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Jeff Gladney tabbed as “dark horse” Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate

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But it’s going to be a tall order

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Texas Christian vs California Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020 NFL season approaching. . .at least as far as we’re aware right now. . .award speculation is starting to rev up, and one member of the Minnesota Vikings’ incoming rookie class is getting a little bit of buzz for a potential run at a Rookie of the Year Award.

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com ran down some of the candidates for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, and has new Vikings’ cornerback Jeff Gladney down as a “dark horse” candidate.

He’s not the biggest or fastest rookie cornerback, but he might be the most consistently competitive on-the-ball defender in this draft. Gladney is twitchy and instinctive. He should get on the field right away for the cornerback-needy Vikings. He will take his lumps, to be sure, but look for Gladney to make more plays on the football than most rookie starters.

There are two other cornerbacks in Zierlein’s top eight with Gladney as his lone “dark horse” mention, but it’s likely going to be a bit difficult for any cornerback to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award with things the way they currently are. With teams not being able to conduct offseason workouts the way they have in the past, the first opportunity the Vikings’ coaches are going to get to work with Gladney up close is going to be when camp opens in a couple of weeks. That alone is going to make it tougher to get him up to speed.

There have been a couple of cornerbacks that have been named Defensive Rookie of the Year in recent years. Marcus Peters won the award with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 and Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints received the honor in 2017. Before that, there was a pretty significant drought, going all the way back to Charles Woodson in 1998. In order for a cornerback to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, they’re likely going to have to put up a bunch of interceptions or other stats to get noticed ahead of other defenders, particularly edge rushers that can put up sacks and other numbers that voters may consider more important.

It’s nice to see Gladney getting a little bit of hype before the season gets going though. With the Vikings’ cornerback situation the way it is, both Gladney and Cameron Dantzler are going to be asked to contribute early and, hopefully, they’ll be up to the task.