For the better part of the past decade, a small number of players have had a virtual choke-hold on the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Since 2012, J.J. Watt leads the way with three wins. Aaron Donald is a close 2nd winning back-to-back awards in 2017 and 2018. Stephon Gilmore and Khalil Mack each have one a piece. If history tells us anything, it’s tough to justify betting against the favorites, but let’s take a little deeper look at the top-15 on the list, in terms of odds, for this upcoming 2020 NFL season.
Aaron Donald 6-1
J.J. Watt 9-1
Nick Bosa 9-1
Khalil Mack 10-1
Joey Bosa 14-1
T.J. Watt 16-1
Chandler Jones 16-1
Stephon Gilmore 20-1
Jadaveon Clowney 22-1
Myles Garrett 25-1
Derwin James 25-1
Von Miller 25-1
Danielle Hunter 25-1
DeMarcus Lawrence 33-1
Bradley Chubb 33-1
Preston Smith 33-1
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It goes without saying that the top-5 names on the board need very little explanation. Donald, of the Los Angeles Rams, is arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the league. J.J. Watt is also outstanding in his own right, especially since he’s not shy about marketing himself with engagements like hosting Saturday Night Live and doing plenty of commercials. Frequency bias is a real thing.
The Bosa brothers also don’t need much explanation as they have a knack for racking up sacks on a regular basis. Nick has 40 under his belt in the four seasons he’s been a member of the 49ers, while little brother Joey is keeping pace by putting a 9 in the stat column last season as a rookie for the Chargers.
The last name in the top-5 favorites is Khalil Mack. Mack is one of the most athletic, powerful humans known to man. There are very few players that could warrant a price tag of two first round draft picks, but Mack did exactly that with his move from the Raiders to the Bears.
Although the payouts won’t be as sexy, you can’t go wrong picking any of these top-5 players.
The Long Shots
Two names with longer odds standout as potential opportunities for a juicy payout. Those players are Derwin James and Bradley Chubb.
Chubb made an enormous splash in Denver during his rookie year in 2018. Playing in all 16 games, he racked up 60 total tackles along with 12 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Unfortunately for Chubb, his sophomore campaign was cut short after he suffered a partially torn ACL during the fourth game of the season against Jacksonville. Before his injury however, Chubb was already on pace to have another monster season. In less than four full games, he had already recorded 21 tackles and a sack.
By all accounts, Chubb has made a full recovery and looks to be back to his 2018 form. Should he pick up where he left off, the 33-1 odds he’s getting hold a lot of value.
The second name to grab our attention from the less notorious group is one Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers. Similar to the aforementioned Bradley Chubb, James also has his 2019 season cut short by injury.
A stress fracture in his right foot was discovered in the middle of August. The injury required surgery to repair and subsequently a three month recovery time. James was cleared to begin practicing with the team at the end of November 2019 and ultimately was able to play in the final five games of the season. James made the most of that small opportunity however, by recording 34 tackles.
He showed his true potential however, during his rookie season in 2018 when he played in all 16 games, amassed 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. Should he be able to repeat a similar performance as he put on display in 2018, there’s no way he won’t be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
Picks: You can’t go wrong with anyone in the top five
Value Picks: Bradley Chubb and Derwin James
Honorable Mention: Chase Young (Tough to predict rookies, but 50-1 is a fun ticket to hold)
*Odds provided by William Hill