Power Ranking top NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates

The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is always a contentious conversation since deciding the value of defensive players is not always easy. This year, there are three clear contenders and at least three more "dark-horse" candidates.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
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4. Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings
Undrafted Rookie

This is one of the most underrated stories of this NFL season. Ivan Pace Jr. grew up in Cincinnati, where his dad could have been a great player. However, issues with eligibility in high school derailed whatever he could have become. So, Ivan Pace Sr. focused on being a father. One of his sons, Ivan Pace Jr., was an undersized linebacker who keeps beating the odds to now be a difference-maker on a Minnesota Vikings defense that has helped this team overcome injuries to Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson.

Pace wasn't even a top candidate to make the Vikings final 53-man roster when he signed in April. He wasn't even one of the top undrafted free agents in the NFL's post-draft rankings. It was just another example of Pace being overlooked, and that never works out for those looking in the wrong direction. Pace has been fantastic this season, and he deserves a ton of praise. To be fair to the Vikings, they seemed to see something in him when they signed him, opening up an opportunity to take a starter's role.

Pace has 77 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception this season. He's been a calming force in the middle of the field. In that 3-0 drag against the Las Vegas Raiders, where the Vikings literally couldn't make one mistake or it would be a loss, Pace had 13 tackles, a sack, and that aforementioned interception. He was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

It's a tight race, and Pace is on the outside looking in, but his special season deserves special recognition. An undrafted rookie making this kind of impact in his rookie season might be a sign of things to come. If he keeps pushing, he might become one of the greatest undrafted rookies ever.