Did you see the first episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" on Tuesday night? Clearly this season with the Houston Texans is going to focus heavily on superstar defensive end J.J. Watt. He is +800 on 5Dimes' NFL odds to win the 2015 NFL MVP Award.
Watt Stands Above Rest
You could probably make a case for four guys as the best quarterback in the NFL: Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New England's Tom Brady, Denver's Peyton Manning or Indianapolis' Andrew Luck. Best running back? Argue among Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell, Philadelphia's DeMarco Murray. Maybe a few others. The best receiver in the NFL? Detroit's Calvin Johnson could be the guy. Or perhaps Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. Cowboys fans will say it's Dez Bryant. Giants backers are all about Odell Beckham Jr. I could easily say it's Atlanta's Julio Jones or Cincinnati's A.J. Green.
I wrote that above paragraph because there is simply no arguing who the best defensive player in the NFL is -- it's Watt in a landslide. Seriously, on what other NFL team is a defensive player the most popular player? That's easily Watt in Houston, and if you watched Tuesday's show you are well aware of that already.
Last year Watt won his second NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, and he did it unanimously. It was the first time in the current voting system that award was won unanimously. Watt came up one vote short of taking the award in a unanimous fashion in 2013 when Denver's Von Miller got one. That was cast by ESPN's Ashley Fox, who since apologized to Watt and wrote a story admitting her mistake. Watt was second in the NFL (to Kansas City's Justin Houston) with 20.5 sacks in 2014, making him the first player since sacks were recorded to have multiple 20-sack seasons. Watt also had 44 quarterback hits and 54 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. No other defender had more than 21 quarterback hits.
That's not all. Watt added 29 tackles for loss, which led the league, and forced four fumbles. He had nine batted passes and one interception, becoming only the second player in NFL history to have multiple seasons with 10 sacks and 10 pass breakups. And Watt was better from a fantasy perspective than some starting running backs as he scored five touchdowns. Three were as a goal-line weapon on receptions. One was on an 80-yard interception return against the Bills and the other on a 45-yard fumble return against the Colts (the meeting in Houston).
Defenders Don't Win MVP
Watt is the seventh player to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor leads with three; the others with two are "Mean" Joe Greene, Ray Lewis, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith and Reggie White. Some pretty good players, eh?
But we are here to talk about the NFL MVP Award. No defensive player has won that since the Giants' Taylor in 1986. Watt finished second to the Packers' Rodgers last year. Watt received 13 of the 50 votes. Since 1999, when MVP voters were reduced to 50, that's the most any defender has gotten. Unfortunately, we are in an era when most voters generally only pay attention to offensive statistics, and then usually just by a quarterback. No player affects a game more than the quarterback, who touches the ball on every offensive snap.
It's hard to see a defensive player winning MVP because how can anyone have a better season than Watt did in 2014? As good as he is, there are many plays per game where he's not even involved in the result of said play.
"Well, it’s tough, to be honest with you," Rodgers said of a defender winning MVP. "(Watt) knows that it’s an offensive-geared league and a quarterback or a running back usually wins this award. It’s probably tough, but I think if anybody can do it, it’s him."
NFL Free Pick: You could argue that someone like White or Deion Sanders deserved an MVP Award in the 1990s, but they didn't win one, either. And that was back when we all weren't so infatuated with offensive numbers. Watt won't win NFL MVP but certainly could win DPOY again and will be the betting favorite. Those NFL odds aren't posted yet. Watt is the co-favorite at +350 at 5Dimes with the Chiefs' Houston to lead the league in sacks.