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Old 01-10-2013   #3
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Default Re: ProFootballFocus, 2012 Defensive Player Of the Year

Add "Best Player in Football" to the list...

The Dwight Stephenson Award: PFF’s Best Player in Football
Sam Monson | 2013/01/10


Quote:
Come the end of the season the whole ‘value’ part of MVP seems to screw everybody up. In most sports it tends not to be a problem, as the best players are also inherently the most valuable — but that isn’t necessarily the case in the NFL. This league is so quarterback driven that it takes a lot to view somebody other than a passer as the most valuable player.

So I say, to hell with it. Let’s create a fairer award. We’re looking to recognize not the most valuable player out there, but the best player in football in the 2012 season. So I present to you the inaugural PFF Dwight Stephenson Award, given to the NFL’s best player of the regular season.

The award is named after a player who may pre-date PFF, but doesn’t pre-date the site’s ethos. Dwight Stephenson played only eight NFL seasons for the Miami Dolphins, but was a five-time All-Pro and was selected to the All-Decade team for the 1980s. More importantly, you only have to watch a few minutes of tape to see that he was something a little bit special.

Naturally this award will come with the benefit of PFF’s unique analysis, grinding through every player on every snap of the NFL season — and have no positional prejudice whatsoever. A guard or center is every bit as likely to win this award as a quarterback, depending purely on their level of dominance and performance in the regular season.

So, let’s look at the candidates for 2012. There were some great seasons this year. Players like Richard Sherman, Evan Mathis, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and even Cameron Wake were fantastic, and in any normal season would stand a great chance of walking away with the award. Manning and Rodgers are likely two of the top three candidates for the NFL’s MVP award, but neither was quite good enough to make the final shortlist for the Dwight Stephenson Award.
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Von Miller
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Geno Atkins
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Adrian Peterson
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Quote:
2012 Dwight Stephenson Award winner – J.J. Watt

So here it is, the winner of the inaugural PFF Dwight Stephenson Award — J.J. Watt.

In case you weren’t watching this season, Watt set about redefining what is possible at the 3-4 end position. People talk about how Lawrence Taylor burst into the league and changed the way people thought about 3-4 outside linebackers. You are witnessing the same thing happening now with Watt. He gave the all-time single-season sack record a close run, finishing with 20.5 sacks and actually getting to the quarterback 25 times this season. That ties him for sixth on the all-time list with L.T. himself. Watt recorded the same number of sacks in a season as one of the better performances from one of the greatest rush threats to ever play the game, and he did it from an interior line position. Make no mistake, that’s exactly where Watt played. Though the Texans moved him around, they kept him inside most of the time, with just 6.9% of his snaps coming on the edge in a four-man line.

However, Watt wasn’t just about the sacks. He batted down 15 passes on the season. The next best mark over the past five years of play is the 10 Johnny Jolly recorded in 2009. What about his play against the run? His tackles in the run game this season totaled 11 yards of gain for the offense. When Watt made a tackle in the run game the back averaged 0.16 yards, and it’s not like he was missing many tackles either, allowing just two to get away from him. He made a ridiculous 72 defensive stops, 18 better than the next best player at his position, who in turn was 13 clear of the chasing pack.

Watt became the first player to ever top 100 grading points in a single season at any position, ending the year with a farcical looking +101.7 grade on 958 snaps. This time last season we anointed Justin Smith the second-best player in football, and one of the most dominant defenders in the league, with a grade of +46.5 on the season. Watt more than doubled that, and this time last year we would have told you that there wasn’t much room for a player to be better than Smith. J.J. Watt is completely re-writing what we thought was possible from his position. We are witnessing something very special, and, if nothing else, we have witnessed the first winner of this award in action.

Value be damned. J.J. Watt was the best player in football this season. That earns him the Dwight Stephenson Award.
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