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Who Will Win the NFL’s Individual Awards?

Running back Ezekiel Elliott is a top contender for offensive rookie of the year. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Football is the ultimate team sport, filled with great individuals on both sides of the ball. Take for example Terrelle Pryor Sr., a young, bright star featured on the winless Cleveland Browns. Pryor puts up monster numbers each week, and he is on pace to finish the season with 81 catches, 1,053 yards, and 6 touchdowns.. Despite his success, the Brownie Bunch are still yet to get one tick in the win column this year. Point being, football is about the entire team, including the 53rd best player on the roster, but once a year we come together to celebrate those special players who deserve recognition for their achievements.

Offensive Rookie of the Year:  Ezekiel Elliott clearly deserves this award, as he has far surpassed any expectations for a rookie running back. The only argument one can make against him is that he is running behind one of the greatest offensive lines in history, but even with that considered, his numbers are some of the best in the league. Elliott averages over 110 yards per game, almost 5 yards per carry, and has 9 rushing touchdowns so far, not to mention an effectiveness in the passing game, where he has added a touchdown and 12.7 yards per reception on 22 receptions so far. He is on pace to finish with 1,603 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. No one comes close to matching Elliott’s production so far this year, and it’s comfortable to say that he has “run away” with this award.

Honorable Mentions: Dak Prescott, Jordan Howard, Carson Wentz, Jack Conklin

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Even though Joey Bosa did not play the first four weeks of the season, he has made a large enough impact in the time he has played to receive this award. According to Pro Football Focus, Bosa has recorded a higher pass rushing grade in his first six games than any other player in the past eleven seasons. This is remarkable, and is large in part due to his 4 sacks, 15 combined tackles, and a forced fumble. Bosa can consistently be seen pressuring the quarterback every play, and given his success and immediate impact, he undoubtedly deserves this award.

Honorable Mentions: Deion Jones, Jalen Ramsey, Chris Jones, Karl Joseph

Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett’s Dallas Cowboys have only lost one game in their first ten matches. While other coaches have overcome key losses to injury or suspension (i.e. Belichick and Zimmer), no one is playing with as much inexperience for an extended period as Garrett’s team. Romo went down, suspension were handed (Gregory, McClain, and Lawrence), yet this is a team atop the NFC, attempting to be playing on February 5th in Houston. Can Garrett continue this team’s success come December, and then in the playoffs? This will either make or break this season for the Cowboys. Garrett is sitting at 9-1 with a rookie quarterback and a rookie  running back. That in itself should make him rewarding of this award.

Honorable Mentions: Bill Belichick, Jack Del Rio, Gary Kubiak

Comeback Player of the Year: If this award was given out five weeks ago, it was a toss up. Now, Melvin Gordon has taken a commanding lead with huge performances in the last four weeks. This includes a three touchdown game, a week of 261 total yards from scrimmage, and an average of 4.4 yards per carry. This revival is coming from a running back who only amassed 641 rushing yards, 3.5 yards per carry, and 0 touchdowns in his entire 2015 season. Through Week 11, Gordon has 838 rushing yards, 3.9 yards per carry, and 11 touchdowns. Gordon bounced back from a season that led him along the “bust” track to one deserving of a Pro Bowl selection.

Honorable Mentions:  Andrew Luck, Jordy Nelson, Le’Veon Bell, Jimmy Graham

Offensive Player of the Year: Since returning from his suspension, Tom Brady has torn apart defenses, leading in almost every major category for quarterbacks. This includes his league-leading passer rating of 123.3 and just one interception, while he has also posted a second best in the league 70.4 completion percentage, as well as the third most yards per game with 319. It helps that Brady’s Patriots sit in second among all AFC teams. This is just Brady being Brady.

Honorable Mentions: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Julio Jones

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald has been at the forefront of the Ram’s defensive line for three years now, and continues to make his presence felt. His disturbance does not always show up in the box score, as defensive tackles are not always rewarded with sacks or even tackles, but Donald is still someone who frightens the opponent’s offensive line and quarterback. Donald has five sacks, 31 combined tackles, and a forced fumble. He also has three passes defended and nine stuffs. The young Aaron Donald continues to impress and grow each year, helping him receive the award of the best defensive player this year.

Honorable Mentions: Von Miller, Landon Collins, Khalil Mack, Marcus Peters

Most Valuable Player: The MVP award, the ultimate individual award, is easily the tightest race this year. Here are cases against many of the contenders for this award:

  • Tom Brady: Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett went 3-1. Tom is 5-1. The backups proved that the Pats can still win without Brady.
  • Matt Ryan and Julio Jones: How can both guys be so valuable if they are on the same team, no less, on the same side of the ball?
  • Ezekiel Elliott: I believe a greater case could be made for this team’s offensive line, who Zeke gets to run behind. He should not be punished for this but it will not help him.
  • Matthew Stafford: I had to think long and hard about Stafford, who seems to be a different quarterback in the fourth quarter, routinely propelling his team to victory. But, that is exactly my problem. If Stafford could be that same quarterback in the first three quarters, he could have a path to this award.

While these other contenders have their positives, none have been able to replicate the success Derek Carr. Carr has guided the Oakland Raiders to atop the AFC, and he has done it by slinging the ball all over the field. Statistically, he has been elite, with a Quarterback Rating of over 100, with 2,800 yards, 20 touchdowns, a 66.2% completion percentage, only four interceptions, and a signature MVP moment in the Raiders’ defining drive against the Houston Texans this Monday Night in Mexico City. Carr is the reason the Raiders’ high flying offense is top five in points per game. Due to the overall value of Carr for the Raiders’ offense, he is deserving of this award.

Let us know how you feel about our picks in the comment section below.

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Ryan Green
Co-founder of First and Fan