It’s safe to say Stephon Gilmore is in the running for one of the NFL’s most prestigious individual honors.
ESPN NFL analysts Matt Bowen and Field Yates backed the New England Patriots cornerback to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2019 season Wednesday. Gilmore has burnished his reputation as an elite shutdown cornerback and played a key role on a dominant Patriots’ defense this season, putting himself firmly among the DPOY contenders.
“… Give me the NFL’s top cover corner, who is a vital piece of the Patriots’ defense,” Bowen writes. “He’s an impact player with the versatility to match wide receivers or bump inside to check route-running tight ends. And Gilmore has the ball production, too, with four interceptions and 13 passes defended.”
“… It’s almost always going to be hard to quantify the value of a top cornerback through just stats, as some of the best don’t see many targets thrown their way,” Yates adds. “Gilmore has been a difference-maker for one of the league’s elite units. The Patriots have implicit confidence in Gilmore’s ability to match any receiver in man-to-man coverage, which unlocks some of what they can do up front. He has been absolutely tremendous.”
DPOY voters have favored front-seven players in recent years: Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald won in 2017 and 2018; Chicago Bears defensive end Khalil Mack did so in 2016; Houston Texans linebacker J.J. Watt claimed the honor in 2012, 2014 and 2015; Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly reigned in 2013 and former Baltimore Ravens edge rusher Terrell Suggs was crowned in 2011. Just two cornerbacks have won the award in the last 25 years, with Charles Woodson doing so in 2009 and Deion Sanders in 1994.
Nevertheless, oddsmakers pegged Gilmore as the DPOY favorite last month. Not only has he continued to justify their faith, but he also has garnered new supporters like Yates and Bowman.