The second-year pro out of Wisconsin was magnificent in 2012, backing up a strong rookie campaign with a league-leading 20.5 sacks, 81 tackles (most among defensive ends) and four forced fumbles.
Watt, who has risen to the top of the league as one of the game's best players, was a big part of Houston's defense this season, which was ranked in the top 10 in points per game allowed (20.7). He accounted for nearly half of the team's sack total (44 overall) and 23 of the club's 58 tackles for loss. Defensive end Antonio Smith was second on the Texans with seven sacks.
The recognition comes as no surprise for the 23-year-old. Watt was raved about all season long throughout NFL nation while building up a reputation as a relentless defender—whether it be rushing the passer or stopping the run. Selected No. 11 overall by the Texans in the 2011 NFL draft, Watt is making it clear that Houston did not err in spending a high pick on him.
More important than Watt's stats is the fact that the Texans have made the playoffs in his first two seasons with the club. Houston clinched its first playoff berth in 2011 while winning the AFC South and took the division again in 2012 with a 12-4 record. It shows that Watt is not only a stat-stuffer, but an integral part of the team's success.
Not only did Watt register 2.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and three quarterback hits in the 31-25 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 3, he also showed up in the postseason, posting a combined 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits against the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots.
It was a no-brainer who should win the 2012 AP Defensive Player of the Year. His name is J.J. Watt and he's just getting started.