Predicting the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Race

The NFL may be making it harder and harder for defence's to compete in today's passing orientated league, but still, the league is covered with immensely talented defenders, all of which will be looking to knock off Aaron Donald as the Defensive Player of the Year (TJ Watt won the award in 2021, but Donald is clearly the best in the game). That's going to be a lot easier said than done, because after tasting the glory of a Super Bowl victory, you can bet that #99 is looking to improve upon that in 2022, to solidify his place as one of the greatest defenders in NFL history. 

Among all the talent out there, some names stand out among the rest, and if they can get off to a hot start, this may be one of the most hotly contested awards in all of sports in 2022, as there are a few elite level names that can also solidify themselves as all-time greats or continuing adding to promising legacies. It's going to be back and forth all year, with plenty of new names throwing their hat into the ring, but here are our predictions for the 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

3. TJ Watt

TJ Watt is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and just entering his prime, there's no reason he shouldn't compete for the award again, and it's likely he'll win multiple over the course of what's starting out as a very promising career. Coming from the incredible Watt family, TJ has improved every year he's been in the league, and with so much talent around him in Pittsburgh, he should help this team win a lot over the next few years, and it will reflect in his individual sack total rising year after year.

Over the past two years, Watt has tied the record for most consecutive seasons leading the league in sacks, and despite missing two games in 2021, was able to tie Michael Strahan's record for sacks in a single season with 22.5, and at 27 years of age, he's got plenty of time to continue to grow and improve. If he can improve, there's no reason why Watt can't win this award in back-to-back years, and if teams can't figure him out, Watt may top his sack total from 2021. 

2. Myles Garrett

Some criticized the Browns when they drafted Myles Garrett No. 1 overall, but since that point, he's been an absolute beast at times over his career, but he's never managed to put together a consistently brilliant season. He's been amazing for the most part, but disappears at points, and if he can consistently perform in 2022, it wouldn't surprise anyone around the league if he led this Browns team as one of the best defensive units in the league en route to his first ever Defensive Player of the Year award. 

Garrett may be one of the most physically gifted athletes in NFL history, and with a defence that is only getting better around him, 2022 should see career highs across the board for #95, with a very good chance at DPOY. The Browns have drama outside of Garrett, so the team may not be as good as some expected earlier in the off-season, but it's safe to say that as long as Myles Garrett is on the squad, opposing QB's need to be aware, and opposing offensive units need to prepare for such a headache. 

1. Winner: Aaron Donald

When it's all said and done, Aaron Donald may go down as the greatest defender in NFL history, and to do that, adding to his legacy would certainly be helped by winning a few more Defensive Player of the Year awards, something he can do quite easily. Similar to Patrick Mahomes and guys like LeBron James in the NBA, Donald has been so good and set the bar so high, that even when he has amazing years, he gets passed up for awards like this, but with the overall defence in LA looking like it does, there shouldn't be anyone to stop him in 2022.

Donald is physical, has the mental capability and all of the technique needed to dominate even the best of offensive linemen, and while he certainly contemplated retirement this off-season according to reports, he's back and ready to solidify his legacy. Whenever his career does come to an end, Donald should be regarded as a top-five defensive player in league history, and adding a record fourth Defensive Player of the Year award in 2022 while still relatively young won't hurt that case at all. 

Photo Credit: Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK
Photo credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports