This might be the hardest pick to make. At the mid-point, I chose Corey Peters as my pick. At that point in the year, he was playing his best football and looking like an impact pass rusher and playmaker. But unfortunately for Peters, the second half of the season was relatively quiet and it allowed for other people to be considered.
One obvious choice would be Sean Weatherspoon, who was picked as the defensive MVP. Weatherspoon had his moments as a rookie, but injuries and inexperience curtailed his success last year. The fact that he moved from role player last year to MVP this year, probably be default should make him this pick. But since I want to honor as many people as people, we’ll just leave him out of the running.
That could leave Harry Douglas, who went from afterthought last year to a guy that made some plays this year, particularly in the games in the middle of the year where Jones was out with injury. But unfortunately, Douglas sort of returned to being an afterthought once Jones came back from injury and was hitting his stride late in the year. So he too gets passed over.
Will Svitek would be another good pick, having stepped in and filled in for Sam Baker competently and being one of the major reasons why the Falcons were able to stabilize their ground attack and blocking up front. But as the season wore on, Svitek started to fall back to Earth a bit, so he too is out of the running.
Another good candidate would be Lawrence Sidbury, who hardly played a snap last year to finishing tied for second on the team with four sacks. Another good pick would be Dominique Franks, who also was a player that had a very limited role last year, playing on special teams. But late in the year with injuries mounting in the secondary, he was able to step in and solidify the nickel spot and seemingly improved with every single performance. But unfortunately for Sidbury and Franks both, it’s hard to pick them since while they were key contributors, their contributions were smaller due to the fact that they were role players and/or only played a smaller portion of the year.
So that brings us back to where we started with Peters as the best choice for the player that improved the most. Peters was a liability last year vs. the run, but was solid in that area this year. And his ability to make big plays and provide some pressure on the QB up the middle, coupled with the fact that he was a starter throughout the entire year makes him the best choice.