It’s been 26 years since a defensive player won the MVP award handed out by the Associated Press every year.
The MVP award as basically been limited to quarterbacks since Taylor’s victory. Running backs have won the award seven times since Taylor’s win, with one of those wins coming in 1997 when Barry Sanders shared the award with Brett Favre. The last non-quarterback to win the award was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.
Watt’s got as persuasive a case as any defensive player since Taylor. He has 19.5 sacks, production we aren’t used to seeing from a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s altered many other passes by knocking them down or deflecting them at the line of scrimmage. He’s also a key part of the league’s fifth-best run defense. Every team that plays Watt has to account for him on every snap or run an even greater risk of watching him blow up their play. There’s little doubt the Texans would be sitting with a record somewhere south of 12-2 if not for Watt’s presence in the lineup.
Despite all of that, we’re not putting our money on a Watt win. Quarterback is the glory position in the NFL and their involvement in every offensive play makes it hard for any other player to stand out as more valuable. If it isn’t a quarterback this year, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is a likelier winner than Watt although Watt would be plenty deserving should this year’s voters decide to buck convention.