With the NFL’s top 100 well under way, we here at Real Sport thought we would give you our own version; The RS 100. Every writer here had the chance to vote for the 100 best players from the 2015 season. This ranking was done regardless of position value or salary cap cost. It was simply based on who had the best 2015 season. As a result you won’t see quality players like Jordy Nelson anywhere on our ranking as he didn’t play a single snap in the 2015 season.
Voting panel: Toby Durant, Remy Cabache, Cameron Tennyson, Rebecca Rennie, Daniel Hernandez, David Pruett, Ryan Tolster
J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans
(TD: #1, RC: #3, CT: #4, RR: #2, DH: #9, DP: #1, RT: #2)
In my opinion Justin James Watt was the best player in the NFL in 2015, bar none. While some of our voting panel didn’t agree with me #2 isn’t bad for a guy who doesn’t touch the ball.
Watt is quite simply a destroyer of worlds. There isn’t a force like him in football today. Be it from the edge, inside or even standing up as a blitzing middle linebacker, wherever the Texans lined Watt up last year he was a quarterback hunting, ball-carrier destroying, monster.
I’ve quoted a lot of stats in our run through of the top 100. From Von Miller’s 17 sacks in his 19 game season, to Aaron Donald’s 37 QB hits or Khalil Mack’s 23 tackles for loss. They all pale in comparison to what JJ Watt did. He lead the league in sacks with 17.5 in the regular season. He lead the league in tackles for loss with 29 and he lead the league in QB hits with 50. (FIFTY! No one else even got 40.)
Then there is the fact that he lead all defensive linemen with 8 pass deflections. No pass rusher got more, hell the leading linebacker only got 13. In short JJ Watt got the quarterback far more frequently than anyone else in 2015, and even when he didn’t he was still affecting the game almost as much as someone who was actually in coverage, and he did all this while having a broken hand through the last quarter of the season… That’s just not fair!
As an edge rusher Watt can dip and bend around the corner with the best of them. While he is far from the fastest guy around the corner Watt’s strength, relentlessness and technique get him home often enough.
When Watt lined up against the Patriots in December, broken hand and all, Bill Belichick changed the blocking scheme entirely to focus on stopping Watt from killing Tom Brady. The Patriots held Watt without a QB hit that day by double and triple teaming him on almost every play, but his running mates Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus picked up 3 sacks between them. That’s the impact Watt has at the line of scrimmage. If you invest enough resources to stop him you’re just going to leave yourself vulnerable somewhere else.
Watt’s speed, power and incredible use of his hands are what separates him from everyone else. Others are faster and others are stronger, but no one has the combination like Watt. This get-off against Tennessee is mind-blowingly fast.
Not only does he make guard look foolish at the line he then lunges over the attempted cut block to grab the quarterbacks ankle and make the sack. This play is dead before it even begins because of JJ Watt.
He’s not a perfect player, sometimes he’ll be too eager to get up field and will leave a cutback lane against the run. But most of the time he is a position to affect the play in a positive way. Watt’s trademark is the inside swim move against a guard – it is the single most devastating thing in the league. Often he does it against the grain of the block because he is fast enough to make up for that on the back end of the play. It’s the opposite of what you are taught to do but against the run it is devastating. Here is a perfect version of it from against the Giants in 2014:
And now against the pass in 2015:
That speed and agility, along with relentless pursuit make him the most dangerous player in the NFL today. He is simply better than everyone else out there. And he knows it.
In 2015 JJ Watt was named the Associated Press defensive player of the year for a record equalling third time. That record was set by a 27 year old Lawrence Taylor in 1986. JJ? Watt was just 26 when he won his third. We are witnessing historical greatness, pure and simple.