Defensive Player of the Year: High Wattage

It's a close race for Defensive Player of the Year, but Pro Football Focus analysts give J.J. Watt the edge over Von Miller with five weeks to play.

| 5 years ago

Defensive Player of the Year: High Wattage

We’re at that time of the year where attention begins to turn to after the season. For some that means focusing on the playoffs, hoping this is the year for their teams. For others it’s to free agency and the draft as they look at how their team can rebuild.

For some? Well thoughts turn to players who are going to earn end of season praise. With that in mind, four analysts and myself put together individual ballots for Defensive Player of the Year. Keep in mind that each analyst has their own criteria.

Here’s what we each came up with, and the combined results when we added them altogether.

1JJ WattJJ WattJJ WattJJ WattGeno Atkins
2Von MillerVon MillerVon MillerVon MillerVon Miller
3Geno AtkinsGeno AtkinsGeno AtkinsGeno AtkinsJJ Watt
4Charles TillmanCharles TillmanCharles TillmanCharles TillmanCharles Tillman
5Richard ShermanJustin HoustonCameron WakeCasey HaywardCameron Wake
6Cameron WakeRichard ShermanRichard ShermanCameron WakeKyle Williams
7Aldon SmithAldon SmithPatrick WillisKyle WilliamsPatrick Willis
8Tim JenningsEric WeddleKyle WilliamsCharles JohnsonRichard Sherman
9DeMarcus WareCameron WakeTim JenningsJustin HoustonAldon Smith
10Patrick WillisTim JenningsDaryl WashingtonAldon SmithJairus Byrd


And now the overall Top 10.

1. J.J. Watt, DE, HST

In a close race our staff opted for Watt as the top guy. It’s not hard to see why, as Watt has broken the PFF Batted Pass record already with 12, while adding 49 quarterback disruptions and 35 stops in the run game.

2. Von Miller, OLB, DEN

The Bronco was No. 2 on all ballots in large part because of his incredible ability to generate pressure. His 16.6 Pass Rushing Productivity rating leads the league, while nobody has more than his 13 tackles for a loss. He’s a force.

3. Geno Atkins, DT, CIN

While my pleas for him to be the No. 1 guy fell on deaf ears, the fine season of Atkins was rewarded with a top-three place from every analyst. He’s already broken the record for grades and quarterback disruptions at the defensive tackle position with five games to play.

4. Charles Tillman, CB, CHI

What can you say about Tillman? Capable of matching up with a guy like Calvin Johnson and as good as any player in the league at forcing fumbles. He’s not the best pure coverage corner out there, but there isn’t a player more dangerous after the catch. You don’t say that often about cornerbacks. A real playmaker.

5. Cameron Wake, DE, MIA

He hasn’t quite been as impressive recently as he was in the early part of the season, but the 64 quarterback disruptions still lead the league. Thirty times he’s either sacked or knocked down the QB. Impressive.

6. Richard Sherman, CB, SEA

It remains to be seen how a possible upcoming suspension will impact him in our staff’s eyes, but the play of Sherman on the field has led to many labeling him the next shutdown corner in the league. Just 49.2% of throws into his coverage have been complete, with the sophomore picking off four balls and defensing another 10.

7. Kyle Williams, DT, BUF

An oft-forgotten man, Williams is an every-down threat who is finding his 2010 form all over again. A real nuisance in the run game, Williams has 15 defensive stops and 31 quarterback disruptions rushing the passer. If only his colleagues in Buffalo were half as consistent.

8. Aldon Smith, SF, OLB

The controversial one. To many, Smith with his league-leading sack numbers is the No. 1 guy, yet he didn’t feature higher than seventh for any of our analysts. Why? Despite the massive amount of sacks, he hasn’t generated pressure as consistently as others and isn’t the every-down player some are. He’s having a great year, but there are others better.

9. Patrick Willis, ILB, SF

Two 49ers on the bounce with Willis the lone inside linebacker to make the list. While Daryl Washington has the unblocked sacks and Derrick Johnson makes more plays in the run game, no player is as complete as Willis, who has brushed off the challengers to cement his status as the top ILB in the game.

10. Justin Houston, OLB, KC

This will surprise some with Houston currently our top ranked outside linebacker. A rarity at his position, the Chief is capable of making plays in all phases of the game. That shouldn’t be used as an excuse to justify why Kansas City has him rushing the passer on just 63.1% of passing plays.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • dave

    Pretty good write up except a little typo on richard sherman.

    • Ben Johnson

      Nice catch I had to read it three times before I figured out what you meant.

  • Tone Lellinger

    Everyone’s list is pretty solid.

  • Matalac!

    ya no this list is crap Aldon Smith deserves a higher rating he isn’t a incomplete every down player he plays great every down maybe last year ya but this year he doesn’t come off the field and he has been great setting the edge against the run, he has been good in coverage as well, o and he leads the league in sacks not bye chance its cus hes a Beast and when hes not sacking the QB he is disrupting them I call BS on you guys pay attention! He should be 1 or 2 just like he should have won Defensive Rookie of the year same more sacks than Miller in half the snaps!

    • Ragemavis

      I Agree total crap, what games are they looking at?

    • Charles Olivier Viron

      Miller is way better than smith and that’s why he won DROY last year and has a better shot at DPOY this year. Only reason Smith leads the league in sacks is because he got 5 against the worst OL in football that nothing to help the poor clueless Carimie, they didn’t chip or double team smith they left the lineman on an island….

      Also Miller has about twice the amount of TFL and while being a top 3 pass rusher in the league he is also a top 3 run stopper which you cant sau about Smith..

  • That Man

    Will the 2011 Draft go down as the best defensive draft in history? There is 5 players from that draft on this list (Miller, Smith, Watt, Sherman, Houston)! And there are a lot more players than will likely be pro-bowlers in their second season -Chris Culliver, Patrick Peterson, Clayborn, etc. That’s impressive.