There were a number of awards that were up for debate after an exciting season. Offensive Rookie of the Year and the NFL Most Valuable Player (won by Robert Griffin III and Adrian Peterson, respectively) in particular will be argued in coming weeks.
However, there is no denying that Watt was the top defensive player in football this season.
He received all but one vote for the prestigious award, according to ESPN's Paul Kuharsky:
AP says lone vote not for JJ Watt for DPoY was @ashleyfoxespn, who voted for Von Miller.— Paul Kuharsky (@espn_afcsouth) February 3, 2013
The defensive end led the league with 20.5 sacks, two short of Michael Strahan's NFL record. In an age where most pass-rushers are linebackers on the outside, Watt accomplished his feat from the defensive line. This is much more difficult with blockers right in front of him.
However, his dominance did not end there.
When he could not get to the quarterback, he knocked passes down at an incredible rate. His 16 passes defended were by far the most for a lineman. Corey Liuget of the San Diego Chargers was second with nine. He also finished the year with forced four forced fumbles and two recoveries.
Whether he was taking down the quarterback, preventing passes from getting by him or simply putting opponents under pressure, he made an incredible difference in the passing game all season.
Still, Watt was also able to succeed against the run. He finished the year with 81 tackles, which were 11 more than any other defensive lineman, just three behind Glover Quin for the team lead. He was by far the most important player for a defense that ranked in the top 10 in both yards and points allowed.
No other player was anywhere near as dominant on the defensive side of ball throughout the 2012 season and his success continued into the playoffs with an additional 9 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 passes broken up. While Von Miller of the Denver Broncos and Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers were impressive, there was certainly a big gap between the best and the rest.
In years with less qualified candidates, it would not have been surprising if Watt was considered a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award.
Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post explained it best:
JJ Watt is AP Defensive Player of the Year. Had that one figured out after Week 1— Ben Volin (@BenVolinPBP) February 3, 2013
Watt did everything he could to help his team this season and was deservedly rewarded with the Defensive Player of the Year award.