NFL training camps have begun, so we’ve started checking in on popular NFL Futures bets to see if there are any enticing opportunities to make some money.
Earlier this offseason, we covered the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Offensive Player of the Year, so now we’ll turn our attention to the Defensive Player of the Year race.
While not as sexy as the Offensive Player of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year race features some of the NFL’s biggest stars and some strong betting opportunities for new and experienced bettors alike. If you do like any of the bets we discuss here, make sure to use the sign-up offers listed at the bottom of the article to give yourself a chance to make even more money.
You may notice a lot of pass-rushers among the top names listed. That’s because defensive ends or edge rushers are often the winners of the Defensive Player of the Year with eight of the last ten winners having at least 11 sacks. Stephon Gilmore in 2019 was the only non-pass rusher to win the award since Luke Keuchly in 2013.
Another important factor to note before diving into the specific names is that voters for the Defensive Player of the Year don’t seem to care about team performance. Four of the last seven winners were on teams that had defenses outside of the top 10, so individual performance tends to matter more than team context.
T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (+700)
Watt is the odds-on favorite because he was the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year last year after an absurd 22.5-sack season that saw him tie Michael Strahan for the NFL record for sacks in a season. He also did that in only 15 games, which means playing a full 17 should allow him to eclipse 20 sacks in 2022 as well.
Considering Watt has had at least 13 sacks in each of the last four years and has finished in the top three in Defensive Player of the Year voting in each of the last three, he seems like the safest bet in the field. His odds of +700 still mean that a $100 bet on Watt to win would earn you a $700 profit, which is certainly nothing to turn our noses up at.
Aaron Donald, DT Los Angeles Rams (+700)
Tied with Watt as the frontrunner heading into the preseason is Aaron Donald, which is no surprise since Donald won Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and was the last back-to-back winner after he claimed the honor in 2017 and 2018.
Donald may not be as prodigious a sack artist as Watt, but he has at least 11 sacks in each of the last five years and six of his eight in the NFL. Since we mentioned that 11 seems to be a magic number for this award, that should make us feel good about Donald’s case. He also is an incredibly disruptive force in the run game, totaling a career-high 84 tackles last season and 19 tackles for a loss. He also forced four fumbles, which means Donald can catch voters’ eyes in a number of ways.
Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns (+750)
A former number one pick, Garrett has been a force for the Cleveland Browns a notched a career 16 sacks in his fifth NFL season. Entering his age 27 season, Garrett is in his athletic prime and should be able to notch another 16+ sack season. A first-team All-Pro in each of the last two seasons, Garrett is one of the few players who is as consistently disruptive as Donald and Watt, but he would likely need a career year to top one of them.
Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys (+1000)
Parsons is just in his second season, which makes this a bit of a longshot, but he also won Defensive Rookie of the Year last year and is an athletic marvel at 6’ 3” and 248 pounds with a 4.36 seconds 40-yard dash. Last season Parsons had 84 tackles, 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, and 30 QB hits. If you believe the 23-year-old is only going to get better in this second season, which would be logical, then he makes for an intriguing bet with +1000 odds since a $100 bet on him to win would earn a $1,000 profit.
Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers (+1400)
After missing pretty much all of 2020 due to injury, Nick Bosa returned last year and started all 17 games, registering 15.5 sacks, 52 total tackles, and a league-leading 21 tackles for loss. He also had 32 QB hits and forced four fumbles, which further shows just how impactful he was. Still just 25 years old, Bosa was the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 draft and has every bit the amount of talent that the frontrunners do. After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019, perhaps this is the year he adds Defensive Player of the Year to his resume.
The Longshot Bets
Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings (+2500)
Since we covered that sacks seem to be the key to winning Defensive Player of the Year, our longshot bets are doing to be players who might be able to bring us the massive sack totals that will catch voters’ eye.
Hunter broke out in 2019 when he finished 5th in Defensive Player of the Year voting after notching 14.5 sacks, 70 tackles, and three forced fumbles. He then missed the entire 2020 season with a herniated disc and played just seven games in 2021 due to a torn pectoral muscle.
With Hunter entering his age 28 season fully healthy, he’s a good bet to be among the league leaders in sacks again. After tallying 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019, he could push for 16+ in a 17-game season, which makes him a decent gamble at +2500 odds.
Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Tennessee Titans (+8000)
Our longest shot bet is on Simmons, who is a young player that could take the next step in his growth. He was a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro last season after registering 8.5 sacks, 54 tackles, six passes defended, and 16 quarterback hits as a 24-year-old. The former first-round pick is a tremendous athlete and a big human at 6’4″ 305 pounds. Given his raw ability and career progression, it’s possible Simmons can put together a 12+ sack season while continuing to be disruptive in all facets of the game. Since a $100 bet on Simmons could notch you $8,000 in profit, it’s a little intriguing if you want to have some fun.
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