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Antonio Smith bangs the drum for J.J. Watt as MVP

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 16: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans salutes the fans during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

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It’s been 26 years since a defensive player won the MVP award handed out by the Associated Press every year.

Texans defensive end Antonio Smith thinks it is time for that to change and he thinks his teammate J.J. Watt should be the first defensive player to take home the award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

“Frankly, I’m just tired of everybody thinking that only offensive players can be MVP,” Smith said, via Nick Scurfield of the team’s website. “Get out of the old, step into the new. Vote J.J. Watt.”

The MVP award as basically been limited to quarterbacks since Taylor’s victory. Running backs have won the award seven times since Taylor’s win, with one of those wins coming in 1997 when Barry Sanders shared the award with Brett Favre. The last non-quarterback to win the award was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.

Watt’s got as persuasive a case as any defensive player since Taylor. He has 19.5 sacks, production we aren’t used to seeing from a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s altered many other passes by knocking them down or deflecting them at the line of scrimmage. He’s also a key part of the league’s fifth-best run defense. Every team that plays Watt has to account for him on every snap or run an even greater risk of watching him blow up their play. There’s little doubt the Texans would be sitting with a record somewhere south of 12-2 if not for Watt’s presence in the lineup.

Despite all of that, we’re not putting our money on a Watt win. Quarterback is the glory position in the NFL and their involvement in every offensive play makes it hard for any other player to stand out as more valuable. If it isn’t a quarterback this year, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is a likelier winner than Watt although Watt would be plenty deserving should this year’s voters decide to buck convention.