Dave's NFL DPOY Candidates
The Defensive Player of the Year is typically an award that is won by pass rushers. They are the players that have the most impact on the game on the defensive end of the ball and cause the most havoc. Eight of the last ten winners of the award have either been defensive linemen or outside linebackers. It will come as no surprise that they dominate the list of candidates.
Watt deservedly won the award last year as he caused mayhem for opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen. The Steelers star equalled the NFL sack record with 22.5 sacks and led the league in tackles for loss (21) and quarterback hits (39). Watt led the NFL in those three statistics in 2020, and he will be looking to do so again for a third successive year. Pittsburgh will need their star player to reach those heights again as their defense will need to put in a lot of extra work to make them competitive. An offense led by either Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett will have its struggles. Watt will be a candidate for sure, but he may need to exceed last season to give the Steelers a chance of being in contention of winning the AFC North.
Garrett, a former first overall pick, has lived up to the promise and expectations someone in his position would have. He had the best year of his career and played in every regular season game for the first time since 2018. It was no surprise to see him continue to make great strides forward in his career. He had 16 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 33 quarterback hits. He was a nuisance for opposing offenses that had to deal with his dominance. It is hard to see Garrett not take another leap as he continues to assert himself as one of the NFL's best edge rushers. He should exceed what he accomplished in 2021, which will give him a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year.
Donald has been the epitome of consistency since being drafted in 2014. He is one of the best defensive players not just of this generation, but of all time. Donald has won the Defensive Player of the Year in three of the last five seasons, so his on-the-field play does the talking for him. There is no doubt that he will be in contention to regain the award he last won in 2020. Despite losing his crown of Defensive Player of the Year, the 31-year-old had a small consolation with a Super Bowl victory. Donald is showing no signs of slowing down. He should come back hungrier to recapture his throne.
To say that Parsons had a sensational rookie season would be downplaying just how great he did. Parsons was a hybrid player on the Cowboys' defense last season as he lined up on the defensive line and in the linebacker position. Parsons was a menace and consistently broke into the opposing offenses' backfield. He ended the regular season with 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, 20 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits. His performances throughout 2021 not only saw him win the Defensive Rookie of the Year but also meant he was named a First-Team All-Pro. It is an incredible base to build from for the Penn State Alumni as he is now the centrepiece of the Dallas defense. With the freedom and flexibility that he has, he could maintain those numbers and then some. Nobody expected Parsons to do what he did last season, but he has everybody's attention now.
Bosa has had a great start to life in the NFL. He has established himself as a lead edge rusher in the league in his first three seasons, and after missing 14 games in 2020, he bounced back emphatically in 2021. He had 15.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. A great effort for a player returning from an ACL injury. In that 49ers defense, it is easy for someone like Bosa to dominate. Alongside Fred Warner, he is the tone setter of the 49ers defense. Bosa was sorely missed in 2020, and it is no surprise that the 49ers drastically improved last season. Now he needs to maintain those standards. It is hard to imagine that he won't.
Perhaps more of an outsider to win the award, but Crosby is a menace for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. He is coming off the back of a season where he was voted into the Second-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowl, so he will not be short of confidence. Crosby, who was drafted in 2019, has impressed since entering the league. From the chaotic and unsuccessful Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden era, he and Hunter Renfrow were the only two successes they managed to select from the draft process. The Raiders were in the bottom half of the league in sacks, and it was no surprise with their defensive line lacking quality. The addition of sack master Chandler Jones will only help Crosby. With offensive lines now having to split their focus between him and Jones, it should allow him to have a career year. The cornerstone of the Raiders defense, highlighted by his four-year $98.8 million extension, has a great opportunity to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Honourable mentions- Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Fred Warner, Shaquille Leonard, Chandler Jones