Dark Horse Players Who Could Win Defensive Player of the Year for 2019 NFL Season

Max Staley
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

The AP Defensive Player of the Year has been dominated by three lineman recently, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack and J.J. Watt. Those three have won a combined five-straight AP DPOY awards, with Donald taking home the last two.

Even though these three seemingly have a stranglehold on this award, the rest of this year's crop of defenders are nothing to scoff at. With that in mind, here are three players capable of taking home the DPOY award, based on the odds provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.

3. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts (+3900)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Darius Leonard quickly established himself as one of the best picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Despite going at pick No. 36, Leonard earned first team All-Pro honors as a rookie (though he inexplicably was not voted to the Pro Bowl). He's the heart and soul of the Indianapolis Colts defense, racking up 163 total tackles (No. 1 in the NFL), 17 tackles for loss, two INTs and seven sacks in 2018. Leonard can truly do it all. As if that wasn't impressive enough, he managed all of that despite playing just 15 games. If he can play a full 16-game season, it looks like the sky is the limit for Leonard.

2. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys (+3200)

Elsa/Getty Images

While Jaylon Smith is the Dallas Cowboys LB grabbing the headlines, thanks to a huge contract extension, it was Leighton Vander Esch who was arguably the better player in 2018. The 6-foot-4 LB more than filled Sean Lee's shoes as a rookie, racking up 140 total tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended. He's already established himself as one of the best LBs in football, earning a nomination to the Pro Bowl and an appearance on the All-Pro second team. His presence was a huge reason why Dallas held opponents to just 20.9 points per game (PPG), which was the seventh-best mark in the NFL. If he continues to anchor Dallas' defense, and improves upon his sack total (zero in 2018), Vander Esch has a shot at winning this award in his second season.

1. Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers (+2300)

Harry How/Getty Images

Joey Bosa is already firmly entrenched as one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, despite the fact that he's only played a 16-game season once in his three-year career. He racked up double-digit sack totals in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, falling short in 2018 as he appeared in just seven games. Still, with Derwin James now set to miss a majority of the season, the Los Angeles Chargers will now be counting on Bosa more than ever. He's racked up an astounding 28.5 sacks in his first 35 career games played, and if he stays on the field, he could get well into the double-digit sack totals, and make a run at this award.


Join FanDuel Sportsbook Today. New users get a risk-free bet up to $500. Join Now.


Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

facebooktwitterreddit