The NFL seems obsessed with offensive production, as evidenced by the long ongoing wait for a defensive player to win the league MVP award despite some truly generational players putting up impressive numbers on a yearly basis. But players on the defensive side of the ball get some recognition, notably with the Defensive Player of the Year award at the annual NFL Honors show.
FanDuel Sportsbook has a futures market for possible winners of NFL awards for the 2022 season. Let’s take a look at five intriguing candidates to take home the prize
Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Cleveland Browns
Fanduel Sportsbook Odds: +600
Pass rusher Myles Garrett was in the running for this award a year ago before losing out to eventual winner and sack leader, T.J. Watt. Garrett set career highs with 16.0 sacks and 17 tackles for loss for the Browns in 2021, yet his last seven games saw him rack up only 3.0 sacks. He has amassed at least 10.0 sacks in each of his last four seasons.
Garrett should be among the sack leaders again in 2022, and a strong showing should keep his name in contention for this award once more.
Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Los Angeles Rams
Fanduel Sportsbook Odds +800
You can’t really discuss possible winners for this award without mentioning Aaron Donald.
Donald has taken home this prize three times in his storied career with the Los Angeles Rams, going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018 before claiming his third crown in 2020. Donald has been a one-man wrecking crew since entering the NFL with 11.0 or more sacks in six of his seven seasons -- and never less than 14 tackles for loss in a campaign.
Donald inked a mega-sized contract this offseason, and coming off a Super Bowl win on a stacked roster, you would be foolish to think his name won’t be among the contenders for this prize at the end of the season.
Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, Los Angeles Chargers
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds +2500
Another former winner of this award hoping to be in the running again in 2022 is Khalil Mack.
Mack took home the trophy back in 2016 as a member of the Raiders after 11.0 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 5 forced fumbles. He has seen his productivity drop over the last few seasons, however, and hasn’t hit double-digits in sacks since 2018.
He looked like something approaching his old self last season on the Chicago Bears, with 6.0 sacks and 6 tackles for loss in the season's first seven games, but he missed the remaining 10 games of the year due to injury.
Mack will hope his offseason switch to the Los Angeles Chargers -- alongside fellow stud Joey Bosa -- can help him recapture his form of yesteryear, and if he can, he could be an excellent alue selection for this prize.
Derwin James, Safety, Los Angeles Chargers
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds +3000
It's been a while since a player at safety was named the defensive player of the year; Troy Polamalu of the Steelers was the last such winner back in 2010. But, Derwin James, a new teammate of Mack, is a good candidate to end this particular drought.
James has battled injuries during his NFL career but has been effective when on the field. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 after 2 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, and 7 tackles for loss. These are great numbers from safety, but he will likely need to blow his previous outputs out of the water to impress voters.
For context, when Polamalu won in 2010, he did it on the back of 7 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, a forced fumble, a sack, and 6 tackles for loss. Oh, and he also scored on an interception return.
If James can replicate or exceed these numbers, then he will deserve to hear his name called when this award is handed out.
Trevon Diggs, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds +6000
Diggs is coming off a season littered with big plays thanks to 11 interceptions and 21 pass breakups. Another season with double-digit picks would certainly help his case, but this is incredibly difficult to do.
Only two players in NFL history have ever recorded back-to-back seasons with 10 or more interceptions. Only Don Dollof the Detroit Lions (1949 and 1950) and Tom Keane (1952 and 1953) did so. Keane's pair of seasons came for the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Texans for context. It's been a while.
The last cornerback to win this prize, Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers, earned his spurs with excellent all-around production. Woodson intercepted 9 balls, returning 3 for touchdowns and breaking up another 18 passes. Woodson also forced 4 fumbles and chipped in with 2.0 sacks.
Can Diggs become a defensive Swiss Army Knife and impact the game in a variety of ways? Maybe. But until we see it, he will be an outsider for this prize.
There are few things more dangerous in sport than a man with a point to prove.
While Aaron Donald has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone in the game after his stellar career, the fact that the bookies have another candidate ahead of him in the betting market might be something that, in the words of Michael Jordan, he takes personally.
As long as he is healthy enough to take to the field, Donald is arguably the most important non-quarterback in the game, and I believe +800 for him represents excellent value. He’s my pick this year.