Everyone remembers who the NFL MVP is each year. Ditto the Offensive Player of the Year as it's often the same person. But the Defensive Player of the Year? Usually forgotten. However, let's look at BetOnline's NFL odds for that award this season.
Narrow The Field Of Candidates
While it's possible for an Offensive Player of the Year to play on a bad team if the guy puts up big enough statistics, history shows you generally aren't going to have a DROY winner unless it's from one of the league's best units that season. In 2013, the best defense in the NFL east of Seattle (guess that's everywhere) was Carolina and the heart and soul of that unit is inside linebacker Luke Kuechly. The former Butkus Award winner at Boston College won the DROY honors, edging the Colts' Robert Mathis, who led the NFL with 19.5 sacks.
He finished with 156 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles for the NFC South champions. He had a game for the ages in a crucial Week 16 win over New Orleans that essentially earned Carolina the division title and the No. 2 seed in the National Football Conference. Kuechly had a whopping 24 tackles and an interception of Drew Brees. Kuechly became the first inside linebacker to win the award since Chicago's Brian Urlacher in 2005.
I always love going back to drafts and wondering what teams would have done differently. For example, Kuechly went No. 9 overall in 2012. You can't argue with the first two picks in that draft, Andrew Luck (Colts) and Robert Griffin III (Redskins). Think the Browns wish they had taken Kuechly at No. 3 instead of running back Trent Richardson? The Jaguars at No. 4 over troubled receiver Justin Blackmon? The Cowboys at No. 6 instead of cornerback Morris Claiborne?
Surprisingly, Luke Kuechly is the +475 favorite to repeat. I say surprisingly because only one player has won the award in back-to-back years: New York Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor in 1981-82. LT is the only guy to win this award three times. Also, Kuechly is dealing with hyperextended thumb suffered in the second preseason game. He will wear a protective brace and cast on his right thumb for at least a couple of weeks. Maybe nothing, and no ligaments were torn, but keep an eye on that.
The second favorite on NFL odds is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt at +550. He was a near-unanimous winner (one vote shy) in 2012. One could argue that Watt had the greatest season ever for a defensive linemen that year. He finished with 20.5 sacks, 81 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, an NFL-record 16 tipped passes and four forced fumbles. That's obscene. Last season, Watt had 80 tackles and 10.5 sacks with another four forced fumbles. If you held an NFL draft of just defensive players tomorrow and every guy was available, Watt would go first, hands down. He was rewarded with a six-year, $100 million extension this week, with around $52 million guaranteed. Watt was taken No. 11 overall in 2011. You know who went one pick before him? Blaine Gabbert to Jacksonville. Poor Jaguars.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is the +850 third favorite. He led the NFL with eight interceptions last season and got himself a huge new extension this offseason. The problem with backing Sherman, or any cornerback, is that the guy is going to have to have a monster number of interceptions to win the award. Cornerbacks don't make a lot of tackles or get sacks. The last cornerback to win was Green Bay's Charles Woodson in 2009 when he had nine picks and returned three for scores. That's the only way a corner wins.
Denver's Von Miller (+1000) and Carolina's Greg Hardy (+1200) round out the favorites. The problem with the latter is he is likely going to face a suspension. Hardy's jury trial appeal of a North Carolina judge's guilty verdict for attacking and threatening an ex-girlfriend has been set for Nov. 17. If that goes quickly, which it should, and Hardy is found guilty, he's gone six games at least. Miller, meanwhile, is healthy after playing just nine games last season due to suspension/injury.
NFL Free Picks: Go with Miller as your NFL Pick on this prop. The addition of fellow pass-rushing demon DeMarcus Ware means that defenses likely won't be able to double-team Miller. He could have a season like 2012 when Miller had 68 tackles, 18.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, finishing second to Watt for DROY.