Houston Texans rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr. was named he NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, edging out Los Angeles Rams rookie defensive tackle Kobie Turner.
Anderson and Turner were among the finalists for the award, a group that included Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon.
Anderson is a deserving winner as he recorded 59 pressures, 45 tackles including 10 for loss, 22 quarterback hits and seven sacks during the 2023 NFL season. He is the first Texans’ player to win Defensive Rookie of the Year since Brian Cushing in 2009.
It was a night of celebration for Houston who also saw C.J. Stroud take home NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Out of the players nominated for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Turner had the toughest hill to climb as the lowest drafted player in the pool of candidates. Turner was taken with the No. 89 overall pick and quickly developed into a starting rotation player for the Rams. Here is how the voting shook out with Turner ultimately finishing in third, via Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press:
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year
Will Anderson 16-21-8 = 151
Jalen Carter 14-14-10 = 122
Kobie Turner 14-6-7 = 95
Devon Witherspoon 4-7-16 = 57
Joey Porter Jr. 1-0-1 = 6
YaYa Diaby 1-0-1 = 6
Brian Branch 0-0-6 = 6
Jack Campbell 0-1-0 = 3
— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) February 9, 2024
While Anderson got more opportunities to rush off the edge, Turner did all his work in the interior and he wound up leading all rookies in sacks with nine. Turner racked up 57 total tackles including 29 solo, as well as eight tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits.
Los Angeles’ defense was supposed to take a big step back after the team decided to part ways with most of their key veterans, but players like Byron Young and Turner helped them rebuild nearly on the fly. While there were several learning moments to begin the season, the rookies and young players got better as the season progressed and Los Angeles could very well have several pieces to build around going forward.
Turner may have been docked some votes because he played next to Aaron Donald, but it shouldn’t diminish what he was able to accomplish in his first year with the Rams. With his rookie season behind him, Turner can prove his worth with another strong year in 2024.
Four Rams rookies make named to PFWA All-Rookie Team
Although Turner didn’t win Defensive Rookie of the Year, he was still named to PFWA’s All-Rookie Team. Los Angeles was well-represented because Turner was joined by teammates Puka Nacua, Steve Avila and Young.
Nacua was in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year but lost to Stroud. Overall, though, Los Angeles struck gold in the 2023 NFL Draft with Turner, Nacua, Avila and Young.