With the NFL season more than half over, it’s time to start taking a serious look at the NFL DPOY candidates for 2023.
The list of players who can be considered among the best defensive players in the NFL seems to grow every year. That means there were a lot of NFL DPOY candidates in 2023 who were on the radar at the start of the season. Naturally, most of them are putting together strong seasons in 2023 and putting themselves in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Analyzing top NFL DPOY candidates in 2023
But who are the players on the defensive side of the ball who have stood out the most so far? Well, there are enough candidates to keep this race tight and interesting until the end of the season. In fact, the NFL DPOY race could be the tightest of all of the major postseason awards. With that said, here is a closer look at all of the top NFL DPOY candidates in 2023.
After racking up three sacks against the Giants in Week 9, Maxx Crosby catapulted himself into the competition for the NFL’s sack leader and into the DPOY conversation. Playing for the Raiders isn’t necessarily helping his case, although Las Vegas has started to turn things around behind interim coach Antonio Pierce.
Obviously, Crosby has been a big part of that on the defensive side of the ball. Since he wasn’t among the obvious contenders for DPOY coming into the season, Crosby has a lot of work ahead of him to prove he belongs in the same category as the league’s elite pass rushers. However, he’s on pace for a sack total that will put him in that conversation.
In his second pro season, Aidan Hutchinson is trying to prove that he belongs in the same category as the NFL’s elite pass rushers. With the Lions having such a good season, he has certainly put himself on the radar for Defensive Player of the Year. But while Hutchinson has been a difference-maker for the Detroit defense, his sack total isn’t what it needs to be if he expects to outshine the elite pass rushers in the league.
In fact, Hutchinson is on pace for fewer sacks this year than he had as a rookie. However, if he can change that during the second half of the season, Hutchinson will become a bigger part of the DPOY conversation by the end of the season.
As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa was an obvious candidate at the start of the season on the heels of signing a contract that made him the highest-paid defensive player in league history. However, the holdout Bosa used to get that contract may have held him back early in the season.
The sacks just weren’t coming the way they usually do. But with a strong second half of the season, Bosa will have a chance to make a late charge for the award. With the 49ers trading for Chase Young, opposing teams can’t give Bosa the same attention they used to, giving him an opportunity to collect enough sacks to become a serious DPOY contender.
While his brother is one of the greatest defenders in league history, T.J. Watt has now become one of the NFL’s elite defensive players. Of course, he won DPOY two years ago when he set the single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks. After he was limited by injuries last season, Watt is up to his old tricks, tallying 10.5 sacks in nine games, putting him half a sack behind the league lead. In other words, Watt has a chance to reach 20 sacks and lead the league.
Keep in mind that in 2020 and 2021, he led the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits. Watt has a chance to lead the NFL in all three categories once again, which will make him a serious contender for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
There’s no question that Micah Parsons has been one of the best defensive players in the NFL since his first day in the league. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2021 and could have easily won DPOY that season as well. Parsons probably isn’t going to lead the league in sacks, although he’s on pace to set a new career-high after finishing last year with 13.5 sacks.
Keep in mind that Parsons is far more than just a pass rusher. He covers the entire field, making plays that prototypical pass rushers don’t. Parsons is the heartbeat of a Dallas defense that’s among the best in the league, which is why he’s been a leading contender for DPOY all season.
At the moment, Myles Garrett appears to be the slightest of favorites to win DPOY in what has become a three-horse race with Watt and Parsons. It would certainly be fitting for Garrett to win Defensive Player of the Year honors this season because he’s been building toward it for several years.
The former top overall pick has accumulated 16 sacks in each of his past two seasons, giving him five consecutive seasons with at least 10 sacks. Garrett has already made it six in a row, collecting 11 sacks in Cleveland’s first nine games, putting him in a tie for the league lead. At his current pace, Garrett will finish the season with at least 20 sacks, which will make him tough to beat in the DPOY race.