We are at about the three-quarter mark of the season in week 11, which makes it a fair time to consider who might win each major award in the NFL. Some of the races look to be close, while others have a single candidate leading the way. Let’s break down each award and their contending candidates.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
This is one of those races that looks to be favored for one player, and in this case, it’s Saquon Barkley’s award to lose. He is ninth in the league in rushing yards with 586 (though rookie running back Phillip Lindsay is just ahead of him at eighth), and tied for ninth in rushing touchdowns with five.Those are solid stats, even for a seasoned veteran, but his versatility in the passing game is where he distances himself from the pack. Barkley is second in the league among running backs in receiving yards with 530, only behind James White by 32 yards for the lead (White also has 13 more targets than Barkley).Barkley has been one of the lone bright spots for the Giants offense, who have struggled mightily this year, mustering only two wins on the season. Other candidates deserving some recognition are the aforementioned Lindsay, Baker Mayfield, whohas led the lowly Browns to a trio of wins, Calvin Ridley, who has been a nice complimentary receiver next to Julio Jones for Matt Ryan, Kerryon Johnson, wholooks to finally be a reliable running back for Matthew Stafford, and Quenton Nelson, who won’t put up Rookie of the Year stats like these other candidates,but easily could be argued the most talented of the bunch, who has also revamped Indianapolis’ offensive line. Though great candidates, it’s hard to argue against Barkley, who looked to be the favorite for the award ever since draft day.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
This race looks to be a little tighter than some of the other awards. In my eyes, I see four serious candidates for the award; Derwin James, Darius Leonard, Bradley Chubb, and Denzel Ward. Each of them play different positions, so it’s tough to compare them to each other. Let’s start with James, where his Chargers team has the best record of the bunch. His stats don’t really jump off the page, but he is fourth among rookies in sacks, third in total tackles, and sixth in interceptions. He has been a rock on that back line for the Chargers. Darius Leonard probably has the most eye-popping stats of the bunch, who leads not only all rookies, but every player in the league in tackles with 97, while also missing a game against the Patriots. He also has three forced fumbles and four sacks, adding to his already impressive rookie campaign.Bradley Chubb leads all rookies with eight sacks, which is also good for ninth overall in the league. Him and teammate Von Miller have made a dangerous duo for opposing quarterbacks. Lastly, Denzel Ward, who was the first defensive player taken in this year’s draft, has been one of the better corners in the league this year. Fellow college teammate Marson Lattimore won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year for the Saints, so it’s not out of the question for another former Buckeye to win the award this year. Right now, I would have to say Leonard leads the way now, but it’s really anyone’s race. Look for one of these players to really separate themselves from the group in the last six weeks of play.
Coach of the Year
Coach of the Year award is always a tough award to predict.If you want to give it to the best coach, it would probably go to Bill Belichick each year. However, that’s not it works. Personally, I feel it should go to the coach who exceeded expectations that were given to him for the season. Look at last year for example. The Los Angeles Rams were expected to be one of the worse teams in the NFL, but newly hired head coach Sean McVay led his Rams to the playoffs, something that was not expected from his team nor himself, the youngest head coach in NFL history. So, we can look at guys this year like McVay or Belichick or New Orleans’ Sean Payton, but those three had lofty expectations coming into this year. However, I believe the favorite for the award is Andy Reid from Kansas City. He has led his Chiefs to a 9-1 record, tied for best in the league along with the Rams and Saints. Yes, he did have some high expectations, but not nearly as high as teams like the Saints or the Rams. The thing that stands out about his is his quarterback play. Patrick Mahomes has been simply brilliant, and he was a huge question mark heading into this season. The Chiefs traded away Alex Smith after he had a great campaign, so most though this team would take a step back. However, Reid has his team atop the AFC, and therefore deserves the award over anyone else.
Offensive Player of the Year
This award is always kind of weird. Again, let’s look at last year, for example. Last year, Tom Brady won the MVP award, but, he didn’t win the Offensive Player of the Year. Todd Gurley won that honor, and he looks to be the favorite for that award again. To me, it doesn’t make sense for a guy to win Offensive Player of the Year but lose in the MVP race to another offensive player. Gurley leads the league in rushing yards with 988 yards, which is over 150 more yards than second-place Ezekiel Elliott, along with a league-leading 13 rushing touchdowns. Gurley has also been effective in the passing game as well, totaling 402 receiving yards and four touchdowns, giving him 17 total touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson holds the record for the most touchdowns in a season with 31 in 2006, so Gurley is close to being on pace for that total. Whether or not he reaches that mark, his season will still be nothing short of spectacular.Others contending with him would be Mahomes and Drew Brees.
Defensive Player of the Year
This looks to be a two-horse race between Khalil Mack and defending DPOY Aaron Donald. Mack has been electrifying for the Bears, who acquired him at the beginning of the year in a trade with the Raiders. Mack seems to make the big plays every time he is on the field, who has seven sacks ,four forced fumbles along with a fumble recovery, and an interception for a touchdown as well. However, I think Aaron Donald is currently the favorite over Mack, who leads the league in sacks with 12.5, while adding a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He is an absolute monster in the trenches and wreaks havoc against opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. Donald and Gurley look to repeat as Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year for the Rams. A dark-horse candidate to look out for is J.J. Watt, who has returned to the Texans this year after missing last season to injury. He has nine sacks for the Texans and looks to be back in form.
As mentioned before, this award isn’t always given to the player that wins the Offensive Player of the Year award. And it hasn’t been given to a defensive player since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. This year’s race looks to be between three candidates; Mahomes, Brees, and Gurley. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards with 3150, while also leading the league in passing touchdowns with 31. Drew Brees has been historically efficient, throwing for over 77% completion percentage with only one interception on the year. We’ve looked at Gurley’s stats already, and all three teams are 9-1, so it’s tough to separate these three. I would have to go with Mahomes being the favorite. The Chiefs offense has been nearly unstoppable, and it all starts with his excellent play. Goff might emerge as a dark-horse candidate here, but it would be tough for him (and therefore Gurley) if he starts playing well, for they may steal votes from one another since they are on the same team.
There’s still plenty of time in the year for all these awards to pan out. Some races might get closer, while others may see a player emerge as the clear favorite. What do you guys think? Is there anyone I missed? Let us know by tweeting us @TheBench_ for your thoughts on who should win the awards.