T.J. Watt is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, so should the Steelers star be the odds-on favorite to defend his title in 2022?
It took three straight years of utterly dominant play and absurdly strong numbers, but Pittsburgh Steelers fans finally got their wish. In 2021, after earning First-Team All-Pro honors for the third straight time, edge defender T.J. Watt officially earned his first Defensive Player of the Year award. Fans are hopeful that it won’t be his last, as Watt vocally admitted that he isn’t satisfied and he still has plenty left to prove.
Despite hip, knee, and groin injuries that caused him to miss four games in 2021 (and exit the contest early in several others), Watt somehow managed to record 22.5 sacks last year — tying Michael Strahan for the most ever in a single season. Over the past three years, Watt has blown all other pass rushers out of the water in nearly every major statistical department, according to Pro Football Reference, including sacks, tackles for loss, quarterback hits, pressures, and forced fumbles.
Despite his many accolades and his Hall of Fame career track, oddsmakers don’t believe that he’s the player most likely to take home the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2022. According to Fanduel Sportsbook, Brown edge defender, Myles Garrett has the best odds of doing so this year at +700. Watt is a close second at +800 odds, followed by Aaron Donald (+900), Nick Bosa (+1000), and Micah Parsons (+1000).
Should the Steelers star have the best odds?
It seems like the same song and dance year after year. Everyone in the industry predicts Myles Garrett to emerge as the best defensive player of the year, but Garrett falls flat late in the season while Watt shines and grossly outproduces him on the football field.
Admittedly, evaluating defensive performances goes well beyond numbers, but even using advanced metrics like pass-rush win rate or Pro Football Focus grades, Watt is still comparably good to Garrett — even better than the past three seasons.
It’s also important to consider that Watt was able to bring home the DPOY award last year despite being hampered by nagging injuries. If that were to be reversed and it’s Garrett who’s banged up this year and Watt who’s healthy, the gap between the two players will continue to grow.
I’m certainly not saying that the Steelers star is anything close to a lock for this award. There are great defenders all over the league and players like Donald, Parsons, and the Bosa Brothers would love to throw their hats in the ring. However, I do believe that Watt should be the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.
We’ve seen what a healthy T.J. Watt is capable of. Still just 27 years old and in the prime of his NFL career, there’s no good evidence to believe that Watt will slow down or that his production will drop this year.
If I’ve learned anything from watching T.J. Watt play over the past five years, it’s to not bet against the guy. He wants to win and to be the best more than anyone out there, and he has been a top-three DPOY candidate for three straight years. If he can stay healthy, I think he deserves to be the frontrunner yet again — not Myles Garrett.