NFL Defensive Player Of The Year, or NFL DPOY, is an accolade that most defenders have used to increase their Hall Of Fame résumé. Players like Lawrence Taylor, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, Reggie White, and so many more all-time greats have carved their names into the history books of this award. At the midpoint of the 2022 season, who are the five candidates for the NFL DPOY?
NFL DPOY Candidate- Aaron Donald: DT, LA Rams
Aaron Donald is a former three-time DPOY award winner being the most recent player to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Donald and the Rams are coming off their first Super Bowl win of the McVay era, and Donald has remained his usual self. While the team and defensive unit around him have struggled, Donald has continued his Hall Of Fame warpath.
In seven games this season, Donald has four sacks, one forced fumble, 32 combined tackles, seven tackles for loss, and six QB hits. The seven-time all-pro has led the league in pass rush double team rate since 2017, hovering around the 70% mark. When the Rams added help, that number dipped a little in the last few seasons, but it’s back up again this year. As of week three, Donald had a 70% double-team rate.
Even seeing that many double teams, Donald has a 22% pass rush win rate which sits him second among defensive tackles. Donald’s stats might not jump off the page at first glance, but the work he puts into his craft and the attention he demands are more than enough to understand why he’s always an NFL DPOY candidate.
NFL DPOY Candidate- Micah Parsons: LB, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have quite the pass rush these days. Under Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn, they’ve excelled in getting after the opposing team’s quarterback. With a pass rush win rate of 53%, Dallas leads the league. Dallas also leads the league in sacks with 33, which is seven more than the next team. However, the Dallas defense might not be so quarterback-unfriendly without Micah Parsons.
Parsons is a half-sack out of the league lead with eight. In terms of pass rush win rate, Parsons has an outstanding 32% which leads all edge rushers. Through week four, Parsons was the second-highest double-teamed edge rusher behind miles Garrett. Parsons enters the bye week with eight sacks, one touchdown, two forced fumbles, 36 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 14 QB hits. He’s making a strong case for NFL DPOY.
NFL DPOY Candidate- Za’Darius Smith: LB, Minnesota Vikings:
Za’Darius Smith is the centerpiece of a post-Everson Griffin Vikings pass rush. Tied for the league lead in sacks with 8.5, Smith holds one of the higher rates in terms of double teams by an edge rusher. Through week four, Smith was around 30% double teams on pass rushes but held one of the lower pass rush win rates of any edge rusher.
Producing a stat line of 22 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 12 QB hits, Smith leads in two major categories for a pass rusher. Smith deserves a tip of the cap because he is the Vikings pass rush. The Vikings, as a defensive unit, ranks 25th in the league in pass rush win rate at 39%. 2022 could be the first NFL DPOY for Smith.
NFL DPOY Candidate- Matt Judon: DE, New England Patriots
Matt Judon is what I like to call a hybrid pass rusher. He’s listed as a Defensive End but can come off the edge like a linebacker. Judon is tied with Za’Darius Smith for the league lead in sacks at 8.5. Judon’s résumé looks like this; 8.5 sacks, 28 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 15 QB hits, and a forced fumble.
Judon, through the first four weeks of the 2022 season, had received less than 10% double teams and averaged a 14% pass rush win rate. That’s among the lowest of any candidate thus far. The low rate continues as he still isn’t in the top 10 for edge rushers in PRWR through eight weeks. When it comes time for voting, the pass rush win rate might be why he doesn’t get NFL DPOY.
NFL DPOY Candidate- Nick Bosa: DE, San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bosa is the younger brother of Joey Bosa, who is a monster pass rusher. So who would be surprised to know that Nick is just as much of a monster as his brother? I’ll give you a hint… NOBODY. Bosa enters the bye week ranked ninth in PRWR for EDGE/DE at 23%. Bosa sees about 25% of double teams on pass rushes which puts him in the upper level of defenders who seek attention.
Bosa has compiled eight sacks, 22 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 19 QB hits this season. The eight sacks put him in the top five on the leaderboard, and in the nightmares of every QB, he’s taken down. Bosa has recorded a sack in six of his seven games played. The 49ers defense is ranked 10th in PRWR at 45% and ranked seventh in scoring defense. Bosa has played a significant role and played his way into the NFL DPOY conversation.
When the news breaks on the winner of the NFL DPOY award, the masses need to understand one thing. It’s not just about stats. It’s more than what meets the eye. The impact beyond the stat sheet comes into play regarding how much attention they receive. So, let’s not break down and overreact this season.
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