In his first season as the full-time starter at weakside linebacker for the Broncos, Woodyard racked up 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, and six passes defensed. To do a little side by side, Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson had 125 tackles, two sacks, and four passes defensed with four forced fumbles and no interceptions.
Clearly, Woodyard played at an elite level last season and received virtually no recognition for it nationally. Woodyard didn’t even crack the roster on this NFL.com All-Underrated team.
How’s this for a stat? Woodyard is the first player since Brian Urlacher in 2007 to record over 100 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions in a season, and only the 12th player to do it since the league started recording sacks as an official stat in 1982.
In 2012, Woodyard was one of the most improved players in the NFL, though he still has his flaws. He missed a few tackles last year, but for the most part, I think this was one of the most successful undrafted free agent pickups the league has seen in recent years. After starting off as an ace on special teams, Woodyard has worked his way up to being a full-time starter on the Denver defense, one of the best in the NFL.
Woodyard is entering a contract year with the Broncos. He is set to make $3 million this season, and should be due for a pretty nice pay raise in 2014.