Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
My gut wanted to go with J.J. Watt to win this, but then I noticed something: The only player to win Defensive Player of the Year twice in a row was Lawrence Taylor. I regard Watt as arguably the best defensive player in the game, but he won't catch anyone by surprise this year. He'll be the focal point of the game plan.
Cameron Wake just earned his first All-Pro selection and has shown the ability to be one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. This could be the year he finally makes the jump in the eyes of the voting populous.
He graded out as the best overall 4-3 defensive end in football, according to Pro Football Focus, and ranked No. 1 among 4-3 defensive ends in their pass-rushing productivity metric (measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting toward sacks).
Wake finished the 2012 season on a high note, racking up 13 pressures, five hits and 5.5 sacks over the final five games of the season; that was with Jared Odrick playing opposite him. It's not that Odrick is a bad player, but he's not ideal for a 4-3 pass-rushing defensive end. Now that Wake will play opposite former Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan, the two should complement each other very well.
Stat prediction: 45 tackles, 31 solo, 20.5 sacks, five forced fumbles