(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Even with winning AP Defensive Player of the Year and tying Michael Strahan's NFL single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks, T.J. Watt somehow ranked as the 20th best player in the NFL from the 2021 season, according to Pro Football Focus.
"The sack total gets all of the publicity, but Watt is an all-around excellent player who specializes in impact plays," Sam Monson of PFF wrote. "He generated five forced fumbles, and his sacks represented 22 of his 62 pressures over the course of the season. Watt seems to be able to maintain an unusually strong ability to “finish” pressures and convert them into sacks, as he often makes the most valuable plays for his defense in the biggest moments."
Myles Garrett ranked No. 7 and was the highest-rated passer rusher. That tells you all you need to know about PFF's rankings. Watt also was behind Maxx Crosby on the list among edge rushers. Overall, Watt was the seventh-ranked defensive player, but he was named Defensive Player of the Year by numerous outlets and got 42 out of 50 votes for DPOY from the Associated Press. It makes no sense.
Here's what Monson said about Garrett. "Only Micah Parsons — who rushed the passer 217 fewer times — posted a better PFF pass-rushing grade than Garrett this season. Garrett finally put together a full season of elite-level play and was a constant problem for opposing offensive tackles. Even players who were otherwise good over the season — such as Bears left tackle Jason Peters — had no answer for Garrett's skill set."
Monson cited Garrett's four-sack performance against the Bears but didn't mention that he had just three sacks in his final seven games of the season. Garrett had just one sack in his two games against the Steelers. In the Week 17 contest, Garrett had one tackle and no sacks. Meanwhile, Watt had 5.5 sacks in his two games against the Browns and had four in the Week 17 game.
Heyward was one of the six defensive players ranked ahead of Watt, as he came in at No. 19.
"Heyward continues to be the interior defensive lineman who is putting the most pressure on Donald at the top of the rankings," Monson wrote. "For the second season in his last three, Heyward posted a 90-plus PFF grade, racking up a massive 46 defensive stops and 61 pressures. Heyward is playing the best football of his career and is outstanding in all facets of play. T.J. Watt gets all of the recognition up front on Pittsburgh’s defense, but Heyward was just as good this season."
Heyward at No. 19 makes sense, as he had a phenomenal 2021 season, but Watt should still be ranked higher. The Steelers were 9-2 when Watt had a sack in 2021 and 1-4 when he didn't record a sack. No defensive player in the league was more valuable than Watt this past season. It's absolutely mind-boggling how PFF has Watt ranked at No. 20, while Garrett's at No. 7. It makes the whole list just not justifiable.