It's preseason predictions time. The Around The NFL crew has been rolling through our division previews and now it's time to break out some awards. We hit the MVP award Monday. Next up: our DPOY picks.
Gregg Rosenthal's pick: Gerald McCoy
McCoy should have been a legitimate candidate for the award last season, but it's tough to get attention at defensive tackle on a lousy squad. The Buccaneers' defense should be even better under Lovie Smith, with real potential to be a top-three group. A few more wins should follow, and we expect McCoy's numbers to rise.
McCoy is exactly what you want out of a top-five draft pick. His talent was obvious early, but he's steadily improved every season as he's matured. He's known as the most talented, hardest working and biggest leader of a wildly talented defense. He's as consistent snap-to-snap as any defensive tackle in the league and knows how to finish plays. At 26, he's in his absolute prime. He's the kind of talent that should win a Defensive Player of the Year award during his career, and now feels like the time.
Marc Sessler's pick: Earl Thomas
I was tempted to make Thomas my MVP pick, but sadly, that trophy doesn't go to defenders -- especially safeties.
NFL safeties do much of their work off-screen, but the All-22 reveals what Thomas truly is: an unmatched defender in terms of his combination of speed, range and closing ability. Pete Carroll has tutored Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu and Tim McDonald, but called Thomas "as good as any of the (safeties) I've ever coached." Richard Sherman gets the Madden cover and endless bright lights, but Seattle's cornerbacks are greatly helped by Thomas manning the controls from the back end.
His insane athleticism sets him apart from run-of-the-mill safeties, while his pristine decision-making does the rest. Watch Thomas surge through this forest of bodies to wipe out Matt Forte:
You can have your behemoth pass rushers and trash-talking corners -- Thomas will be crowned king in 2014.
Chris Wesseling's pick: Darrelle Revis
J.J. Watt is the best defensive player of his generation and proud owner of the most impressive season by a 3-4 defensive end in NFL history. If he was still freelancing in Wade Phillips' defense, he would be my choice for his second award in three years. I do have some concern, though, that his counting numbers will have a lower ceiling in Romeo Crennel's scheme.
For all of the Richard Sherman-Patrick Peterson slap-fighting, neither cornerback holds a candle to the 2009-2011 version of Revis, who was arguably the most complete shutdown cornerback of all time in his prime. Now two years removed from ACL surgery, Revis is a prime candidate to make a splash on a one-year, make-good contract with a Super Bowl contender. Tom Brady learned this offseason what other quarterbacks have known for years: It's a good idea to steer clear of Revis Island.
Kevin Patra's pick: Earl Thomas
When the Seahawks steamroll again thanks to the NFL's most-feared defense, that team will end up being rewarded. Thomas deserved more consideration for the DPOY trophy than he garnered in 2013. There are few playmakers at the secondary level that bring his ability, speed and sideline-to-sideline devastation in both the pass and run game. The proliferation of the pass makes it more vital to cover on the back end, which is something voters will consider.
The last two safeties to win DPOY awards were Troy Polamalu (2010) and Bob Sanders (2007). Like Thomas, both were ballhawks in top-three defenses. For better or worse, winning plays a role. When voters look at the Seahawks' defensive dominance, again they will decide someone on the roster deserves the award. That man is the most important piece: Earl Thomas.