Predicting who is going to win Defensive Player of the Year at the 2024 NFL Awards

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The NFL Honors ceremony is just around the corner. A panel of 50 sports journalists for the Associated Press have made their selections for NFL awards and votes are being tallied. Soon we will find out the winner of all 18 NFL awards for performances during the 2023 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers happen to have a strong candidate for a prestigious award this year.

Though it's been ages since the Steelers have had a true MVP candidate, the Defensive Player of the Year award is something that Pittsburgh players have claimed numerous times since the 2000s. James Harrison and Troy Polamalu were recipients of the DPOY award at the peaks of their NFL careers, and T.J. Watt was the more recent Steeler to represent one of the NFL's most-winning franchises.

After suffering a pectoral injury that forced him to miss much of the 2022 season, Watt showed that he was healthy and rearing to make a comeback in 2023. The All-Pro edge defender did exactly that.

Watt became the first player in NFL history to lead the league in sacks in the separate seasons. But despite his incredible production, he might not be the frontrunner for this award.

Examining all five DPOY finalists

As good as T.J. Watt was during the 2023 season, three other candidates were incredible on the defensive side of the football this year. Watt was named as one of the final five DPOY candidates. The others include EDGE Myles Garrett, EDGE Micah Parsons, CB Daron Bland, and EDGE Maxx Crosby.

Crosby did some incredible things for the Raiders' defense, as this unit took a big step forward in 2023. However, with just 14.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, Crosby's raw numbers likely are not impressive enough for AP voters to name him as the next Defensive Player of the Year. It doesn't help that his team wasn't very good in 2023.

Darond Bland had about as good of a season as it gets for an NFL cornerback. Though he did have a few forgettable games and would occasionally give up the big play, Bland recorded a whopping 9 interceptions in 2023 while taking a record-setting 5 picks to the house for defensive touchdowns. Still, the odds suggest that he's a long shot for the award this year.

Bland's teammate Micah Parsons is in strong contention for this honor after his third remarkable season with the Dallas Cowboys. Parsons was a game-wrecker thanks to his ability to routinely generate quick pressure on the quarterback.

Watt's former draft classmate, Myles Garrett is the final candidate who could bring home the DPOY award this year. Garrett was the best player on the NFL's number-one defense this year. That will go a long way with voters. It certainly doesn't hurt that he was the top-graded edge defender this year and that he was extremely efficient at generating pressure on the quarterback.

Defensive Player of the Year prediction

I think it's fair to use the All-Pro voting as a starting point. The same AP voters who determine which players receive First-Team All-Pro honors are the same ones who cast their vote for all of the NFL Honors awards -- including Defensive Player of the Year.

Considering this, T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett were named First-Team All-Pro this year, with Parsons and Crosby earning Second-Team All-Pro honors. While Parsons could win the award, the AP voting suggests that either Watt or Garrett will take home this prestigious honor.

My prediction is that Myles Garrett will win the DPOY award for his performance during the 2023 season. Though the voting may prove to be close, Garrett had a phenomenal season that stretched far beyond what the box score numbers would suggest, and he was the best player on the NFL's best defense. While it may not be the right way to go about this, AP voters may have even considered that Garrett has been so close at times over the years but has yet to earn his first DPOY.

Nothing is set in stone at this point, and it's entirely possible that it's T.J. Watt who is taking home his second Defensive Player of the Year trophy. I guess we will all just have to tune into the NFL Honors ceremony at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC on Thursday, February 9th to find out.