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Arrowhead Pride Bye Week Awards: Defensive Rookie of the Year

That makes two rookie-of-the-year awards out of the seventh round.

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There are seven games in the books — and 10 more to go. While we may not be right at the halfway mark of the 2021 regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs are taking their bye week in Week 8, so it’s a good time to dish out some midseason awards.

The Arrowhead Pride writing staff members each had one vote for our seven midseason awards. There are 11 contributors, so there will be 11 votes tallied for each award. In this post, we’ll reveal our best defensive rookie to this point of the season.


Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

VOTING: CB Jaylen Watson (9), DE George Karlaftis (2)

If you had asked most Kansas City Chiefs fans who would be the midseason Defensive Rookie of the Year at the beginning of the season, most would have put their bet on one of the first-round picks of the Chiefs: cornerback Trent McDuffie or defensive end George Karlaftis.

Seven games through the season, and things have shaped up quite differently.

McDuffie suffered a hamstring injury midway through the first game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals that landed him injured reserve. Karlaftis has turned in a solid start to his rookie season. While he only has six tackles and 0.5 sacks, he does lead all rookies in quarterback pressures with 17.

In the NFL, things come at you fast, and you never know when you will get thrown into the fire. That’s exactly what rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson found out early in his career. Watson was the first of three seventh-round draft picks for the Chiefs. Usually, when you think of a seventh-round pick, you think of him fighting for a roster spot. Not Watson.

After starting near the bottom of the depth chart behind the likes of McDuffie, L’Jaruis Sneed, Rashad Fenton and another fellow rookie, fourth-rounder Jousha Williams, at the beginning of training camp, Watson began to turn heads. A shoulder injury sidelining Fenton gave the coaches extra looks at Williams and Watson on the No. 1 defense.

Watson was able to surpass Williams on the depth chart using his size and physicality (two traits defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves) to his advantage.

Watson came in for the injured McDuffie in Week 1 and helped finish the game. He would face his first true test in Week 2 on a national stage against the division-rival Los Angles Chargers.

Watson proved that the big stage wasn’t too big for him in that game. With the game tied late in the fourth quarter and the Chargers in the red zone, threatening to score, Watson made the play of the game when he jumped a pass, returning it 99 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

He also recorded four total tackles and allowed just three receptions on eight targets, according to Pro Football Focus. His play in that game led him to be named AFC Defensive Player of the week in Week 2.

Watson has started every game since Week 2, recording 31 tackles, four pass breakups, one interception and one touchdown. It will be interesting to see what Spagnuolo and the Chiefs do following the bye week, with McDuffie expected to return from injury.

Watson has played well enough to keep the starting job and finish the strong season that he has started.


Who is your bye-week defensive rookie of the year?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Jaylen Watson
    (1868 votes)
  • 12%
    George Karlaftis
    (287 votes)
  • 2%
    Someone else
    (65 votes)
2220 votes total Vote Now

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