While there are numerous outlets that hand out Defensive Player of the Year awards, the one we’ll concentrate on is the one awarded by the esteemed Associated Press. The genesis of the AP’s award occurred back in 1971 when the Minnesota Vikings and their “Purple People Eaters” defense led by none other than Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page brought home the awards first recognition.
That defense was simply incredible, and Page was one of the main reasons why. Though his team failed to win the Super Bowl that season as did Joe Greene’s Steelers the year after, the next three winners of the award went on to win the Super Bowl. A majority of the winners of this award go on to lead their teams to successful campaigns that either end in the playoffs or hoisting the Super Bowl trophy.
Of the 45 elected AP Defensive Players of the Year, the linebacker position has taken home the most hardware with 16. Three of them were secured by Lawrence Taylor from 1981-1986, and he’s the only esteemed member on this list to have won the award in his rookie season.
The defensive ends chime in next with 12. Multiple award winners include Bruce Smith, Reggie White and J.J. Watt. Rounding out the positional hierarchy are the defensive tackles (7), safeties (5) and cornerbacks (5).
With J.J. Watt taking home the hardware each of the last two seasons as well as three of the least four, it comes as no surprise to see the Texans stud defensive end the odds on +275 favorite to once again hoist the hardware in 2016. If he does, it would be his fourth overall which would be the most won by any single player since the award’s inception over four decades ago. Should Houston’s defense once again rank out as one of the best in the league this season, you know darn well Watt will have played a major role once again.
Khalil Mack made quite an impression in his sophomore campaign with the Oakland Raiders finishing second in the league with 15 sacks and becoming the first player ever to be voted All-Pro at both linebacker and defensive end in the same season. The AFC West was put on notice last season that they have one of the nastiest defensive players in the league to deal with twice a year. He was one of the main reasons Oakland’s defense took steps in the right direction last season, and is no doubt one to think about investing in with a better than 6-1 return to win the award this season.
The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 on the back of one of the most dominating defenses the league had to offer. One of the main components was Von Miller whose 11 sacks sat only behind seven other players for the most of the season. He flipped the switch in the playoffs in accruing 2.5 sacks against both the Steelers and Panthers to lead Denver to its third Super Bowl title. With numerous question marks heading into the season on the offensive side of the ball, it will once again be up to the defense to step up. If it does, Miller will no doubt play a major role.
The Carolina Panthers gave up an average of just 19.2 points and just over 320 total yards per game a season ago. While much of it had to do with Josh Norman completely shutting the opponent’s passing game down on one side of the field, Luke Kuechly was also a huge factor as this one man wrecking crew was seemingly ion on every tackle the defense made throughout every game. Seriously, the guy was everywhere intercepting passes and returning them for scores, sacking QBs, administering death blows to opposing running backs. It’s pretty surprising to see him such a heavy +1100 underdog to win the award this season.
JJ Watt +275
Von Miller +500
Khalil Mack +600
Aaron Donald +1000
Luke Kuechly +1100
Richard Sherman +1100
Josh Norman +1600
Anthony Barr +2000
Kawann Short +3000
Muhammad Wilkerson +4000
Patrick Peterson +4000
Tyrann Mathieu +4000
Carlos Dunlap +4000
Chandler Jones +5000
Clay Matthews +5000
Justin Houston +6000
Ndamukong Suh +6000
Earl Thomas +6000
Ezekial Ansah +6000
Gerald McCoy +6000
Lavonte David +7500
Robert Quinn +7500
Aqib Talib +7500
Darrelle Revis +7500
DeMarcus Ware +8000
Geno Atkins +8000
CJ Mosley +10000
Eric Berry +10000
Deone Bucannon +10000
Fletcher Cox +10000
Jadaveon Clowney +10000
Jamie Collins +10000
Kam Chancellor +10000
NaVorro Bowman +12500
Star Lotui +15000
Bobby Wagner +15000
Jalen Ramsey +15000
Joe Haden +15000
Kwon Alexander +15000
Michael Bennett +17500
Vontaze Burflict +17500
Elvis Dumervil +20000
Everson Griffin +20000
Joey Bosa +20000
Lael Collins +20000
Marcus Peters +20000
Myles Jack +20000
Ryan Kerrigan +20000
Shaq Lawson +20000
Whitney Mercilus +20000
Thomas Davis +30000
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Defensive Player Of The Year Winners
2015: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
2014: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
2013: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
2012: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
2011: Terrell Suggs, DE, Baltimore Ravens
2010: Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
2009: Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers
2008: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
2007: Bob Sanders, S, Indianapolis Colts
2006: Jason Taylor, DE, Miami Dolphins
2005: Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears
2004: Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
2003: Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens
2002: Derrick Brooks, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2001: Michael Strahan, DE, New York Giants
2000: Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens
1999: Warren Sapp, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1998: Reggie White, DE, Green Bay Packers
1997: Dana Stubblefield, DT, San Francisco 49ers
1996: Bruce Smith, DE, Buffalo Bills
1995: Bryce Paup, LB, Buffalo Bills
1994: Deion Sanders, CB, San Francisco 49ers
1993: Rod Woodson, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1992: Cortez Kennedy, DT, Seattle Seahawks
1991: Pat Swilling, LB, New Orleans Saints
1990: Bruce Smith, DE, Buffalo Bills
1989: Keith Millard, DT, Minnesota Vikings
1988: Mike Singletary, LB, Chicago Bears
1987: Reggie White, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
1986: Lawrence Taylor, LB, New York Giants
1985: Mike Singletary, LB, Chicago Bears
1984: Kenny Easley, S, Seattle Seahawks
1983: Doug Betters, DE, Miami Dolphins
1982: Lawrence Taylor, LB, New York Giants
1981: Lawrence Taylor, LB, New York Giants
1980:Lester Hayes, CB, Oakland Raiders
1979:Lee Roy Selmon, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1978:Randy Gradishar, LB, Denver Broncos
1977: Harvey Martin, DE, Dallas Cowboys
1976: Jack Lambert, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1975: Mel Blount, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1974: Joe Greene, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
1973: Dick Anderson, S, Miami Dolphins
1972: Joe Greene, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
1971: Alan Page, DT, Minnesota Vikings
Fifty media members from across the country cast their votes on who they believe should win the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and then the Associated Press counts the votes up. Writers and broadcasters comprise the list of people entitled to vote upon the winner.
Some of the voters include Chris Collinsworth and Tony Dungy with the former the lead analyst for weekly NBC NFL coverage and the latter working for NBC Sports.
Only if a voter drops off the NFL beat or actually retires will there be a change in who votes upon the award. This is a tightly knit group that’s been around for a while simply because they’re good at what they do.
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