Sometimes what can get lost in the National Football League is how essential a good defensive player can be. A defensive lineman that can blow up a play, a shutdown cornerback to take away a team’s best receiver or a linebacker that can cover the entire field sideline to sideline.
Well, the art of defense is not lost with online sportsbooks, who have released their updated odds for which player will win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and one player stands out like a man among boys.
Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the betting favorite at +200 to win the DPOY award according to Bovada. Donald has won the award in 2017 and 2018 and it makes sense for him to be back at the top of the list.
Following Donald on the oddsboard is the Bears’ Khalil Mack (+400), Texans’ JJ Watt (+700), Broncos’ Von Miller (+1000), Chargers’ Joey Bosa (+2000), Browns’ Myles Garrett (+2200), Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence (+2500), Cardinals’ Chandler Jones (+3300), Colts’ Darius Leonard (+3300) and Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch (+3300) to round out the top 10 options.
Hard To Make A Case Against Donald
Notching 31.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles over the last two seasons, it shouldn’t be a shock to see Aaron Donald as the preseason favorite to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Donald has been a defensive terrorist to opposing offenses since he came into the league in 2014 and I fully expect him to be a force again in 2019.
Donald’s stature as a six-foot defensive tackle may be what makes his feats all that more impressive. According to the NFL, the average height and weight for a defensive tackle is around 6’3’ and 310 pounds and Donald clocks in around 6’1’ 280. His speed and uncanny strength is a nightmare for opposing offensive lineman and at age 28, he is in the middle of his prime.
My only concern with taking a +200 favorite for this type of award is track record and injury risk. No player since 1971 (when the award was created) has ever won this award three seasons in a row and with the Associated Press doing the voting, they could gravitate to a player with the “better” story.
Donald has also yet to miss a game in his five-year career due to injury and in the brutal game of football, one bad hit or awkward fall could blow up your bet. I wouldn’t hate a wager on Donald but I would recommend looking at other options with more value.
Return Of The Mack
The next candidate on this oddsboard and the player that was very close to winning this award in 2018 is Khalil Mack at +400. The sixth-year linebacker was like electric dynamite with the Chicago Bears in 2018 and had his fingerprints all over the Bears defense. In only 14 games last season, Mack had 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles and helped spearhead a defense that was third in the NFL in sacks, first in interceptions and defensive touchdowns.
I had Mack winning the award in 2018 until closer to the end of the season but then Aaron Donald broke the record for most sacks by a defensive tackle and that prediction went up in smoke. I think the Bears defense is going to be just as good as they were last season and if they finish with double-digit wins, it’ll be mainly because of the defense.
QB Mitch Trubisky still hasn’t shown he can carry the offense and it will likely put the Bears in tricky positions to keep the opposition at bay. Three of Chicago's first five games in 2019 are against bottom-five offenses from the 2018 season so we could see Mack and company rack up some huge stats.
My Pick for Defensive Player Of The Year
I know some people will think I’m crazy to ever lay money on a Cleveland Browns player but I have very high regard for defensive end Myles Garrett. The former No.1-overall pick will be entering his third year in the NFL and he improved leaps and bounds from year 1 to year 2.
Garrett led the Browns with 13.5 sacks in 2018 and with Cleveland’s roster overhaul, he could be in a position to get to 20 or more this year. The Browns added DT Sheldon Richardson and DE Olivier Vernon to run with Garrett and teams can’t just double or triple team the 23-year-old like they did last year.
By having better defensive teammates and the Browns expected uptick in the standings, Garrett presents the best upside for this type of award, especially at +2200.
Dark Horses and Lottery Tickets
If bettors are looking at other longshots with high ceilings, my other two suggestions would be Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (+4000) or Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (+5000).
Wagner has been the model for a linebacker since he entered the league in 2012 and has over 80 solo tackles in each of his last three years with the Seahawks. I’m fairly high on the Seahawks this season and if the team finishes with double-digit wins, Wagner will be a key reason for that success.
As for Clark, this is pretty boom-or-bust scenario as he has a chance to make an immediate impact on a Chiefs defense that was below average in 2018. Clark has 33 sacks over his last three seasons but the Chiefs were one of the worst pass defenses in the league and more pressure on the quarterback could help offset the poor secondary.
|Leighton Vander Esch||+3300|
Odds as of August 12 at Bovada