Von Miller & Earl Thomas: Candidates For Defensive Player of the Year

Thursday, July 14, 2016 1:39 PM UTC

Thursday, Jul. 14, 2016 1:39 PM UTC

Our handicapper takes a look at the season prop bet of Defensive Player of the Year, breaks down the history of the award, and makes his NFL pick to win it in 2016!

The History of the Award:
The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award has been given out since 1971, with 2016’s season being the 46th time the award has been bestowed on the “best” defensive player in the league. To predict this award, we have some interesting trends to look at to narrow down our focus for NFL pick:

  • In only 4 times in the last 45 years has the Defensive Player of the Year come from a team with a defense ranked outside of the top 10 in the NFL.
  • 27 out of 45 times (60%) the Defensive Player of the Year came from a defense ranked in the top 5. However, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans has won the award in 3 of the last 4 years while the Texans has been outside the top 5.
  • Only 7 out of 45 times (15.5%) has the Defensive Player of the Year come from a team that has missed the playoffs. This actually includes two strike shortened seasons.
  • Only 10 out of 45 times (22.2%) has a player of the defensive secondary won the award. The award has been won 5 times by a safety and 5 times by a cornerback.
  • The most popular award winner has been linebackers, at 16 of 45 times (35.5%), the remaining positions being defensive end at 12 times (26.6%) and defensive tackle at 7 times (15.5%).
  • The longest drought for any position is defensive tackle, as the last DT to win the award was Warren Sapp in 1999.


Can J.J. Watt Repeat?
Short answer is; of course, never rule out J.J. Watt. But it is actually Watt’s supporting cast that may eventually keep him from winning the award for the 3rd season in a row and a 4th time. Outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are coming into their own, and could start taking away some raw statistics from Watt in 2016. But we are talking about a transcendent talent in Watt so you can’t throw the possibility out carte blanche, no matter how historic that result would be.


Who Has the Best Odds?
If the past was any indication of future results, we are looking at a linebacker from a top 5 defense in the league to have the best NFL odds of winning the award. Now, the season hasn’t been played yet so we need to go off of projections. In those projections, wherever you look, there are two teams with top 5 ranked defensive fronts and secondary’s coming into 2016 – those being the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Broncos have the #1 projected defensive line and #1 defensive secondary in the game. Now, conventional wisdom says that a situation like that will make it hard for a single player to stand out, but the raw data doesn’t agree with that over the years. This points to the duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, and I’d have to think that Von Miller has the leg up here. Chris Harris Jr. stands out in the secondary as the player most likely to have a breakout in statistics.

The other team ranked in the top 5 of both defensive line and secondary is the Seattle Seahawks. Since their historic 2013 defense, their core group has consistently ranked in the top of the NFL. For the Seahawks, their linebackers are led by a single leading force, Bobby Wagner, who has the talent to stand out from the rest of the crowd. The other Seahawks capable of putting up big numbers are defensive end Michael Bennett, who is coming into a year where he may have a contract extension, and safety Earl Thomas. I’d list Richard Sherman here, but he is too good to even get thrown at by opposing QB’s. Not so good for the stats needed to win this award.


The Short List:
Filtering the past winners and trends for this award, we can come down to a very short list of candidates that should have a chance – injuries aside. Those are: J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, and Earl Thomas.  For wagering value looking at the odds from Bet365, Von Miller at +600 and Earl Thomas at +3300 would be my picks, and stay with Denver and Seattle if you stray from there.


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