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Breaking down the DPOY race

Icon SMI, AP Photo

It's hard to remember a season such as the one we're witnessing that had these kinds of standout defensive performances in the NFL. We're seeing some truly tremendous displays that are redefining the way we view positions, the upshot being that our PFF grading system is giving out some of the highest marks we've ever seen.

While that's something to celebrate, it means picking a defensive player of the year is extremely difficult. It means we have to go beyond the big box score numbers that are trumpeted by many as the deciding factors in a player's candidacy.

Let's run through the contenders, looking at pros and cons for each player:

The Front-Runners: J.J. Watt and Von Miller

Let me be clear: If these two aren't the first guys you're mentioning for this award, you aren't watching enough football. Break them down however you want; they're on another level right now.