There is really no surprise at the top of the list over at the FanDuel Sportsbook. The top three have all made up the winners of this award over the last five seasons. Aaron Donald is looking to win it for a third straight season, while J.J. Watt won the award three times in the span of four years. Khalil Mack won back in 2016, and now is coming in after a monster first year in Chicago. Generally this award is given to linebackers and defensive lineman. Secondary members find themselves at somewhat of a disadvantage not being able to impact the game as often as them.
We have seen a few names win this award in the secondary, like Charles Woodson and Troy Polamalu. Bob Sanders also won it back in 2007. It is certainly a three horse race, but there are some interesting values to consider. There are not a lot of secondary players that have high odds. Jalen Ramsey at +5000 is a notable name, and Earl Thomas at +6500 is also on the list. Oddly enough we have yet to see Von Miller win the award, and usually he is in the thick of things in terms of top defensive stats come the end of the season.
Aaron Donald (+900)
Aaron Donald is the favorite, and if he takes home the award it would be the third year in a row. Donald set a career high in sacks last season, registering 20.5. He also had 41 hits on the quarterback, and dominated offensive lines. The one edge Donald has is just those “wow” moments wondering how a man can do this to several 300+ pound lineman week in and week out. Nearly taking down the season single sack record, Donald finished with 45 votes out of 50 to bring home his second DPOY award. He also was the Defensive Rookie of the Year back in 2014. The next closest competitor in terms of odds is, Khalil Mack at +420. Donald’s potential of closing in on 20 sacks again is pretty likely, and that will give him a slight edge. He forced four fumbles, and also had 59 combined tackles out of the defensive tackle spot.
Khalil Mack (+9000)
Moving to Chicago, Khalil Mack adjusted to a full time role at linebacker, where in Oakland he was a defensive end. It was another double-digit sack season, putting up 12.5. He had 47 combined tackles, and did miss two games. An interception and six forced fumbles, Mack was a game changer on the defensive side. He was a main reason the Bears were one of the more lethal teams in takeaways. He is an all around stud, and certainly capable of taking home this award. If he can capitalize on adding in more tackles and a few more sacks to his game, it will make it a closer competition between him and Donald. His ability to force turnovers is why he is number two in odds.
J.J. Watt (N/A)
This is pretty good value given how closely J.J. Watt projects to Donald’s stat line this season. He has won the award three times already, going in 2012, 2014, and 2015. He is 30 years old now, but played a full 16 games which he hadn’t in the last two seasons. Watt forced seven fumbles, had 16 sacks, and 61 combined tackles. I would have given Watt’s odds to be a bit higher, even in an age 30 season. It is tough to see tackles getting back up to his prime days before the injuries, but finishing within the 16-20 mark for sacks again will keep him in the race. I really like the value on Watt, especially given how good this Texans front seven could be. Watt will need to close the cap in tackles and tackles for losses if he wants to catch Donald.
Joey Bosa (+9000) – DE – Los Angeles Chargers
Health has always been the biggest thing with Joey Bosa, and that hurts him when it comes to these awards. He played less than half the season last year, but when he is on the field, Bosa is very productive. He has big upside, and that would be what you are betting on here. There is just that giant red flag when it comes to how many games he will play this year. Although that seems to be the case with a lot of Chargers and their running history of injury luck. Still at +2300 for a guy with 15+ sack upside, and the ability to force fumbles, Bosa is certainly worth a look at these odds and falls behind my favorite Myles Garrett.
Danielle Hunter (+2300) – DE – Minnesota Vikings
In 2016 the Vikings realized they had a menace on their hands. Danielle Hunter had 12.5 sacks, and has 21.5 over the last two seasons. Now up to 40 in his four year career, where in his rookie season he was as situational player, he has established himself as one of the more talented defensive ends. Coming off a 14.5 season, and having 21 tackles for loss, Hunter is on par with some of the top defensive players. If he can generate some turnovers and fumbles, which he hasn’t quite done yet, he is a dark horse pick to take home this award. Hunter is just one part of a very good Vikings defense, and opposing offensive lines won’t have to worry about just him.
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