The start of the regular season is quickly approaching, and all week the Around The NFL team will be giving its predictions on the league's major awards.
Marc Sessler's pick: J.J. Watt
I don't need to piece together a 204-page thesis on why Watt is the pick. Nor must I craft a Russian novel explaining why choosing anyone other than Watt is getting too cute with this exercise. I picked Patrick Peterson last year, only to watch J.J. shred offensive linemen, blow up opposing quarterbacks and send runners into a dark hellscape.
Lawrence Taylor nabbed this award three times over six seasons, but Watt has a legitimate shot at three crowns over four campaigns, something no NFL player has ever done. He's the rare defensive player who makes those around him better and makes his team a sneaky AFC playoff contender simply because of his presence. This one's easy.
Dan Hanzus' pick: J.J. Watt
I know my boss wants me to be cute here and champion a plucky upstart to give our picks some much-needed variety, but I just can't turn away from a 26-year-old J.J. Watt performing at the height of his powers. I mean, have you watched this guy on Hard Knocks? Have you followed what he's done in his first four seasons in the league? There is nobody quite like Watt, who is playing the game of football at a historically high level. If he doesn't win, consider it some Barkley-over-Jordan-in-93-level shenanigans.
Chris Wesseling's pick: J.J. Watt
It would be more fun to color outside the lines and take a flier on Von Miller in Wade Phillips' custom-made 3-4 scheme or Cameron Wake with Ndamukong Suh drawing double teams on the interior, but that's just plain old gridiron heresy. Watching Watt work through drills in HBO's Hark Knocks, I can't figure out how any one offensive lineman ever slows him down. He stands with Lawrence Taylor as one of the most unstoppabledefensive forces I've ever seen.
Gregg Rosenthal's Pick: J.J. Watt
Like peak era Michael Jordan, voters could hand Watt the DPOY award every year and never be wrong. Watt is the best non-quarterback of the last 20 years, and we don't think it's that close. While some defensive players have dominant stretches, Watt's excellence is more relentless. You can turn on any Texans game at random with a non-football fan, point to Watt, and tell them to watch that guy all game. They will get it. The only reason Watt could fall short of a third award would be the same reason he didn't win after 2013: Voters get bored by greatness. They will look for some Karl Malone.
Kevin Patra's pick: J.J. Watt
Is this really a surprise? Is there really any other choice before the season? Surely other defensive players will have nice years -- Von Miller, Justin Houston, to name two -- but Watt is a once-in-a-generation player. His dominance will only be heightened with Vince Wilfork eating defenders in the middle.
Conor Orr's pick: Justin Houston
The J.J. Watt hype fizzles just a bit as one of the truly underrated pass rushers in recent NFL history makes a run at Michael Strahan's single-season record. Though the feel-good Chiefs defense might not lead Andy Reid to a division title, they'll pave the way for a single-season performance to remember.