NFL Awards: Top 7 Candidates For 2013 Defensive Player Of the Year Award
2013 Defensive Player Of the Year Award; 7 Players With a Shot
J.J. Watt took the NFL by storm last season and his sophomore campaign ended with his first Defensive Player of the Year Award. However, it's a new year and after 12 weeks of play the Houston Texans' defensive end is hardly in the DPOY conversation as his team sits in the cellar of the AFC South with a 2-9 overall record.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs have taken the Texans' thrown as the league's top defense. Behind Tomba Hali and Justin Houston, the Chiefs have been able to torment opposing offenses all season long. Unfortunately, neither player made this list because both are fighting injuries as each have taken steps back in recent weeks.
With that being said, other players have taken spots formerly occupied by Hali and/or Houston. One of which is Robert Quinn, who is maturing before the St. Louis Rams' eyes with a career-high 13.0 sacks already on the season. At just 23 years old, Quinn is a defensive end who is going to be a play-making for at least the next decade.
At the end of the day; any player would love to have a DPOY Award in their trophy case and this year's race is going to be one for the ages. Here's a rundown of seven DPOY candidates that have a legitimate shot at earning the historic accolade.
No. 7: Terrell Suggs
The Baltimore Ravens' defense is playing exceptional of late and Terrell Suggs is a major reason why. Suggs has always been a leader, but his role changed this year as he was forced to a fill a void left by Ray Lewis. With 67 combined tackles and nine sacks it's safe to say that Suggs has played his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
No. 6: Richard Sherman
Easily the best trash-talker on this list, Sherman has backed up his large mouth with his play on the field. Sherman has earned the label of a "shut-down corner" with four interceptions and one pick-six. The Seattle Seahawks are well on their way to a first-place finish and without Sherman, the Seattle secondary would be average at best.
No. 5: Earl Thomas
From one Seattle Seahawk to the next.
However, this time it's Earl Thomas, who deserves his fair share of DPOY votes in 2013. Thomas has just as many picks as Richard Sherman (four), yet Thomas has caused two fumbled and is on pace to record 100 tackles for the first time of his NFL career. Needless to say, the "Legion of Boom" is well represented in this list.
No. 4: Muhammed Wilkerson
Muhammed Wilkerson is easily the most underrated defensive tackle in the NFL. With at least one sack in the six of the last seven games, Wilkerson has established himself as the linchpin of the New York Jets' stout defense. At just 24 years old, Wilkerson has an incredibly bright future, so don't be surprised if he hauls in at least one DPOY before it's all said and done.
No. 3: Robert Mathis
As the oldest player on this list, Robert Mathis has been reborn in 2013. The NFL's leader in sacks doesn't look to be a day over 25 years old, yet this 32-year-old is wreaking havoc on nearly every backfield in the league. If 14.5 sacks through 11 games wasn't impressive enough, Mathis also has four forced fumbles with one coming on a sack of long-time teammate Peyton Manning. Although the Indianapolis Colts' defense has taken a major step back in recent weeks, Mathis remains a top-notch DPOY candidate.
No. 2: Robert Quinn
"Black Lighting" is perhaps the best nickname of any defensive end in the NFL. However, Quinn made this list for more than just his awesome nickname. This St. Louis Rams' defensive end is second to only Robert Mathis in sacks with 13, yet Quinn's six forced fumbles are what puts No. 94 ahead of Mathis. Paired with fellow game-changer Chris Long, Quinn has done his best to turn defense into offense all year long.
No. 1: Luke Kuechly
If Luke Kuechly wins the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013 he would become just the second player in the history of the accolade to do so. The other was the greatest defensive player in NFL history -- Lawrence Taylor. So yeah, Kuechly is just five games away from etching his name in the record books. With 93 tackles and three interceptions from the middle linebacker position, Kuechly has cemented himself as a top-notch MLB in the game. On top of that, Kuechly has taken control of a Panthers' defense that ranks atop the league in nearly every category. As the youngest player on this list (22), Kuechly is emerging as one of the best all-around linebackers to ever step on the field.