Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald poses on the red carpet during the NFL Honors football awards show Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
- Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has opened as the favorite to win 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
- Donald has won the award three times in his seven-year career, including last season
- Odds for Donald and other NFL DPOY contenders can be found below with our betting analysis
Aaron Donald, in a sense, went wire-to-wire last season.
The Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle opened as the favorite in the NFL DPOY odds. Donald then went out and won the award for the third time in his seven-year career.
Odds have opened for the 2021 DOPY and Donald is favored to make it back-to-back wins, just like he did during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
2021 NFL DPOY Odds
|Aaron Donald (Rams)||+400|
|Myles Garrett (Browns)||+700|
|T.J. Watt (Steelers)||+700|
|Nick Bosa (49ers)||+1100|
|Joey Bosa (Chargers)||+1400|
|Khalil Mack (Bears)||+1600|
|Chase Young (Washington)||+2000|
|Derwin James (Chargers)||+2500|
|J.J. Watt (Cardinals)||+2800|
|Jalen Ramsey (Rams)||+3000|
|Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers)||+3300|
|Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers)||+3300|
|Stephon Gilmore (Patriots)||+3300|
|Danielle Hunter (Vikings)||+3300|
|Darius Leonard (Colts)||+3300|
|Von Miller (Broncos)||+3300|
|Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)||+3300|
|Devin White (Buccaneers)||+3300|
|Tre’Davious White (Bills)||+3300|
|Bradley Chubb (Broncos)||+4000|
|Jadeveon Clowney (Browns)||+4000|
|Xavien Howard (Dolphins)||+4000|
|Chandler Jones (Cardinals)||+4000|
|Marcus Peters (Ravens)||+4000|
Odds as of May 14th from DraftKings
Another Big Year
Donald had another outstanding season in 2020. He registered 13.5 sacks, made 14 tackles for loss, had 28 quarterback hits and forced four fumbles.
Donald helped the Rams reach the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Los Angeles also led the NFL in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense while finishing third in run defense.
Donald’s quick feet had much to do with that effort.
Aaron Donald’s feet 😳 pic.twitter.com/UuRYgK3L7z
— Footballism™ (@FootbaIIism) May 9, 2021
That big year made first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley a hot commodity. He was hired away by the crosstown Chargers to replace Anthony Lynn as head coach.
How much the change in coordinators will affect Donald remains to be seen. However, it is instructive to note he won his first two DPOYs when Wade Phillips was defensive coordinator and made an easy adjustment to Staley’s scheme last season.
The Rams brought in a veteran in Raheem Morris to run the defense and it seems likely he and Donald will mesh quickly.
A Consistent Performer
Donald has also been a consistent performer ever since the Rams, then based in St. Louis, drafted him in the first round in 2014 with the 13th overall pick from Pittsburgh.
In each of his seven seasons, Donald has had at least eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Those are significant statistics for an interior lineman. Last season, the New York Giants’ Leonard Williams and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Stephon Tuitt were the only other down linemen to finish in the top 10 in the league in sacks.
Aaron Donald’s career is so ridiculous
2014: Pro Bowl (Def Rookie of Year)
2015: 1st-team All-Pro
2016: 1st-team All-Pro
2017: 1st-team All-Pro (Def Player of Year)
2018: 1st-team All-Pro (Def Player of Year)
2019: 1st-team All-Pro
2020: 1st-team All-Pro (Def Player of Year) pic.twitter.com/15qpYLhs0j
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) May 13, 2021
Donald has been outstanding over the last four seasons. His yearly averages from 2017-20 include 14.4 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits.
Furthermore, Donald is durable. He has started all 16 games in six of his seven seasons. The only year he missed any time was 2017 and still played and started 14 times.
One factor that could work again Donald’s DPOY hopes in 2021 is voter fatigue.
As noted, Donald has won the award in three of the last four seasons. At times, those who vote on the award seemingly get tired of picking the same guy each year and tend to gravitate to other candidates.
That trend occurred in the last decade with the DPOY. Then-Houston Texans defensive end TJ Watt led the voting in 2012, 2014 and 2015. However, Watt has never won the award again.
Not to say Watt still isn’t a productive player and he should help his new team, the Arizona Cardinals.
J.J. Watt with his 98th career sack😳
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2020
The same voting trend holds true when it comes the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. There has not been a repeat winner since Marshall Faulk captured three straight from 1999-2001.
The last repeat MVP was Peyton Manning in 2008 and 2009. Before that, no one had won in back-to-back years since Brett Favre captured the award in three consecutive seasons from 1995-97.
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Sizing Up the Field
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett is the second choice of oddsmakers for DPOY and Steelers outside linebacker TJ Watt. Both should provide stiff competition to Donald.
Garrett helped lead the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. He had 12 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 18 QB hits and forced four fumbles.
Garrett has been showing off his athleticism this offseason.
Myles Garrett been LIVING in the gym this offseason 😭 @MylesLGarrett (via @CFrankFilms_) pic.twitter.com/SUKq9sCJ6y
— Overtime (@overtime) May 12, 2021
A strong case can be made that Watt should have been 2020 DPOY as he led the NFL with 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss. He also had 41 quarterback hits, seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
One player who looks like a good value bet is Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Though his stats last season were not overwhelming – nine sacks, 11 TFL and 13 QB hits – Pro Football Focus ranked him as the best edge rusher in the league with a 92.5 grade.
The payoff for wagering on Donald is low, which is to be expected. Still, it is hard to bet against him and easy to see him winning his fourth DPOY in five years.
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.