4 Best Candidates for NFL Defensive Player of the Year

T.j. Watt
Steelers star DE TJ Watt | Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It's hard to believe the 2019 NFL season is almost in the books. Luckily for fans, the Super Bowl matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers is full of flavor.

With the end of the campaign, of course, comes the slew of individual accolades, and speaking in terms of the nominees for Defensive Player of the Year, the field is as crowded as ever.

Let's highlight the standout defensive players most deserving of the hardware.

4. Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald
Rams DT Aaron Donald warming up | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Unfortunately, voter fatigue will likely see Donald fail to reel in his third consecutive DPOY award. His 2019 campaign was largely viewed as underwhelming, but that's only because his standards are all-time demanding. The five-time All-Pro compiled 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 24 QB Hits, two forced fumbles, and forced one safety...while often being double-teamed at the line of scrimmage. Donald might not win the award, but he deserves to be a finalist.

3. Chandler Jones

Cardinals DE Chandler Jones pumping up the crowd at State Farm Stadium
Cardinals DE Chandler Jones pumping up the crowd at State Farm Stadium | Norm Hall/Getty Images

We cannot wrap our minds around the fact that Jones got as overlooked as he did in 2019. That probably has something (or a lot) to do with the fact that he plays in Arizona, but still, the Syracuse product was wreaking all sorts of havoc for the Cardinals this season. Jones registered 19 sacks (0.5 behind the league leader Shaquil Barrett), 26 QB hits, eight forced fumbles, 53 tackles, and five pass breakups. In the simplest of terms, Jones was a world-beater, and deserves nationwide recognition as such.

2. TJ Watt

T.J. Watt, Robert Griffin III
Steelers DE TJ Watt nearly sacking Robert Griffin III | Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Watt managed to one-up his breakout sophomore campaign with an even more stellar showing in his third season. The Wisconsin product was the anchor of an elite Steelers pass-rush, compiling 14.5 sacks, 36 QB hits, 8 forced fumbles (four recoveries), two interceptions, and 55 combined tackles. We'd have absolutely no qualms if Watt took home the bling.

1. Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore
Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore celebrating a play against the Eagles | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Only time will tell if recency bias sees Gilmore lose votes for his deplorable showing against DaVante Parker and the Dolphins in Week 17 where he conceded seven receptions (on nine targets) for 119 yards). In our eyes, one poor game shouldn't work against Gilmore's superhuman efforts this season. The eight-year veteran recorded six interceptions for two touchdowns and broke up 20 passes. In other words, Gilmore was the best DB in the NFL on perhaps the best defense in the league.