Sep 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) reacts after recording a sack against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
J.J. Watt – DE – 2011-Present
I’m sure you’ve been wondering when you’d see Justin James Watt show up on this list.. well here he is, sitting pretty at number two. “J.J. Swatt”, “The Hundred Mil”, “The Milkman”; whatever you want to call him, J.J. Watt is one talented football player.
Watt had a solid rookie year, being a part of the Texans first ever playoff run, and his contribution included a key interception returned for a touchdown in Houston’s first franchise playoff victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. Watt’s emergence as an elite player, however, didn’t truly come until the 2012 season.
In 2012, J.J. Watt recorded 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. Watt finished the season 2 sacks shy of former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s all-time sack record, but still recorded one of the best seasons of any defensive player in NFL history.
After a down season in 2013 which saw Watt record only 10.5 sacks, he was resurgent in 2014, matching his previous record of 20.5 sacks. Watt’s 2014 season was absolutely outstanding, as it saw him force 4 fumbles, recover 5, defend 10 passes, and intercept 1.
2014 also saw Watt score 5 touchdowns, 1 on a fumble recovery, 1 on an interception, and 3 when lined up as a tight end on offense. In fact, Watt was tied with Texans star Andre Johnson for the third most receiving touchdowns on the team that season.
Watt was selected to the Pro Bowl and chosen as a First Team All-Pro player consecutively from 2012-2014, as well as being chosen as both the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers Association’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and again in 2014. He’s the only player in history with multiple seasons with at least 20 sacks, and was the runner up for the league MVP in 2014.
Watt is only 26, and if history is any indicator, he could likely play for another 10 years. In only four seasons he’s managed more sacks, forced fumbles, and defensive fumble recoveries than any other player in Texans history, and I shudder to think what he could achieve if he continues at his current pace.
At the start of the 2014 season, Watt’s six-year contract extension worth $100 million made him the highest payed non-quarterback in the league until Miami DT Ndamukong Suh‘s 6-year $114 million contract in 2015. This long-term contract for a spectacular amount of money seems to indicate that Watt will be happy in Houston for a long time, and if he continues to play like he has been, he’ll go down as not only one of the best Texans in history, but one of the best to ever play the game of football.
Next: Number 1