As the 2018 NFL Kickoff quickly approaches, I have gathered my thoughts as to who will take home NFL Honors Awards at the end of the season (MVP, OPOY, DPOY, etc). I will go through one award at a time to explain why I chose the players I did; SPOILER ALERT FOR THE 2018 NFL SEASON BELOW.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Aaron Rodgers – A gunslinger that can protect the ball? Unheard of. Yet, Rodgers continues to put up INSANE numbers every single year as he has the lowest interception rate of all time coming in at 1.6% while also earning a spot in the top 10 in career passing touchdowns. With an injury limiting his games last season, Rodgers earned the lowest PFF grade he has received in 10 years – an 84.4. That was still good for being just outside the top 10 in a year that saw multiple dominant quarterbacks tear up opposing defenses every week. Now, a robust rapport with Davante Adams (who had the highest passer rating when targeted on 3rd and 4th downs last season) and the newly-acquired physical mismatch, Jimmy Graham, will propel Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers to the playoffs and another MVP award respectively.
OPOY (Offensive Player of the Year)
David Johnson – When thinking of top running backs in the league, DJ isn’t necessarily the first to come to mind after missing almost all of last season. But back in 2016, David Johnson was undoubtedly the most productive skill player as he had over 100 more all-purpose yards than the next-best back in Ezekiel Elliot, and he scored 20 total TDs (while also missing most of the final game of the season that year). This versatile weapon is not only adept at running with the football; PFF graded Johnson as THE best receiver in the entire NFL at a 92.6 in his last healthy season. If this potential-packed stud can stay on the field – and that is a big if – then this Cardinals team should be flying high.
DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year)
Khalil Mack – I originally had Aaron Donald listed in this spot as I debated between these two premier defensive linemen. But then the trade happened. With what might come to be known as the most lopsided trade in NFL history, the Bears brought in quite possibly the league’s most gifted pass rusher in Mack. Consistently at the top of defensive stops and pressures across the NFL, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year should have little in his way to reclaim his throne, especially after joining a top 10 defense last season in scoring, yards allowed, AND sacks.
OROY (Offensive Rookie of the Year)
Saquon Barkley – The running back position is becoming less valuable according to experts in the industry, but three out of the last five winners of the Offensive Rookie of the Year award have been running backs. Saquon has gradually been improving his breakaway runs while at Penn State the past few years, finishing his final season there with a 56.8% breakaway percentage. This ability to make a game-changing play at any moment paired with his stellar receiving capabilities should make this an easy decision for the Associated Press.
DROY (Defensive Rookie of the Year)
Jaire Alexander – Similarly to my last pick, the current trend in Defensive Rookie of the Year award winners shows promise for this cornerback as two out of the last three have been likewise. In his final season at Louisville, Alexander allowed the lowest passer rating among cornerbacks in coverage at a 17.7 AND broke up or picked off more passes than were caught by receivers covered by him according to PFF. He will bring much-needed help to this sneaky good Packers secondary, and at the end of the year, bring home some hardware to show it.
CPOY (Comeback Player of the Year)
Odell Beckham Jr – The highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL might actually be the most talented receiver in the NFL. In 2016, OBJ landed in the top three in receptions and receiving yards and top five in receiving touchdowns. This was all done without any help from Eli Manning either. He wasn’t just reliable for securing catches; Odell led the league in broken tackles after the catch with six more than the next receiver. Beckham is about to have a monster year with new head coach Pat Shurmur, and earn the right to claim his Comeback Player of the Year award (I mean they can’t give David Johnson everything can they?).
FPOY (Fantasy Player of the Year)
David Johnson – See above…In his last healthy season David Johnson scored 35 more standard fantasy points than the next best back in Ezekiel Elliott who also outscored the third-highest scoring back in LeSean McCoy by 45 points. If looking at ppr scoring rules, DJ won the battle by 83 points. He’s kind of good.
COY (Coach of the Year)
Matt Nagy – This pick was also a last-minute change from Kyle Shanahan, but I just could not resist the weapons that Nagy will have at his disposal to wreak havoc on unsuspecting opponents. The monsters of the midway look terrifying on defense with newly-acquired Khalil Mack (see above for more), and the offense will have second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and star running back Jordan Howard at the helm. Last season, Nagy helped the Chiefs get off to an explosive start, which led the team to finish top 10 in both scoring and offensive yards. Now, with a receiving corps strewn with hidden talent such as Trey Burton and Anthony Miller and an under-the-radar offensive line, Matt Nagy and the Bears should be able to propel themselves into the top of the league to complement their already-ferocious defense. A possibility of making the playoffs after a quick rebuild is sure to win Nagy the Coach of the Year award.
Photo credit: Keith Allison