In a season where the Minnesota Vikings' bumper crop of rookies helped them surge to an NFC North title, the man in the middle of their defense was named the best rookie in the division.
ESPN's team of NFC North writers voted Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks as the division's rookie of the year, giving him the award just ahead of Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall. Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs tied for third with Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford, while Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman came in fifth.
Kendricks, who began the season in the Vikings' nickel package and shifted to an every-down role when Gerald Hodges was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in October, led the Vikings with 92 combined tackles and wound up with four sacks, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for October. He became a key part of coach Mike Zimmer's blitz package, and though he missed two games with a rib injury and seemed to see his impact fade once nose tackle Linval Joseph was hurt late in the season, the second-round pick looks like a fixture in the Vikings' defense.
He'll have to improve in pass coverage, but considering it was one of his strengths coming out of college, Kendricks should give the Vikings reason to believe he will in 2016.
Full voting (first-place votes in parentheses):
Eric Kendricks 11 (3)
Damarious Randall 8 (1)
Stefon Diggs 2
Jeremy Langford 2
Eddie Goldman 1