Many NFL fans and experts have picked Aaron Donald to win the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, and rightfully so. Donald is the best defensive player in the game, and one of the best of all time.
In fact, had it not been for Stephon Gilmore in 2019, Donald likely would be on a streak of four consecutive DPOYs. Again, he’s a beast.
But the Los Angeles Rams star will miss out on the honor this season. Myles Garrett will win the first of what ultimately will be multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards.
The Cleveland Browns defensive end, who has asthma, missed two games last season while dealing with COVID-19. Consequently, Garrett was not considered for an award he openly covets.
Still, the top overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft finished with awesome numbers: 48 total tackles, 12.0 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two passes defended. He finished as the sixth-ranked edge defender, per PFF.
Had Garrett not missed two games, he potentially could’ve surpassed the league-leading 15 sacks from TJ Watt, who also has gotten preseason DPOY buzz.
If Garrett stays healthy this season, and keeps his head on straight, he should be an absolute monster.
The 25-year-old is an elite pass-rusher, as well as a strong defender against the run. He’s the kind of player who makes an entire defense better. The Texas A&M product won’t even have to do much of that this season, as Cleveland’s retooled defense should be among the best in the AFC. In theory, that could free up Garrett without opposing offensive lines focusing as heavily on him.
Garrett also will benefit from playing games against weak offensive lines. Among the Browns’ AFC North rivals, only the Baltimore Ravens have a line that could be considered in the top half of the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals both will begin the season with especially poor offensive lines.
Four games against bad lines and two against a so-so line? Only three games against lines ranked in Pro Football Focus’s preseason top 10 rankings?
Garrett could post some gaudy numbers this season.
One more thing, and this is pure speculation: Can Donald really keep up his current pace?
No, 30 years old is not particularly old for a defensive lineman, especially one as physically freakish as Donald is. However, we are talking about a player who has faced double teams in nearly every game since he broke into the league in 2014. That takes a toll on a player.
If Donald slips even slightly, the door will open for a player like Garrett to establish himself as the NFL’s new premier defender.