerback this season. He did a little bit of everything for Arizona's defense and that's what made him so valuable. Mathieu had nine quarterback hurries from the secondary, which isn't common, especially for a rookie. He was also making plays in the passing game. For a guy who was written off by many after getting kicked out of LSU, Mathieu made his mark in the NFL this season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets: Sheldon Richardson has been a near wire-to-wire choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He played a ton of snaps for the Jets and never wore down. His 52 tackles were second only to J.J. Watt among 3-4 defensive ends. Between Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets have the looks of a dominant front three to build around.

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