Chris Borland – 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year?


Chris Borland will be named Defensive Rookie of the Year for the 2014 NFL season.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s try out another prediction: Borland is the most valuable player on the 49ers.

Before you negate my predictions and chalk it up as shock-value-for-page-views fodder, humor me by analyzing how incredible the diminutive rookie from Wisconsin has been in the following table:

[table id=24 /]

There’s a considerable amount of information to consume aside from the data in the above table:

  • Since taking over at defensive tackle, Donald has led the Rams to victories over the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos.
  • Fuller is the Bears’ best cover corner and guards each team’s best receiver. He’s struggled of late, but still leads all rookies with three interceptions and nine pass deflections.
  • Mosley leads the Ravens in tackles and is widely considered the future of their defense. His +6.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus is among the top-five for the inside linebacker position.
  • Barr single-handedly guided the Vikings to a win over the Buccaneers with a strip sack touchdown in overtime. His physical ability has him being called “The Jadeveon Clowney of the West Coast.” While a great nickname, perhaps Barr is being sold short in said comparison.
  • Although considered raw when drafted, the Raiders thrust Mack into the starting lineup at the start of the season. Against the odds, he’s been their most consistent pass-rusher and run-stopper. Via Pro Football Focus, his +10.37 run-stopping grade is best among all outside linebackers in the NFL.
  • Since DeAngelo Hall went down, Breeland has become the team’s top cover corner and has thrived with seven pass deflections.

As you can see, each these players has a shot to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Being said, this is an excellent draft class – one of the best in years – and there’s plenty of time for a candidate to separate himself.

But you cannot ignore one simple fact: Borland has started just four games this season.

Taking the data one step further, let’s analyze how these players compare when their stats are extrapolated over 16 starts:

[table id=26 /]

Forget Defensive Rookie of the Year, these numbers suggest that Borland would be the Defensive Player of the Year had he started Week 1.

Still, numbers can be misleading, as they don’t represent the intangibles the best players so often possess. It’s these uncharted plays that separate Borland from the competition.

Two weeks ago, with the 49ers stuck in a brawl against the Saints, Borland recovered a fumble caused by Ahmad Brooks, setting the stage for a game-winning 35-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. Borland had 17 tackles in the game, six of them coming at the line of scrimmage.

Borland was the M.V.P. of the game, and the Niners 4-4 season took a positive spin for the first time.

Last week, the magical Borland followed up his impressive performance against the Saints with one of the best individual defensive performances in 49ers’ history.

Borland had 13 tackles and two interceptions, one of the latter coming with the Giants at 4th and goal with less than a minute left in regulation.

Borland was again the M.V.P. of the game, and at 6-4, the 49ers now control their own destiny.

Team success largely impacts how the voters vote for end-of-the-year awards. If so, Borland strengthens his case for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award:

  • At 6-4, the 49ers are still alive in the playoff race and have Glenn Dorsey and NaVorro Bowman returning to a defense that is ranked fourth in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (308.8).
  • The 49ers lead the NFL with 16 interceptions.
  • The 49ers secondary allows just 220 pass yards per game, good for fourth in the NFL.
  • The 49ers yield an average of 88.6 rushing yards per game to the opposition. This figure ranks sixth in the NFL.

If Borland continues his production (and that’s a big IF), then he should win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors this season.

But don’t take it from me; take it from a man who’s witnessed Borland’s play with a front-row seat:

But I defer to you, humble reader, and hope that you’ll show your opinion below. Thanks for reading.