Ranking SEC’s 10 best candidates for Defensive Player of the Year
The SEC is loaded with NFL prospects on defense.
It features run-stopping and pass-pressuring defense linemen and linebackers, as well as pass-defending linebackers and defensive backs.
Some will pile up gaudy stats as the best players on defenses without great supporting casts.
Others will have less-gaudy stats because they’re part of more talented defenses – or simply because opponents game plan to avoid them as much as possible. Or both.
There are various types of candidates, but one player ultimately will be the 2021 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Who might it be?
Here’s a look at the SEC’s 10 best candidates for Defensive Player of the Year:
10. Grant Morgan, LB, Arkansas
Morgan’s candidacy figures to be stat-driven. He led the country in tackles last season before being injured in the second-to-last regular-season game and was named first-team All-SEC.
The sixth-year senior figures to use his savvy and physical talent to again be among the most productive tacklers in the SEC and the country.
9. Kingsley Enagbare, DL South Carolina
Enagbare is another senior incumbent All-SEC selection, and he is coming off a breakout season. He has increased his sacks each season.
The back seven was the primary weakness as the Gamecocks struggled on defense last season. The defensive line was better and figures to be the strength again this season – with Enagbare leading the way.
8. Will Anderson, LB, Alabama
It’s hard enough to stand out as the top defender on the Crimson Tide defense, which features top players across the board. It’s even harder to stand out enough to be identified as the top defender in the conference – especially as a sophomore.
But Anderson, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team last season, has the ability to stand out not only among his talented teammates but also among all SEC defenders in his second season.
7. Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
It’s difficult for a nose tackle to make highlights when so much of his job requires doing dirty work, but Davis might be able to do just that.
Had he entered the NFL Draft after last season he might have been the first defensive tackle selected. He decided to return for another season, in part to improve his pass-rushing enough to convince NFL scouts that he can be an every-down player.
If he can demonstrate that, he’ll be a contender for the SEC’s top defensive honor.
6. Zachary Carter, DL, Florida
Carter has improved each season with the Gators and he’s poised to be a headline-maker as a redshirt senior.
Florida should be in the thick of the SEC East race and Carter will have ample opportunity on big stages to show that he’s worthy of serious consideration.
5. Christopher Allen, LB, Alabama
Allen has an experience edge on teammate Anderson as he enters his fifth season with the Tide.
They figure to complement each other, and Allen’s knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage should bring a lot of attention to him.
4. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
While a lot of candidates are stating their cases against the run and in the pass rush, Elam has the ability to open eyes in his pass coverage. One hurdle: Will teams challenge him or avoid him?
His height (6-2) and long arms have enabled him to develop outstanding ball skills. He also has the mental ability to anticipate where the ball is going and make impressive plays on it.
3. DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The Aggies should be very good on defense, the line should be a big part of that and Leal will be a big part of the line.
He has shown the ability to play multiple positions across the line, which will enable him to thrive as the Aggies move him around and force favorable match-ups.
2. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
This former high school defensive back was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award even while being overshadowed by teammate Dylan Moses last season.
Now it’s his turn to stand out. Harris is Alabama’s most experienced linebacker and should be a leader on the defense.
1. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
The consensus in 2019 was that Stingley was one of the best – if not the best – defensive back in the country. His speed and instincts made him a master at defending (and intercepting) passes, and his contributions to the run defense weren’t bad either.
A combination of nagging injuries, opponents’ determination to avoid him and the overall lethargy of the Tigers’ defense contributed to a less impressive sophomore season for Stingley.
But LSU will put more talent around a healthy Stingley this season, and an expected boost from a new defensive coaching staff should reinvigorate Stingley and make him the favorite to be SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2021.