Winner: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
Few dominated the league like Pierre-Paul did last year, and at only 23 years of age, he's likely to be even better in 2012 than he was in 2011. That thought alone will keep many NFL quarterbacks up during Saturday nights.
Pierre-Paul is an absolutely freak of nature athletically, and now that he has grown his understanding of the game, he's nearly an unstoppable force of nature. He also has the ability to impact the game in more ways than just rushing the quarterback, as he is dominant against the run and can even drop back into coverage.
Pierre-Paul's 16.5 sacks in 2011 were just the beginning of his takeover in the NFL. Winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 will only cement his position as the best defensive end in the league.
Runner-Up: Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
There may be other younger players vying for this spot (I'm looking at you, Patrick Willis), but no team needs a defensive player more than the Ravens need Reed. Remember, Terrell Suggs is out for a good portion of the season, Jarret Johnson is gone at outside linebacker, and Ray Lewis is not immortal.
Reed has a knack for making big plays and playing better when his team needs him most. His 2012 campaign may turn out to be one of his best ever.