For the third year in a row, apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers are being regarded as one of the teams with a front-runner to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In this case, it’s outside linebacker Bud Dupree, selected with the 22nd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, who is being nominated as one of the early favorites—in May, of course.
Yesterday, the NFL’s website posted a list of five top candidates from this year’s crop of rookies likely to contend for the award, including Leonard Williams, Randy Gregory, Marcus Peters, and Landon Collins in addition to Dupree.
Here was the take on Dupree in that article:
The Steelers were desperate for a fresh face on the edge of its pass rush, and got just that in Dupree, who brings more size than most of the top pass rushers in the draft at 265 pounds. New defensive coordinator Keith Butler worked under Dick LeBeau, and should have no problem carrying forward LeBeau’s ability to put a pass rusher in a position for success. If Dupree doesn’t win the ROY award, expect him to be a serious contender for it.
Most of what is written above is largely true, especially everything up to where we get to the mention of LeBeau, but things begin to get more spotty from there on in.
Bottom line, if Dupree likely to be in the running for the defensive player of the year honors? The smart money favors in the negative. Aside from the fact that a Steelers player has not been so honored in about a decade and a half with Kendrell Bell, there is reason to believe that the 22-year-old is not poised for immediate success.
While Dupree may have an NFL-ready frame, certainly more than most first-year outside linebackers, the same cannot be said for his skill set for getting after the quarterback, as he is not regarded as a natural pass rusher.
While his football intelligence has been vouched for by his college coach, in terms of reading offenses and calling plays, Dupree still has a lot to learn about playing linebacker, having been recruited as a tight end only to convert to defensive end. He has only been at linebacker for most of the past two seasons, and did not have a true position coach.
Beyond that, the Steelers appear committed to platooning their outside linebackers this year, with Arthur Moats likely getting the starting nod on the left side and Dupree being rotated in. He simply won’t have the playing time many other rookies will.
In 2013, Jarvis Jones was considered a favorite to win the award, and he quickly entered the starting lineup in his second game, only to lose his place. He finished his rookie year with just one sack.
Ryan Shazier seemed a more likely candidate to win the award last year. He was a plug-and-play starter, but a series of injuries derailed his rookie season. Dupree may find a bit more success than his two predecessors during his first season in the league, but it’s unlikely to amount to enough to garner award-worthy attention.