Now that he's retired, Aaron Donald is finally ready to give up his crown as the NFL's defensive king. Donald, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year during his 10-year career with the Rams, has passed the baton to Steelers defensive standout T.J. Watt

"If you wanna say that next guy, that defensive player, I would say right now it's T.J. Watt," Donald said on the "Green Light with Chris Long" podcast. "If you're talking about that's doing it year in, year out, consistently, that's going to get you 15, 13, damn, 22 sacks. He's the one that's been doing it consistently. 

"Interceptions every year. Touchdowns. His stats are ridiculous every single year. I feel like he's that guy to me. I know you've got Micah Parsons coming up. Myles Garrett. You've got a bunch of good players. But from the time I first saw T.J. Watt to the last year, he's consistently been dominating in this league. Just a lot of respect for him, and I think he's that guy." 

Donald is right. While there are other elite defensive players, no one has put up numbers like Watt has since his rookie season back in 2017. Over that span, Watt has 96.5 sacks, seven interceptions, 27 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, 107 tackles for loss and 45 passes defended. 

In 2023, Watt led the NFL in sacks for third time since 2020. He also had four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 19 tackles for loss, an interception and his first defensive touchdown. 

T.J. Watt
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Despite those numbers, Watt finished second to Garrett in the DPOY voting. That has led to some wondering whether or not voters are focusing less on production and more on analytics like pass-rush win rates. 

JJ Watt, Watt's older brother and a three-time DPOY winner, has some interesting thoughts on these analytics and how they should be assessed. 

"I think there are a lot of analytics that are extremely beneficial and useful," Watt recently told CBS Sports. "The problems that I have are when we get into grading players based off of analysis that a person came up with in an algorithm that somebody came up with and then we're putting a number or a grade off it. It starts to be a slippery slope when you judge off of those things. 

"As it comes to percentage win rates and things like that versus traditional numbers, I mean, are we going to start giving wins based on who should have won the most percentage of plays in that game? Are we going to start giving the Super Bowl to the team that has the highest percentage of time won throughout the year? 

"A sack is a sack, a win that didn't result in a sack is not a sack. You could be leading the game 99% of the game, and lose that game on the last play. You lost, you're 0-1 in the column. In my opinion, I'm just a believer in sacks, TFLs, touchdowns. Those are the things that we can quantify and justify." 

While he probably should have more than one DPOY, Watt would probably rather have the respect of Donald than another trophy on his mantle, unless that happened to be a Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

"I'm not about the individual goals anymore," Watt told CBS Sports ahead of the 2023 season. "I've set myself up nice where I've been having a good career but it doesn't matter if you're not winning games when they matter most. I think that's objective No. 1, for sure."