- Darius Leonard was drafted in the second round (36th pick overall) by the Colts
- Leonard compiled 190 total tackles, 7.0 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 INT’s in just 17 games – two playoff games included
- Leonard won the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has been named the 2018 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Few people saw this type of production coming when he was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, the tackling machine led the NFL in regular season tackles (163) while also recording eight passes defensed, 7.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and collecting two interceptions.
Let’s take a look back at how the All-Pro’s NFL DROY odds changed throughout the year.
Closing 2018 Defensive Rookie Of The Year Odds
|Player||Defensive Rookie Of The Year Award Odds Bovada (12/26/18)|
|Leighton Vander Esch||+500|
*Odds are from 12/26/18, the last time any online sports betting site had them available
Leonard Opens At +2800 After The 2018 NFL Draft
Leonard opened as a DROY longshot, as a number of players drafted above him were expected to be the top contenders.
That list included Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb, Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cleveland Browns corner Denzel Ward.
Those were the top four defensive players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Also, Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James was highly praised.
— NFL (@NFL) February 2, 2019
Leonard’s name wasn’t called until the 36th pick of the draft in the second round, so compared to the aforementioned five, he wasn’t even on the radar.
On top of that, the Colts defense wasn’t expected to be competent by any stretch of the imagination. That’s why Leonard started off as a distant 28/1 to win the award.
Offseason Uncertainty on Colts Raised Leonard’s Odds As High As +3100
Few people were high on the Colts entering the regular season. There was some hope that Quenton Nelson – the Colts first-round pick – and a rebuilt offensive line could get the offense back on track.
Of course, few of us knew exactly how healthy Andrew Luck was.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) January 28, 2019
However, if there was a slight glimmer of optimism on the offensive side of things, there was even less on defense. After all, the defense allowed 25.3 points per game in 2017 (30th in the NFL) and didn’t make any signature moves on that side of the ball in the offseason.
Leonard Becomes Top Contender After One Month Of Action
It didn’t take Leonard long to announce himself as an impact defender. His presence was felt immediately in the Colts opener when he compiled nine tackles.
He followed that up with three consecutive double-digit tackle performances in the subsequent weeks.
NO SNUB HERE! @dsleon45 is the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Just a kid from a small town in South Carolina who led the league (yes the entire league as a rookie) with 163 tackles. He is, in fact, a Maniac…and now the DROY. #Colts pic.twitter.com/m9IUIMR7Tb
— Taylor Tannebaum (@TaylorTannebaum) February 3, 2019
It wasn’t just the tackles, though, as Leonard collected four sacks in those games, including a pair of passes defensed.
Although the Colts were just 1-3 after September, it was clear that Leonard was a stud. At that point, his odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year climbed to +330 and only trailed James of the Chargers.
Leonard Becomes The Favorite After Week 4
It was just a couple weeks later that Leonard moved into the role of favorite. It became clear that it was going to be hard to deny him.
As the Colts picked up their second win of the season – a 37-5 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills – Leonard put up another monster effort.
— Mike Gillespie (@MikeABCColumbia) February 3, 2019
One week after a “quiet” eight-tackle effort against the New York Jets, Leonard compiled a whopping 17 tackles. That put him at 79 tackles after just six contests.
To put that in perspective, only 71 players finished the entire season with more than 79 tackles. Leonard had already amassed 79 after just six games.
Leonard’s Odds Drop To -280 As The Colts Start To Heat Up
One of the areas where some people felt Leonard was being held back was the team’s general performance. If he finished the year neck-in-neck with, say, Derwin James and the Chargers had the better season, James was likely to get the nod.
However, the Colts turned their season around and that really helped Leonard.
Colts LB Darius Leonard is The Associated Press 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Keep up with the latest on tonight’s AP NFL individual awards here: https://t.co/Ko803Uujw7 pic.twitter.com/qZnkPWdcXt
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) February 3, 2019
As mentioned, the Colts got their second win of the season in Week 6. After picking up two more wins in Week 7 and Week 8, Leonard moved into the role of favorite at -280.
Leonard Starts To Pull Away After Week 11
There was a spell between Week 8 and Week 11 where Leonard had a so-so stretch and that opened the door for some contenders. Leonard had just seven tackles against the Tennessee Titans in Week 8, 10 against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, and just nine in Week 11 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Not bad for a rookie. 😈 pic.twitter.com/KKtz9t7wVM
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 30, 2019
However, James also had a similarly quiet stretch through those three games. Chubb and Ward also started to fade around that time.
And when you started to do the math and look at the trajectories, it became clear that if the Colts stay on the winning track and Leonard continues to pile up the tackles, he was going to win the award.
James Pulls Ahead After Week 15
It was mostly a two-horse race for this award between James and Leonard throughout the season.
While Leonard did lead for big portions, it was James who was in the lead as we came around the final turn. The analytics guys were in love with James all year as he finished second overall in Pro Football Focus’ highest graded safeties.
THE MANIAC IS DROY! 😈
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) February 2, 2019
The other key here was that after Week 15, the Chargers had just won at Kansas City and put themselves in position to win the top seed in the AFC. That really helped James’ cause for the DROY award.
Leonard Back As Favorite Entering Week 17
Just as James’ odds shortened as the Chargers performed well, his odds dropped when the team faltered. A Week 16 loss at home to Baltimore where the defense was picked apart by a rookie quarterback – in front of a national audience, no less – James’ prospects took a big hit.
DROY – Darius Leonard (#Colts)
Un jugador veloz y muy maduro, en su primer temporada logró ser líder tackleador y llegó a ser líder en la defensa de los Colts. pic.twitter.com/9kHDtj8Za9
— Montserrat Bernal 🐍 (@montsebernalg) February 3, 2019
At the same time, Leonard finished the season collecting 40 tackles, a sack and an interception. That pick proved to be key as it came during the team’s Week 17 playoff-clinching win over the Tennessee Titans – also in front of a national audience.
He was already the favorite at that point and seeing him make the final play to end the game only helped his cause.
Leonard Is Named Defensive Rookie of the Year
On Saturday, Leonard was named the Associated Press 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year. While he was a longshot to win the award when the odds were first posted, his performance throughout the regular season made it hard to deny him.