We asked our panel of experts and insiders to select their choices for various awards for the 2017 season. We will reveal their answers over the coming days.
Next up, a look at who is the 2017 Chargers Defensive Player of the Year:
Ricky Henne – Joey Bosa
It's probably a tie for me with Casey Hayward, who I think is far and away the number one cornerback in the NFL. But then again, Joey Bosa is hands down the top defensive end for me as well. There's just nothing Bosa can't do, and it's scary to think he's only 22. Number 99 is an absolute technician in everything he does, and generates such power off the snap. His hand usage is off the charts. What impresses me even more is how effective he is against the run. It's rare to see a pass rusher of his ilk be that good defending the rush, which is why I give Bosa a narrow edge for the Chargers Defensive Player of the Year.
Hayley Elwood – Casey Hayward
After a stellar 2016 season, many wondered if Casey Hayward would be able to build on that performance in 2017. He did and then some. Hayward earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in November, and made his second-straight Pro Bowl. As the Bolts' top cornerback, Hayward was tasked with containing some of the league's top wide receivers each week, and he never let up. He had four interceptions on the year along with 40 total tackles and two passes defensed. According to Pro Football Focus, Hayward only allowed a 42.7 completion percentage of passes thrown his way during the 2017 season – the best mark in the NFL for starting CBs.
Matt "Money" Smith – Casey Hayward
As great as Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were all season, Hayward was put out on that island and turned into one of the best cover corners in the league. With the exception of one busted Amari Cooper coverage that wasn't entirely his fault in Week 17, the Chargers' secondary didn't allow a 100-yard receiver all season. He was asked to slow down each team's number one receiver every week, and didn't disappoint once.
Nick Hardwick – Joey Bosa
I'm more impressed by his 70 total tackles on the season than his 12.5 sacks. I mean, what is he…a linebacker? He's the trifecta; a rare blend of elite talent (size, speed, strength, athleticism), impeccable technique and fundamentals, and unmatched effort. He's an absolute freak show that gives offensive coordinators and offensive linemen nightmares around the league. The scary thing is he is only going to get better and is built to play for a very long time in the NFL. Grab some popcorn. He's worth the price of admission himself.
Chris Hayre – Casey Hayward
The six-year veteran was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded cornerback (96.4) in 2017. And while it certainly makes life easier to have the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL generate consistent pressure, make no mistake: Hayward is elite. His 11 interceptions over the last two seasons are tied with the Chiefs' Marcus Peters for most in the league. When Jason Verrett was lost for the season after Week 1, Hayward anchored an opportunistic secondary that finished the season ranked No. 3 in passing defense. Bosa and Ingram are more than deserving, but I'll give the slight edge to Hayward.