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NFL: Defensive player of the year contenders

The Defensive Player of the Year award has gone to an interior or exterior pass rusher in eight of the last nine years, so it is no surprise to see defensive ends and outside linebackers among the chief contenders for the 2022 honour.

We take a look at some of those in contention at this point in the season. 

Micah Parsons (-225)

The Dallas Cowboys linebacker was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year following the 2021 season. This year, he won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award in Week 5 when he registered six pressures and two sacks against the Los Angeles Rams.

He currently has eight sacks in total, has not yet had a game with fewer than three pressures, and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in Week 8.

Parsons seems to make a huge play or two every week and creates favourable matchups for teammates because of the double-teams that get assigned to stop him by offensive co-ordinators.

No player has a better pass rush win rate on the edge (32.4%) or against single-teams (42.7%) than Parsons, whose 36 QB pressures lead the league at this point.

Nick Bosa (+800)

Despite missing a game and a half with a groin injury, Bosa is currently tied for the second-most sacks (8.5), is third in pressure percentage (16.3%) and is tied for ninth in pass rush win rate (23%).

The defensive end was sorely missed by the San Francisco 49ers in their Week 6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and was feeling his way back in their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs a week later.

But he added 1.5 sacks to his tally in their win over bitter division rival the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8 and is likely to be hunting down quarterbacks at full speed after the Niners return from their bye week.

One quality of his that can be overlooked is how well he plays the run, with it being no coincidence that San Francisco are currently ranked as the league's best rush defence.

Myles Garrett (+1200)

A car accident, when Garrett flipped his Porsche 911 Turbo S multiple times, in September almost ruined his season.

But the Cleveland Browns edge rusher only missed one week with shoulder and biceps injuries. He has been building a solid case to be considered Defensive Player of the Year on a team that is currently not winning enough games.

Despite the lack of quality play elsewhere on the team, the Browns top draft pick from 2017 is fifth in the NFL with 7.5 sacks - one sack behind league leader Za'Darius Smith.

He also has eight tackles for loss, two pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

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Matthew Judon (+1600)

Judon now leads the league with 11.5 sacks after he added three more to his tally in the New England Patriots 26-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Judon, who was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 5, also has one forced fumble and has batted three passes down at the line of scrimmage.

The former Baltimore Ravens linebacker made a fast start to his career in New England last year before he and the team faded out late in the season, and he is determined to not let that happen again.

Za'Darius Smith (+3300)

Smith, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, has sparked the surprising Minnesota Vikings.

The former Green Bay Packers star led the NFL in sacks until Judon's big game against the Colts, but remains on pace to match his remarkable 2019 season stats of 13.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 38 quarterback pressures.

He had 22 quarterback pressures in the month of October alone - only one fewer than the Seattle Seahawks' Uchenna Nwosu, who played in one more game and 118 more defensive snaps than Smith.

His three sacks, four tackles for loss and a pass breakup during the Vikings' win over the Arizona Cardinals were good enough to land him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week recently.

No player in the NFL had more sacks or tackles for loss in Week 8 than Smith.

A two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro while with the Packers, Smith played in just one game for Green Bay in 2021 after needing back surgery to correct a significant injury and will be a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year as well.

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