Following the 2016 NFL draft, there was some discussion that the Buffalo Bills may have two Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates in Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland.
Lawson's chances are now slim after undergoing shoulder surgery. Buffalo's first round pick is expected to miss the first 4-6 games of the season. That leaves Ragland as Buffalo's top candidate to win the award. Ragland is going to "start off the bus" as GM Doug Whaley has stated and there's no doubt that he'll make his presence felt on the field, especially in run defense. The linebacker will have to do more than just pile up tackles to win the award, but K.C. Joyner of ESPN named Ragland as one of five candidates to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Via ESPN Insider, here's a look at what Joyner said about Ragland:
Pros: Buffalo has nearly all of the elements necessary to be considered a Super Bowl sleeper, but it could use a significant upgrade in stopping the rush. Last year, the Bills ranked tied for 22nd in rush yards allowed per carry before first defensive contact (2.6) and 24th in yards per carry after first defensive contact (1.8).
Ragland could offer immediate help in this area. Kiper says that Ragland reads tackles as well as any linebacker in this class, and Scouts Inc. rated Ragland as the top run-stopping linebacker in the draft. Ragland also has a track record of playing consistently at an upper-tier level. Alabama's coaches awarded him with the team's defensive player of the week honor on seven occasions last season.
Cons: Tackle volume doesn't tend to generate a lot of DROY attention, so unless Ragland posts phenomenal tackle figures or adds some other notable plays to his 2016 performance, he might be hard pressed to draw voters' interest.
Bottom line: Kiper said that it would not be a surprise to see Ragland lead the Bills in tackles this season. If that happens and Buffalo reaches the postseason, Ragland will get plenty of DROY attention.