Kearse earned Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for all but one month of the 1999 season. He set a rookie record with 14.5 sacks (which led the AFC), and forced an NFL-best eight fumbles. Kearse earned All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honors, and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year balloting, finishing behind Warren Sapp.
2 of 10Bob Rosato/SI
After a standout career at New Mexico, Brian Urlacher was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2000 draft by the Bears. He made an impact right away, recording more than 15 tackles in two of his first three starts. The linebacker recorded eight sacks and two interceptions on the year to earn a Pro-Bowl invitation.
3 of 10John Biever/SI
A second-round pick out of Georgia, Bell started all 16 regular season games for the Steelers in 2001. The linebacker recorded 83 tackles (70 solo) and nine sacks in his rookie campaign, helping to anchor Pittsburgh's defense.
4 of 10Craig Jones/Getty Images
Peppers missed the final four games of the season after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy by taking a banned dietary supplement, but he still tallied 36 tackles, 12 sacks, 1 interception, and 5 forced fumbles.
5 of 10Carleton Hall/MMDI/Icon SMI
Just 20-years old when he broke into the league out of Arizona State, Suggs joined Baltimore's star-studded defense and made a quick impact at outside linebacker, recording 12 sacks and an interception.
6 of 10John Iacono/SI
A finalist for the Butkus Award in his final season at Miami, Vilma was selected with the 12th pick in the 2004 draft by the Jets. During his rookie campaign, he recorded 108 tackles, two sacks, and three interceptions, including one which was returned for his first NFL touchdown.
7 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
Essentially the final piece in the trade puzzle that sent Eli Manning from the Chargers to the Giants, Merriman earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in his rookie season, despite missing time because of a hold out, and not starting until Week 7, Merriman finished the year with 57 tackles and ten sacks.
8 of 10John Iacono/SI
Although he was an outside linebacker in college at Alabama, Ryans was moved to middle linebacker after a strong preseason with the Texans. He recorded a league-best 12 solo tackles in Week 1, and went on to 155 tackles (125 solo), 3.5 sacks and an interception for the season.
9 of 10Brad Mangin/SI
The 2006 Butkus Award winner at Ole Miss, Willis was picked 11th overall by the 49ers. He went on to lead the league in tackles during his rookie season (174), recorded four sacks, and was voted to the Pro Bowl. 2008,
10 of 10Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Mayo, the No. 10 overall pick for the Patriots, was a near unanimous choice, earning 49 of 50 votes. The linebacker from Tennessee led the Patriots with 139 tackles.
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