Predicting the NFL Honors Awards
Most Valuable Player: QB Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
Other Candidates: QB Joe Burrow (Bengals), QB Jalen Hurts (Eagles), QB Josh Allen (Bills), WR Justin Jefferson (Vikings)
Patrick Mahomes continues to put-up video game-like numbers, including 5000+ yards and 41 touchdowns this season. Despite losing all-pro WR Tyreek Hill this offseason, Mahomes led the Chiefs to the #1 seed in the AFC with a 14-3 record, outplacing fellow candidates Josh Allen and Joe Burrow.
Furthermore, while this award is strictly based on the regular season, it cannot go unnoticed that Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 5th straight AFC Championship game this season in which he outdueled Burrow and the Bengals to reach his third Super Bowl appearance in just five years. Finally, while QB Jalen Hurts has a great case for winning the award, he missed two games this season and lost too much of a lead in the MVP race during that time off the field.
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Nick Bosa (49ers)
Other Candidates: DT Chris Jones (Chiefs), LB Micah Parsons (Cowboys)
First of all, this should be a two-man race. It is beyond me how Micah Parsons was even nominated for this award, as for the final six weeks of the NFL season, the Cowboys’ pass rusher totaled just 1.5 sacks. In regard to Nick Bosa and Chris Jones, it seems to be a forgone conclusion that Bosa will win DPOY. Typically, this award goes to the NFL sack leader, so considering Bosa led the league with 18.5 sacks on the year, I expect him to win the award handily.
In my opinion, though, Chris Jones deserves more recognition than he will get on the night of the awards. This may go over many people’s heads, but it is much more difficult to sack the quarterback as an inside tackle than as an edge-rusher. Defensive tackles like Chris Jones and Aaron Donald (Rams) see double teams on nearly every play, while edge rushers will get one-on-one matchups or chip blocks from a tight-end or running back the entire game. Hence, Chris Jones’s 15.5 sacks this regular season (and another 2 sacks in the AFC Championship game) are much more impressive than Nick Bosa’s 18.5 sacks, including zero sacks in three postseason games, from an edge-rusher position.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Justin Jefferson
Other Candidates: WR Tyreek Hill (Dolphins), QB Patrick Mahomes, QB Jalen Hurts
Realistically, since Patrick Mahomes will win the MVP, he should also win the Offensive Player of the Year, right? Wrong. The Offensive Player of the Year award is the NFL’s way of recognizing the best non-quarterback of the year, so while Mahomes or Jalen Hurts should probably win this award, it will actually come down to Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill.
Ultimately, Jefferson was the best receiver in football this year, putting-up Stars Wars-like numbers as he neared 2000 receiving yards. Jefferson racked up 128 receptions, 1809 yards, and 8 touchdowns to Hill’s 119 receptions, 1710 yards, and 7 touchdowns. While the two wideouts had comparable seasons, Jefferson had the edge in every receiving category.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Jets)
Other Candidates: CB Tariq Woolen (Seahawks), DE Aidan Hutchinson (Lions)
What might be the closest race out of all the NFL awards, I think the DROY comes down to the two cornerbacks – Sauce Gardner and Tariq Woolen. While Woolen had an impressive seasons with 6 interceptions, Sauce Gardner locked-up every preeminent wide receiver he matched-up against. Here are some of those games and the receivers he lined-up with:
September 25th – held Ja’Marr Chase to 29 yards.
October 9th – held Tyreek Hill to 47 yards.
December 4th – held Justin Jefferson to 45 yards.
December 11th – held Stefon Diggs to 3 catches for 37 yards.
January 1st – held DK Metcalf to 1 catch for 3 yards.
January 8th – held Tyreek Hill to 2 catches for 23 yards.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Kenneth Walker III (Seahawks)
Other Candidates: QB Brock Purdy (49ers), WR Garrett Wilson (Jets)
While the voting might be close, this is a no-brainer to me. First, Brock Purdy should not be eligible for this award considering he played his first meaningful snap in Week 13 against the Dolphins. Additionally, Garrett Wilson is only a candidate for this award because the NFL needed three nominees. Kenneth Walker III is the obvious choice here, especially considering the fact that he ran for over 1000 yards with limited attempts.
While he “played” 15 games, Walker did not become the starting running back until week 6 and after going on an incredible run, went out early against the Rams in week 13 with an injury. In week 5, Walker ran for 88 yards on just 8 rush attempts, vaulting him into the starting role where he would remain for the remainder of the season. The rookie posted five 100+ rush yard games, including 167 yards in Week 7 and a stretch of three 100+ yard games in weeks 16-18.