Defensive Player for NFL MVP? It Would Take Record-Breaking Season

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 3:08 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2017 3:08 PM UTC

With less than three weeks until teams report to training camps, more and more NFL props are rolling out daily. Today, we ask whether it’s possible for a defensive player to win the NFL MVP Award.

It’s not exactly a secret that the NFL this century has become more and more of an offensive league. Fans like scoring, and the league is all about making money and better ratings so it gives the fans what they want. I can’t even imagine trying to be a defensive back these days because you can barely touch a receiver.

Bovada has released its 2017 NFL MVP odds, and to no surprise the favorites are all quarterbacks: Tom Brady (+450), Aaron Rodgers (+700), Derek Carr (+900), Ben Roethlisberger (+1000), Dak Prescott (+1200), Russell Wilson (+1200) and reigning MVP Matt Ryan (+1600).

My question is this: Will we ever see a defensive player win MVP again? The short answer: doubtful. In the past 40 years, there have been as many placekickers to win MVP as defensive players. The kicker was Washington’s Mark Moseley in the strike-shortened 1982 season (still the worst MVP choice ever) and the defender was Hall of Famer linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the Giants in 1986. The only other defensive guy to win the MVP was another future Hall of Famer, Minnesota defensive lineman Alan Page, in 1971.

There are only three defensive betting options for 2017 at Bovada.

Houston’s J.J. Watt (+6600)

Watt has clearly been the league’s best defensive player since he joined the NFL and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, 2014-15. Only Taylor has also won the award three times. Watt’s best season was probably 2014 when he had 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries (one returned for a TD), an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown and 10 passes defended.  He also had three receiving touchdowns. One would think if a defender would ever win MVP again, it would have been Watt that year. He did get 13 MVP votes, the first time this century a defender got more than three, but he finished second to Rodgers. Watt was limited to just three games last season due to back problems. He says his back feels great now.

Oakland’s Khalil Mack (+6600)

With Watt’s back worries, Mack has perhaps taken the mantle as the league’s most disruptive defender. He won his first Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2016. Mack had 77 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, five forced fumbled, three fumble recoveries, a pick and an INT return for a TD. Mack led the NFL with 96 quarterback pressures and tied an NFL single-season record with sacks in eight straight games.

Denver’s Von Miller (+10000)

Mack beat out Miller by just one vote for 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Miller of course was named the MVP of Super Bowl 50 with an incredible performance in the upset of the Carolina Panthers. Last season, Miller had 78 tackles, 13.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Frankly, Miller had a better year in 2012 when he finished second to Watt in the voting.

Obviously the odds are against any defensive player winning this award. At a minimum, I would imagine one of these guys listed above would have to break the NFL single-season sack record of 22.5 set by the Giants’ Michael Strahan in 2001. It also likely would require a couple of defensive touchdowns and none of the top quarterbacks having huge seasons.  

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