NFL's 2012 draft class was extremely top-heavy in terms of play-making defenders who could make an instant impact on their respective teams this season—guys with outstanding college pedigrees, unlimited athletic range and size to make an easy transition to the professional game.
Though history won't necessarily repeat itself, it's always worth noting when it comes to awards like this: A linebacker (both inside at outside) has won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award 10 of the last 12 years. Ndamukong Suh won in 2010 as a defensive tackle, and 2002 winner Julius Peppers took home the award from his defensive end spot in the Carolina Panthers' defense.
The last player to win the award who was not drafted in the first round was the Houston Texans' DeMeco Ryans in 2006. Ryans is only one of two players to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year in the 2000s not drafted in Round 1.
Let's break down the top contenders for this year's DROY.