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2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Odds: Who Are the Best Candidates to Take Home the Award?

NFL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi outlines the defensive players with the most value to win Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.
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2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Odds: Who Are the Best Candidates to Take Home the Award?

With the NFL season just over a week away, it's time to take a look at the current odds for Defensive Player of the Year. This is an award that, historically, has gone to pass rushers who put up eye-popping sack totals. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore bucked the trend by landing the award in 2019; he is the only non-pass rusher to win DPOY in any of the last eight NFL seasons. As such, the betting odds for the award tend to reflect a bias against cornerbacks and safeties (as well as against inside linebackers).

Given that the trend of DPOY voters favoring pass rushers is priced into the odds, we can discount positional analysis. This allows us to focus on determining which players — within a position group — are most likely to outperform their market-based projections for the season in terms of production. After considering the entire field, here are the players that I believe have the best chances to take home Defensive Player of the Year, relative to their listed odds.

2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Odds

T.J. Watt (OLB - PIT) Defensive Player of the Year Odds +800 (Bet $100 to win $800)

There isn't much to cover about T.J. Watt's 2021 season that hasn't already been said. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year logged a whopping 22.5 sacks, tying Michael Strahan for the all-time record. Watt also snagged 21 tackles for loss, which led the league. He did all of that while missing two full games and part of a third, putting into perspective the unprecedented nature of what he accomplished on a per-game basis.

Heading into 2022, the only remaining question is whether or not Watt can sustain that level of production. I believe that he can. In 2020, Watt recorded more tackles for loss and quarterback hits than he did in 2021. In other words, his DPOY-winning season was not a fluke. Rather, it was a continuation of the level of play that he had demonstrated in years past. He has posted double-digit sacks for four-straight seasons, and — barring catastrophic injury — he seems like a near-lock to make it five. Given the fact that Pittsburgh's defense could take a step forward following an underwhelming 2021 season (as a unit), I think that Watt could plausibly repeat his earth-shattering campaign and grab his second-straight DPOY award.

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Rashan Gary (DE - GB) Defensive Player of the Year Odds +3500 (Bet $100 to win $3500)

When Gary was selected at No. 12 overall in 2019, many self-proclaimed draft experts in the media attacked the pick as a reach. Through the first two years of his career, Gary did little to prove them wrong. During those seasons, he struggled to lock down a starting spot in Green Bay, recording seven sacks from 2019-2020 as a rotational outside linebacker.

When 2021 rolled around, however, Gary flipped the script. He exploded onto the scene, logging 9.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. Looking at his underlying numbers, though, it becomes evident that Gary had an even better season than his counting statistics might imply. He ranked second in the NFL with 81 pressures; this is especially important for the future (2022?) DPOY prospects, given that pressure, tend to be an excellent predictor of future sack totals. According to PFF, Gary also finished with the second-best pass-rushing win rate (35.2%). Collectively, these statistics paint a picture of a pass rusher who could have an All-Pro caliber year in 2022.

We got a taste of Rashan Gary's upside in the Packers' lone playoff game last season. The Divisional Round loss to the 49ers came in spite of a stellar performance from the defense, who held San Francisco to just six(!) offensive points. Gary led the way, sacking 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo twice and adding a third tackle for loss. After Gary ended the season with that type of performance, it's easy to envision a continuation of such dominance in 2022. I think there's significant value for him to take home Defensive Player of the Year at 35-1.

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Danielle Hunter (DE - MIN) Defensive Player of the Year Odds +4000 (Bet $100 to win $4000)

Hunter has fallen off of radars due to the fact that he played just seven games in 2021. Over the course of those seven games, though, he had six sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and 23 pressures. Those statistics track closely with the level of play that he had exhibited in the prior two seasons — from 2019 to 2020, Hunter recorded 29 sacks and over 100 pressures.

As a result, I'm inclined to believe that Hunter is still performing at a high level, when healthy. The key in 2022 will be for him to stay on the field; if he can accomplish that, he should be able to return to the double-digit sack total range. The addition of All-Pro OLB Za'Darius Smith via free agency will help, as Smith will be able to take some pressure off of Hunter. Opposite offenses will be unable to double-team Hunter, which maximizes his chances of getting to the quarterback on any given play. I believe that the oddsmakers are discounting his talent at these odds, and I like him as a dark horse to take home Defensive Player of the Year at 40-1.

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.


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