Awards=HOF? Part Thirty-EIght: The NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Awards=HOF? Part Thirty-EIght: The NFL Defensive Player of the Year
10 Oct
2019
Not in Hall of Fame

We here at Notinhalloffame.com thought it would be fun to take a look at the major awards in North American team sports and see how it translates into Hall of Fame potential.

Needless to say, different awards in different sports yield hall of fame potential.  In basketball, the team sport with the least number of players on a roster, the dividend for greatness much higher.  In baseball, it is not as much as a great individual season does not have the same impact.

Since we just did the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, the natural for us to look the Defensive Player of the Year Award.  Unlike the OPOY, this was created a year earlier in 1971, but it will it generate the same level of Hall of Famers?

Let’s find out!

The following are the past players who have won the AP Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL who are eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and have been enshrined.

Alan Page, Minnesota Vikings, Defensive Tackle(1971)

A great place to start for this award is the “Purple People Eaters”, so this begins with Alan Page.  Playing at Defensive Tackle, 1971 was the third of three straight First Team All-Pro Selections and league lead in Approximate Value.  As the first AP Defensive Player of the Year, he also became the first to win both the DPOY and the AP MVP Award.  Afterwards, Page began another three-year run of First Team All-Pro Selections in 1973. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.

Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steelers, Defensive Tackle (1972)

“Mean” Joe Greene was going to his fourth Pro Bowl in 1972 and this year he began his first of three consecutive First Team All-Pros. He had 11 “unofficial” Sacks and this was also the season that the Steelers had truly established themselves as Super Bowl contenders.  That doesn’t happen without Greene.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steelers, Defensive Tackle (2) (1974)

Greene becomes the first repeat winner of the Defensive Player of the Year and it was also his third of three consecutive First Team All-Pro Selections.  “Mean” Joe and the Steelers dynasty would also win the first of what would be four Super Bowls in the 1970s.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

Mel Blount, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cornerback (1975)

A Steeler wins this for the second year in a row, and you can see how the “Steel Curtain” defense was the best in football. This year’s winner was Mel Blount, who at Cornerback had a league leading 11 Interceptions and would be named a First Team All-Pro.  He would earn that honor again in 1981.  Blount and the Steelers won their second Super Bowl that year.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers, Linebacker (1976)

You know that you had one of the greatest defensive corps ever when you win the DPOY in three different seasons with three different players!  Oh, and all of them went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame!  The third straight Steeler was Jack Lambert, who was a six-time First Team All-Pro and this was his first one.  Like Greene and Blount, Lambert would help Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

Lee Roy Selmon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Defensive End (1979)

Lee Roy Selmon was one of the only things that the Bucs had in their early days.  Drafted 1stOverall in 1976, Selmon broke out in 1979 with his DPOY year and would begin a sting of six straight Pro Bowls.  Selmon was forced to retire in 1984 due to back issues. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.

Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants, Linebacker (1981)

Lawrence Taylor changed Linebacking forever and he was by far the most dominating defensive player of the 1980s.  L.T. became the first player to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year in the same season as winning the DPOY.  He would also begin his streak of 10 straight Pro Bowls. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants, Linebacker (2) (1982)

Taylor repeated winning the DPOY, making him the first player to win the award twice in his first two years.  The Linebacker was also named a First Team All-Pro for the second of what would be eight times.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

Kenny Easley, Seattle Seahawks, Strong Safety (1984)

The career of Kenny Easley spanned only seven seasons and this was right smack dab in the middle of it.  Easley was on his second of three straight First Team All-Pros and this was also his third of five Pro Bowls.  He would finish first in Interceptions with 10 this year.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears, Linebacker (1985)

Mike Singletary was an absolute star on the Bears Defense and this was the year of the “Super Bowl Shuffle”.  Singletary was in his third of what would be ten consecutive Pro Bowls and he was also awarded his second of six straight First Team All-Pros. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants, Linebacker (3) (1986)

This is arguably the greatest defensive season by any player in the history of the National Football League.  Taylor would also win the AP MVP, PFWA MVP and the Bert Bell Award.  He would lead the league in Sacks with 20.5 and this was his sixth of eight First Team All-Pro Selections.  The Giants would win Super Bowl XXI that year.  Taylor would become the first player to win the DPOY three times.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

Reggie White, Philadelphia Eagles, Defensive End (1987)

The “Minister of Defense” was on year two of his six-year run as a First Team All-Pro.  White was a beast on the pass rush where he would have a career-high of 21.0 Quarterback Sacks, which led the NFL.  White’s 21 Sacks were especially impressive considering he did that in 12 Games. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears, Linebacker (2)(1988)

Singletary’s run of dominance continues with his fifth of seven First Team All-Pros, and his sixth of ten straight Pro Bowls.  He would equal his career-high of 18 in Approximate Value.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills, Defensive End (1990)

This was Smith’s third First Team All-Pro Selection and he was also coming off of his fourth Pro Bowl.  Smith secured 19.0 Sacks for the Bills and this was the year that began four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Cortez Kennedy, Seattle Seahawks, Defensive Tackle (1992)

Kennedy’s DPOY win came early in his career and it began a three-year streak of First Team All-Pro Selections.  The Defensive Tackle would spend his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks and would go to eight Pro Bowls, this being his second. He would have a career-high 14.0 Sacks this year.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Rod Woodson, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cornerback (1993)

Woodson was on year five of a six-year stretch of consecutive Pro Bowls and he would go to 11 in total.  The Cornerback was also chosen for his fourth of what turned out to be six First Team All Pros.  Eight of his 71 Interceptions would happen in 1993.  Woodson would later win a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers, Cornerback(1994)

After five years with the Atlanta Falcons, Deion Sanders signed with the San Francisco 49ers and would play there for only one season, and what a year it was!  Sanders secured his third straight First Team All-Pro, fourth consecutive Pro Bowls and would lead the NFL in Interception Return Yards (303).  He also helped San Francisco win the Super Bowl. Following this, Sanders won another Super Bowl with Dallas and went to another four Pro Bowls and as chosen for three more First Team All-Pros.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills, Defensive End (2) (1996)

The Bills were no longer the AFC kings, but were still a playoff team, much of which could be attributed to Bruce Smith. The Defensive End would be named to his fourth of five straight First Team All-Pros and this was his eighth of none. He would have 13.5 Sacks and would lead the NFL in Forced Fumbles with five.  Smith also went to 10 Pro Bowls over his career.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Reggie White, Green Bay Packers, Defensive End (2) (1998)

Reggie White won his second Defensive of Player of the Year 11 years after he won his first one making this the largest gap for this award.  White was a great player in between those two wins.  White won his Super Bowl with Green Bay two years prior and 1998 was the end of an era as this ended his run of 13 straight Pro Bowls and this was his eighth and final First Team All-Pro.  White retired after but returned for one more year with the Carolina Panthers.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Defensive Tackle (1999)

1999 would usher in a four-year run of First Team All-Pros and this was year three of seven consecutive Pro Bowls.  He would record 12.5 Quarterback Sacks this year. Sapp would later anchor the Bucs to a win at Super Bowl XXXVII.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens, Defensive Tackle (2000)

This was an incredible year for Ray Lewis who would lead the NFL in Approximate Value (23) and led the potent Ravens defense to their Super Bowl win.  Lewis was untouchable this year.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.

Michael Strahan, New York Giants, Defensive End (2001)

Michael Strahan would set the single season Sack record of 22.5 and he also led the NFL in Forced Fumbles (6).  This was his third of four First Team All-Pros for Strahan who would play his entire career with the Giants.  He would later win the Super Bowl in the 2007 season.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Linebacker(2002)

Derrick Brooks went to 11 Pro Bowls and this year was his sixth.  In terms of First Team All-Pro Selections, this was number three of five.  The powerful Linebacker led the Bucs to a Super Bowl this year.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens, Defensive Tackle (2) (2003)

This was the second and last DPOY win for Ray Lewis but he had a lot left to accomplish in a career spent exclusively with Baltimore.  2003 would see Lewis go to his fourth of seven First Team All-Pros and it was also his sixth of 13 Pro Bowls.  He would win another Super Bowl with the Ravens in his final year in 2012.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.

Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens, Free Safety (2004)

For the second straight year, the Baltimore Ravens had a Defensive Player of the Year winner, and following Ray Lewis we have Ed Reed.  Reed would lead the NFL in Interceptions three times, this being the first one and he would also finish first in Interception Return Yards.  This was Reed’s first of what would be five First Team All-Pros and he would also go to nine Pro Bowls over his career.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019.

Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears, Linebacker (2005)

Brian Urlacher was selected for four First Team All-Pros with 2005 being his third.  The Linebacker had 6.0 Sacks and 121 Tackles and was a Pro Bowler for the fifth time.  He would be chosen for three more after in a career that remained in Chicago.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.

Jason Taylor, Miami Dolphins, Defensive End (2006)

Jason Taylor went to three First Team All-Pros and this was his third year.  He would also be a six-time Pro Bowl Selection and would have 139.5 Sacks in his career.  He would have 13.5 of them this year.  Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

The following are the players who have won the AP Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL who are eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and have not been selected:

Dick Anderson, Miami Dolphins, Free Safety (1973)

This was the third time that Anderson would have a season of 8 Interceptions, but the first time that he led the NFL in that category.  The Free Safety and member of Miami’s “No Name Defense” has won their second straight Super Bowl this year, and this was also his second straight First Team All-Pro Selection.  Unrankedon Notinhalloffame.com.

Harvey Martin, Dallas Cowboys, Defensive End (1977)

Harvey Martin went to four straight Pro Bowls, and 1977 was the best of that stretch (1976-79).  The Defensive End would earn First Team All-Pro accolades.  That year was magical for Martin as he would help Dallas win the Super Bowl and was the Co-MVP with Randy White.  Unrankedon Notinhalloffame.com.

Randy Gradishar, Denver Broncos, Linebacker (1978)

Randy Gradishar was the leader of the “Orange Crush” Defense of the Broncos and he was on his second straight First Team All-Pro Selection.  This would be the third of seven Pro Bowl Selections for Gradishar.  Ranked #4 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Lester Hayes, Oakland Raiders, Cornerback (1980)

Hayes was in his fourth year with the Raiders, and this was his first of five straight Pro Bowls.  Hates, who was also a First Team All-Pro also led the league in Interceptions (13) and Interception Return Yards (273).  The Raiders would win the Super Bowl that year, and three years later he helped them win it all again.  Ranked #25 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Doug Betters, Miami Dolphins, Defensive End (1983)

Doug Betters is the unlikeliest Defensive Player of the Year winner ever.  This is not because he the career Miami Dolphin didn’t earn it.  He did, it is just that he never played nearly as good before or after in 1983.  This was the only season where he went to the Pro Bowl, was an All-Pro and had an Approximate Value that was higher than 8.  It was 20 by the way in 1983!  He recorded 16.0 Sacks that year.  Unrankedon Notinhalloffame.com.

Keith Millard, Minnesota Vikings, Defensive Tackle (1989)

Millard would have two great years in his career (the second in 1988) and this was the first of them.  Millard would have 18.0 Sacks and would lead the league in Approximate Value the season before with 20. This would be also one of two seasons where he was a First Team All-Pro.  Unrankedon Notinhalloffame.com.

Pat Swilling, New Orleans Saints, Linebacker (1991)

Swilling was a First Team All-Pro this year and would be again the year after.  This was his third of five Pro Bowls and in 1991 he would lead the NFL in Quarterback Sacks (17.0) and Approximate Value (23).  Ranked #77 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Bryce Paup, Buffalo Bills, Linebacker (1995)

Paup was in his first season in Buffalo, and it was easily his best one.  The Outside Linebacker led the NFL in Quarterback Sacks with 17.5 and he was a Pro Bowl Selection four times.  This was his only First Team All-Pro nod. Unranked on Notinhalloffame.com

Dana Stubblefield, San Francisco 49ers, Defensive Tackle (1997)

Stubblefield was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1993, won the Super Bowl in 1994 and won the DPOY in 1997.  This year, he would earn his only First Team All-Pro and land his third Pro Bowl.  Stubblefield would play six more seasons in the NFL but never had a season close to this again.  Unranked on Notinhalloffame.com

Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts, Strong Safety(2007)

When you look at the career of Bob Sanders, you would see that he had only two full seasons; this was the second of them. The Strong Safety was a First Team All-Pro for the second and last time in his career and he would be a Super Bowl Champion in 2005.  Overall, his career was inconsistent, and he will go down as one of the more unlikely winners of the Defensive Player of the Year Award.   Unranked on Notinhalloffame.com

Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers, Strong Safety (2010)

By 2010, Polamalu had already helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls.  The Strong Safety would go his third First Team All-Pro of what would be four, and this would be also his seventh of eight Pro Bowls.  He would have seven Interceptions with 63 Tackles this year.  Ranked #8 on Notinhalloffame.com

 

Let’s update our tally, shall we?

Award in Question

Percentage of recipients who have entered the HOF

Percentage of recipients by year who have entered the HOF.

NBA MVP

100%

100%

NHL Norris

90.5%

96.4%

NBA All Star Game MVP

89.5%

91.7%

NHL Conn Smythe

74.2%

85.4%

NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year

73.1%

79.4%

NHL Lady Byng

63.8%

76.0%

NFL Defensive Player of the Year

60.8%

71.1%

NFL Super Bowl MVP

60.6%

64.9%

NBA Defensive Player of the Year

58.3%

56.5%

NBA Rookie of the Year

56.5%

56.5%

NFL Pro Bowl MVP

52.3%

54.8%

MLB Lou Gehrig Award

51.9%

51.9%

MLB Roberto Clemente Award

47.4%

47.4%

MLB/NL/AL Cy Young Award

44.4%

55.4%

MLB Babe Ruth Award

37.0%

39.3%

NHL Frank J. Selke Trophy

33.3%

36.7%

MLB Hutch Award

33.1%

33.1%

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

28.6%

28.6%

MLB Edgar Martinez Award

26.7%

17.2%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Designated Hitter)

25.0%

30.8%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Shortstop)

23.5%

52.6%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove

21.7%

36.8%

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

20.6%

20.6%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Catcher)

20.0%

22.5%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove (Second Base)

18.8%

39.8%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove (Shortstop)

18.2%

35.1%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Pitcher)

18.2%

20.1%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Second Base)

16.7%

32.7%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove (Outfield)

16.7%

30.1%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Outfield)

15.7%

25.2%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove (Third Base)

14.3%

14.3%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (Third Base)

13.6%

14.3%

MLB (NL/AL) Silver Slugger (First Base)

13.6%

13.3%

MLB (NL/AL) Rookie of the Year

13.3%

13.3%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove (Catcher)

10.3%

15.2%

NBA Most Improved Player of the Year

5.3%

3.2%

MLB (NL/AL) Gold Glove (First Base)

3.8%

3.2%

So, who is up next?

The following are the players who have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the National Football League who have retired but have not met the mandatory years out of the game to qualify for the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers, Linebacker(2008)

The Linebacker they call “Deebo” had his first of two First Team All-Pro Selections in 2008.  He would lead the NFL in Forced Fumbles (7) and Approximate Value (19). Harrison would secure 16.0 Sacks this year and would win his second Super Bowl Ring the following season.  Harrison is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2023.

Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers, Cornerback(2009)

Woodson had two streaks of greatness, and this was in his second run.  2009 saw Woodson secure his sixth of eight Pro Bowls and second of third First Team All-Pros and he was the NFL leader in Interceptions with nine.  Woodson is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2021.

The following are the players who have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award who are still active.

Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens, Linebacker (2011)

Suggs was the third Raven in a ten-year period to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.  This was the first time that Suggs was a First Team All-Pro and he would record a career-high 14.0 Sacks.  He would also lead the NFL with seven Forced Fumbles.  36 Years Old, Playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans, Defensive End (2012)

This was Watt’s second season in the NFL and he would lead the NFL in Quarterback Sacks with 20.5 and Tackles for Loss (39). The Defensive End would also finish first in Approximate Value (19).  This season would begin a four-year run of Pro Bowls and First Team All-Pros and the establishment of one of the most dominating defensive players of the modern era. 30 Years Old, Playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers, Linebacker (2013)

Luke Kuechly was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, would become the Defensive Player of the Year in the season that followed.  The Middle Linebacker would be chosen for his first First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl, the latter being a current seven-year streak.  28 Years Old, Playing for the Carolina Panthers.

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans, Defensive End (2) (2014)

2014 was year three of his four year run of dominance and this was the best of them all.  Watt repeated his 20.5 Sack performance of 2012 (though he did not lead the NFL) and he would again finish atop the leaderboard in Forced Fumbles (29) and Approximate Value (22).  Watt was so good that he would win the AP MVP and the Bert Bell Award.  30 Years Old, Playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans, Defensive End (3) (2015)

Watt reached rarified air with his third DPOY as he joined Lawrence Taylor as the second player to win this award a third time. The Texan would again lead the NFL in Sacks (17.5), Tackles for Loss (29) and Approximate Value (21).  When looking at those three DPOY wins, how many overall Wins by the Texans do not occur if J.J. Watt doesn’t exist?  30 Years Old, Playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders, Linebacker (2016)

Mack was chosen for his second First Team All Pro and Pro Bowl in 2016.  He would net 11.0 Sacks this season.  28 Years Old, Playing for the Chicago Bears.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams, Defensive Tackle (2017)

Aaron Donald was the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he just built right upon it.  In 2017, Donald was chosen for his third straight First Team All-Pro and fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.  He would have 10.5 Sacks this year.  28 Years Old, Playing for the Los Angeles Rams.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams, Defensive Tackle (2) (2018)

Donald had an even better DPOY than his win in the year previous as he would lead the NFL in Sacks (20.5) and Tackles for Loss (25). 28 Years Old, Playing for the Los Angeles Rams.

It certainly appears that like the OPOY, the Defensive Player of the Year Award is a huge springboard to Canton immortality.

We are stick with the gridiron and look at the AP Comeback Player of the Year.

As always, we thank you for that support and look for that soon!

Last modified on Friday, 11 October 2019 03:23
Committee Chairman

Kirk Buchner, "The Committee Chairman", is the owner and operator of the site.  Kirk can be contacted at [email protected] .

Add comment


Security code
Refresh