Breaking down loaded NFL Defensive Player of the Year field

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s going to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019? That’s a loaded question.

The level of play by the NFL’s top defenders in 2019 has fans and analysts alike spoiled. While the NFL is still pumping out offensive performances to remember, the evolution of the league has led to defensive stars who’ve seemingly been formed in a lab to compete with all the high-flying offensive attacks.

The big picture: With so many outstanding individual performances around the league this season, there is no clear-cut winner heading into the final two weekends of the regular season.

Taking a look at the odds: To get a better understanding of how tight the Defensive Player of the Year race is down the home stretch, here’s how oddsmakers are looking at the field.

PlayerPosTeamOdds to win 2019 NFL DPOY at Bovada
Aaron DonaldDTLAR+260
Stephon GilmoreCBNE+450
Nick BosaEDGESF+600
Cameron JordanEDGENO+1400
Shaquil BarrettEDGETB+1400

Others who are considered to be dark horses for NFL Defensive Player of the Year include Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter, New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (all at +2200), and finally Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (+2500).

It’s pretty crazy to see Aaron Donald up there again as the top favorite to bring home the hardware. If he does, Donald will win his third Defensive Player of the Year trophy.

Breaking down the candidates: Here, we take a look at why the top favorites could win NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

1. Aaron Donald, a real-life nightmare: Though he hasn’t put up stats like he did a year ago, Donald is on pace for the kind of year that won him the award in 2017. Donald has piled up 43 tackles, including 19 for a loss, 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and a safety.

And here’s why those stats are so incredible.

Donald gets triple-teamed regularly. He is do dominant that even those situations turn into wins. Just an extraordinary player who continues to assert his will on nearly every offense he faces.

2. Stephon Gilmore, the NFL’s coverage king: No cornerback in the NFL compares to Gilmore right now when it comes to locking down the opposition.

The 37% completion rate is absurd. And it’s pretty telling that Gilmore has only been targeted roughly five times per game. Just ask Sam Darnold what he thinks about throwing Gilmore’s way. It’s not smart.

3. Nick Bosa, the rookie phenom: Like Aaron Donald, Bosa has started getting doubled in one way or another most of the time opposing teams drop back to pass. He’s a relentless player against both the run and pass. And you can never rule him out of a play.

This No. 2 overall pick out of Ohio State has put up 41 tackles, nine sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and one of the freakiest interceptions we’ve ever seen (watch here).

4. TJ Watt, the do-it-all freak: Watt is really blossoming in his third professional season, and his ability to make impact plays in key moments is a testament to his growing greatness.

A guy who came into the league with elite tools, he now employs elite technique:

With a knack for making big plays in the biggest moment, Watt has racked up 45 tackles, including 14 for a loss, 13 sacks, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

T-5. Cameron Jordan, an underrated star: Somehow unheralded for his stellar play, Jordan is annually one of the league’s best defenders. He also has a penchant for getting under the skin of the quarterbacks he faces.

Jordan is third in the NFL right now with 13.5 sacks. He also has tallied 33 solo tackles and 13 tackles for a loss.

T-5: Shaquil Barrett, the sack master: Barrett was underrated in free agency and had to ink a one-year prove-it deal in Tampa Bay. What he’s done since then is nothing short of legendary.

In his first (and only?) year with the Bucs, Barrett has already tied Warren Sapp’s franchise record with 16.5 sacks. He’s going to end up raking in a monster long-term deal in free agency, and deservedly so.

Who’s going to win? Well, that’s a tough question.

Personally, my vote goes to Stephon Gilmore. He’s playing at an elite level that’s rarely seen around the league — especially in this era where the rules are slanted in favor of the receivers.