- Rams Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald is the favorite to win the 2021 Defensive Player Of The Year Award with the season kicking off on Thursday night
- Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt are not too far behind and may be closing in on the incumbent Donald
- Odds for all the top DPOY contenders can be found below with requisite analysis
Aaron Donald won the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year in his seventh season as the Los Angeles Rams’ elite defensive player in 2020. He is a three-time winner and has won three of the last four DPOY awards.
While Donald is the favorite again in NFL DPOY odds, Cleveland Browns Defensive End Myles Garett is the second choice. Garrett anchors one of the up-and-coming defenses in Cleveland.
That duo is followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers OLB T.J. Watt, who led the NFL in sacks last year with 15 in 15 games.
2021 NFL DPOY Odds
|Aaron Donald (Rams)||+500|
|Myles Garrett (Browns)||+600|
|T.J. Watt (Steelers)||+850|
|Chase Young (WFT)||+1100|
|Nick Bosa (49’ers)||+1300|
|Joey Bosa (Chargers)||+1800|
|Khalil Mack (Bears)||+2400|
|Darius Leonard (Colts)||+3500|
|Derwin James (Chargers)||+3800|
|Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)||+3800|
|Jalen Ramsey (Rams)||+3800|
|Bradley Chubb (Broncos)||+4500|
|Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers)||+4500|
|Devin White (Buccaneers)||+4500|
|Danielle Hunter (Vikings)||+4500|
|Tre’Davious White (Bills)||+5500|
|Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers)||+5500|
|Von Miller (Broncos)||+5500|
|Jaire Alexander (Packers)||+5500|
|Fred Warner (49’ers)||+7000|
|Chandler Jones (Cardinals)||+7000|
|Za’Darius Smith (Packers)||+7000|
|DeForest Buckner (Colts)||+7000|
|J.J. Watt (Cardinals)||+7000|
|Xavien Howard (Dolphins)||+7000|
|Marcus Peters (Ravens)||+7000|
|Haason Reddick (Panthers)||+7000|
|Chris Jones (49ers)||+7000|
|Stephon Tuitt (Panthers)||+7000|
|Marion Humphrey (Jaguars)||+9000|
Odds as of September 8th at FanDuel
Donald is a +500 favorite with the start of the season just two days away. The Rams open Sunday night by hosting the Chicago Bears.
Aaron Donald Tries to Win Once Again
Though the Rams did not have the best of 2020 seasons’, Aaron Donald was the stalwart on defense he always is. As a result, the front-end defender took home the defensive player of the year award.
Donald led the Rams to a wild card playoff spot. He forced four fumbles, had 13.5 sacks, delivered 28 hits, and had 14 more tackles for a loss among his 45 tackles. The defensive tackle has only missed four games in his 110-game career.
Donald approaches his prime with some impressive numbers. Could he get back to these numbers?
Aaron Donald had 10 days to get ready for the regular season in 2018 after holding out. T.J. Watt will have 4. Donald had 1 tackle that first game and played 90 percent of the snaps. Yet he went on to have 20.5 sacks that year and won DPOY. No point. Just a fact.
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) September 8, 2021
In all, Donald was still quite the force. However, the Rams need him to be a bit better against the run this season. That has been a slightly vulnerable point at times for Los Angeles.
The Rams did manage a 10-6 record and again made the playoffs in 2020 losing to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. However, their offense was a constant issue and as a result, Matthew Stafford was brought in during the offseason to upgrade the quarterback position.
Adding a player like DeSean Jackson could be an intriguing move. If he can stay healthy, the wide receiver might be a nice depth option for the 2021 season and help keep the Rams’ defense and Donald fresher.
DeSean Jackson in Week 1 games since 2016:
2016 – 6-102
2017 – 3-39
2018 – 5-146-2
2019 – 8-154-2
2020 – 2-46
If you need a FLEX play this week, Jackson is available in 97% of ESPN leagues.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 7, 2021
Donald suffers some concerns with questions about Leonard Floyd and running back depth but overall, the Rams defense is still one of the best led by the defensive tackle. His +500 odds have a little bit of value.
Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt Challenge Throne
Garrett’s opening odds were +700 along with T.J. Watt. Since then, the Browns’ defensive anchor has seen his odds shorten some to +600. Watt’s odds have lengthened to +850.
The Browns reached the AFC Divisional Round last season where it lost narrowly to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns did hold Kansas City to just 22 points.
Garrett had 12 sacks in 14 games, 48 tackles (10 for loss), and four forced fumbles. His advanced average value of 14 ranked among the highest at his position.
#Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said John Johnson III is not shy, which is good for safety position, he's like having another coach out there on the field
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) August 25, 2021
That should allow Garrett to focus on being even more of a defensive threat than usual. Now, T.J. Watt is an interesting case because of the arguments for and against him.
Watt and the Pittsburgh Steelers started the season 10-0 last year then careened toward destruction as they lost to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs. They allowed 48 points. Watt had 15 sacks in 15 games with an average value of 18. He had 53 tackles and a conference-high 23 were for a loss.
Pittsburgh mostly kept the cast together much to the surprise of everyone even with a $20 million drop in budget spending. Is another year older for this team a good thing?
T.J. Watt’s status for Steelers opener vs. Bills ‘in doubt’ amid contract dispute, per report https://t.co/1PtcEiyTLq
— OogleTickets (@OogleTickets) September 8, 2021
Watt will get paid eventually. Still, they did lose some significant free agents on the other hand.
Steven Nelson was cut and losing players like Bud Dupree and Matt Feller among others definitely hurt. How much can Watt raise his game to overcome what was lost?
The Best Bet
There is a lot of intrigue surrounding Donald if he can carry the Rams’ defense like he did in 2018. As 30 beckons, the questions do start to increase a bit. Is this the year for either Garrett or Watt? That is the question.
The Cleveland Browns are on the way up arguably while the Rams may stay the same. Pittsburgh may gradually decline. Myles Garett is our best bet in a mild upset.