Defensive POY: DT Aaron Donald, STL

Season Stats: 69 tkl, 11 sck, 1 pd, 1 fr

To the average football fan, Aaron Donald‘s 2015 stats don’t seem deserving of a DPOY nod. People want to see a lot of sacks and a lot of turnovers, and Donald didn’t have many of either. But as an interior defensive lineman, no defensive player did his job better in 2015 than Aaron Donald.

According to Pro Football Focus, Donald finished with a +104.0 season grade. Not only does it lead all interior defensive linemen, but is the highest all-time grade in PFF’s history. He was the best interior defensive lineman against both the run and the pass this season, with a run-stop percentage of 10.9 percent (5th best in the NFL).

It’s in these advanced statistics where one can see how productive Donald has been as a pass rusher, despite his low sack numbers.

In his final game of the season yesterday, Donald didn’t record one sack. However, Pro Football Focus gave the second-year defensive tackle a +15.4 grade on the day and called his performance one of the most dominant performances in the PFF era.

Why? Because Donald was in the backfield on nearly every snap. He generated pressure, which was felt by opposing quarterbacks all game. At the end of the day, that was his job.

According to PFF, Donald had four QB hits, four hurries and a batted pass on a screen play, which was intercepted and returned to the 49ers’ two-yard line. The Rams were trailing at the time and San Fran was driving with under two minutes to go before halftime.

The point is, Donald has been more productive than any interior defensive lineman in the league this year, people just don’t know it.

With star edge rusher Robert Quinn sidelined for the entire second half of the season and linebacker Alec Ogeltree also injured, Donald was drawing double teams on nearly every snap.

He may not have put up crazy sack numbers, but the amount of pressure Donald generated on a week-to-week basis was astounding considering the attention he was already drawing from opposing offensive lines.

J.J. Watt may still win this award because of his sack numbers and his reputation, but don’t forget the name Aaron Donald.

Runner Up: DE J.J. Watt, HOU

I'm a senior journalism and communications major at THE University of Connecticut, as well as a die hard Jets and Knicks fan. College football and basketball have their place in my heart, but the NFL is my pride and joy.