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Defensive Player of the Year Breakdown: Week 15 Update

I figured now would be a good time to revisit the topic of the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award. Since the Fins' season is officially done, as far as the playoffs go, the only thing that Dolphin fans can look forward to, other than the offseason and the draft, is Jason Taylor's shot at the Defensive Player of the Year award.

I decided to take a much closer look at where he stands in relation to the other top defensive players in the league who could also make a case to win the award. Of course, the process of comparing defensive ends to linebackers to cornerbacks is not a very easy thing to do. Therefore, I rationally developed a formula to rank each player, based on their statistics.

This formula puts an emphasis on impact plays more so than on things such as tackles. There were 9 statistics that I used on creating this comparison: tackles, sacks, interceptions, touchdowns, pass defenses, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, tackles for loss, and blocked kicks. I then gave each of these stats a value, based on how much of an impact the statistic had. For example, a tackle isn't exactly the best way to judge a player. Most tackles are made beyond the line of scrimmage. Therefore, why should we weight a tackle after a 12 yard gain the same as a tackle after a 2 yard gain. Also, if the player's teammates aren't very good, then the one talented player will rack up tackles. Look at Demeco Ryans in Houston, for example. And for cornerbacks, many times a tackle comes after allowing a pass reception, which isn't exactly good. Therefore, tackles only get 0.5 points in my formula. A pass deflection gets 1 point because it prevented any gain of yardage. A forced fumble gets 1.5 points because it may or may not have actually caused a change in possession. Also, the forced fumble could have come after a big gain by the ball carrier. A sack and a tackle for loss each get 2 points. An interception, blocked field goal, and a fumble recovery each get 3 points because they each change possession of the ball and prevent points from being scored by the opposition. A touchdown counts as 6 points because, well, a touchdown actually counts for 6 points on the scoreboard.

Now, here is a breakdown of just the statistics of the 7 players I feel have the best shot to win the award. I chose the two top defensive lineman, 3 top linebackers, and 2 top defensive backs of the season:

Actual Statistics of Each Player
Player Tackles Sacks Ints TDs PDs FFs FRs TFL Blk
Jason Taylor 55 12.5 2 2 11 9 1 5.5 1
Julius Peppers 56 11 0 0 6 3 2 5.5 2
Brian Urlacher 127 0 3 0 7 1 1 9 0
London Fletcher 131 2 3 1 12 0 1 3.5 0
Shawne Merriman 49 12.5 1 0 5 4 1 3 0
Champ Bailey 75 0 8 0 19 0 0 2 0
Rashean Mathis 52 0 7 0 20 0 0 1 0

Now, let's see who has made the highest impact using my Impact Plays Index (IPI):

Impact Plays Index
Player IPI
Jason Taylor 112
London Fletcher 106.5
Brian Urlacher 102
Champ Bailey 84.5
Julius Peppers 83.5
Shawne Merriman 72.5
Rashean Mathis 69

As you can see, Jason Taylor has the highest IPI. Some will argue that it's unfair to put Merriman against those guys by simply looking at the total because he has played in 4 fewer games. While this is true, don't forget why Merriman missed those 4 games. He was suspended because he failed a steroid test. The man was cheating. Either way, if you take both the IPIs of Taylor and Merriman and make them per-game averages, Taylor ends up with an 8 while Merriman ends up with a 7.25. The other argument against Taylor will be that his team didn't make the playoffs. Well, in just the past 5 years, 2 players whose team failed to make the playoffs still won this award: Ed Reed on 2004 and Michael Strahan in 2001.

If you don't like the Impact Play Index because you don't agree with the point values being awarded to each stat, there is one other way to compare players. We could simply look st the number of impact plays made by each player per game. Impact plays would be all of the categories used in the IPI with the exception of tackles. If we do this, here is how it comes out:

Impact Plays Per Game
Player IPPG
Jason Taylor 3.14
Shawne Merriman 2.65
Julius Peppers 2.26
Champ Bailey 2.07
Rashean Mathis 2
London Fletcher 1.61
Brian Urlacher 1.5

Again, Jason Taylor finishes at the top of the list, being the only player to average over 3 impact plays per game. So, looking at all the numbers, it would seem that Taylor has the inside track to win the award. However, there are still 2 more games to be played. Let's hope JT continues to dominate!

And check back each week as this these numbers will be updated following each weekend for the last 2 weeks of the season!