The NFL Defensive Player Of the Year award is the top prize for defensive players nowadays, seeing as the MVP award is dominated by quarterbacks.
Some of the most important players in the league are top-tier defensive stars, and as the saying goes, defense wins championships.
That's mostly true, if you take a look at many of the past Super Bowl champions they either had a shutdown defense or made amazing defensive plays to win the Lombardi Trophy.
This year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year race comes down to three men, two of which have a shot at making the Super Bowl. Let's breakdown the candidates, their stats and give a prediction as to who comes home with the award.
Candidate: Dolphins CB Xavien Howard
2020 stats: 16 games, 46 tackles, 20 passes defended, 10 interceptions
Last year's NFL Defensive Player Of the Year was a fellow cornerback, Stephon Gilmore of the Patriots. While Gilmore is known more for being so lockdown some QBs avoid throwing near him all game, Howard was a big play machine all year long and was frequently tested. However, unfortunately for opposing QBs, Howard was turning those passes into his interceptions.
Ultimately, Howard is the major underdog here at +700. Compared to our other 2 candidates, his resume simply isn't as "game-changing" as that of Stephon Gilmore.
Candidate: Rams DL Aaron Donald
2020 stats: 16 games, 45 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Everyone knows by now that Aaron Donald is a defensive talent that's out of this world. Donald has such a dominating presence that double teams are enforced on almost every down and he's even been tripled teamed.
Yet, Donald still manages to accumulate incredible stats and that's lead to him winning NFL Defensive Player Of the Year twice now. In a season where the Rams defense was best in the league in scoring defense, passing yards per game and total yardage per game, it's not hard to imagine that Donald was a large reason as to why that is. His stats speak loudly but the success of the Rams defense speaks louder as to why Donald could win the NFL Defensive Player Of the Year award.
Candidate: Steelers LB T.J. Watt
2020 Stats: 50 tackles, 15.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
T.J.'s older Brother J.J. is a 3x winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. So, when T.J. joined the Steelers back in 2017, many Steelers fans imagined that one-day-soon he would be an NFL DPOY winner.
This day may come very soon, as T.J. is a favorite in this race. He lead the NFL in sacks and was a pivotal piece as to why the Steelers defense was so successful. Even if Watt doesn't win this year, he is going to continue to develop his play and will likely be a winner of this award in the near future.
NFL Defensive Player Of the Year Prediction
Winner: Aaron Donald
While Watt's stats and impact are similar to that of Donald, Watt's impact on the Steelers is marginally less than that of Donald's on the Rams. The Steelers without Watt still have an impressive front 7. Though Watt generated more sacks, the Rams without Donald would likely collapse in the trenches. Especially seeing as there are fewer complimentary players for Donald as opposed to those playing alongside Watt.Published 08 Jan 2021, 13:20 IST