Well, folks we have officially reached the halfway point in the 2018 NFL season and boy, has it been a doozy. The NFL has seen record numbers in offensive categories and people can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with the new rules regarding illegal hits, specifically on the quarterback. There is no question that these new rules clearly favor the offense and have led to far more high-scoring offensive shootouts. With that being said, I would like to give the readers my choices for the NFL’s most prestigious awards.
Most Valuable Player: This is possibly the hardest choice of all the awards but it is also the most important. By definition, the MVP is a player that is so valuable, that if their team were to lose them it would be catastrophic for their season. The first two names that would come to mind for most people are probably Patrick Mahomes and Todd Gurley and rightfully so. Pat Mahomes leads the league in nearly every passing category and Todd Gurley leads the league in nearly every rushing category, but statistics don’t mean everything when it comes to determining a players value. I would be hard pressed to find a person that would argue against players like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliot, or even Aaron Rodgers winning MVP. While some of these players would not be statistical leaders at their respective positions, could you imagine how terrible their teams would be without them? So while all of these players have been great, there can only be one winner and my vote goes to Todd Gurley. Sean McVay is the best young coach in the game and is nothing short of an offensive genius but Todd Gurley is the heart and soul of this undefeated Rams squad. Statistically, he leads the league in touchdowns with 15 total (11 rushing, 4 receiving) and yards from scrimmage with 1,151. Without his production the Rams offense would become one-dimensional and they would not be undefeated as they are today.
Comeback Player of the Year: Oddly enough my choice for Comeback Player of the Year has a teammate who could’ve won the award just as easily if not for this being a Qb-driven league. Coming off a torn ACL just a year ago, Deshaun Watson has proven himself as one of the best young talents in today’s NFL. After a rough 0-3 start, Deshaun Watson has led the Texans to 5 straight wins bringing them to a 5-3 record and seems to have this offense back on track to where it was last year before his injury. Watson has thrown for 15 touchdowns and ran for one more and while his passing numbers may not blow you away, his impact is obvious when watching him go to work.
Offensive Player of the Year: The easy choice here would be Patrick Mahomes but I’d like to give you a different name to chew on for Offensive Player of the Year, Adam Thielen. Thielen leads the league in both receptions (74) and yards (925) by a country mile and is 4th in the league in touchdown receptions (6). He is probably the most underrated receiver in the NFL but I believe it’s about time we start talking about Thielen when mentioning other great receivers such as Odell, Julio, Deandre, and A.J. He has already joined Calvin Johnson as the only other receiver in NFL history to have 8 straight games of 100 yards receiving and he is on pace to break the single season receptions record of 143 currently held by Marvin Harrison. Statistically, he is the best receiver in the game right now so I think it’s time we start putting some respect on Adam Thielen’s name.
Defensive Player of the Year: I won’t waste your time on this one, it’s Aaron Donald and it’s really not close. He leads the league in sacks and tackles for loss while constantly taking on double-teams and even triple-teams. He is an absolute freak of nature and even when he isn’t getting sacks he’s affecting the game in some way because of how much attention his presence on the d-line brings. Donald is showing no signs of slowing down and is currently on pace for 20 sacks, which is an insane accomplishment for any pass-rusher but even more so for an interior pass-rusher. If Donald does win DPOY he will be just the third player to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in back to back seasons, joining J.J. Watt and Lawrence Taylor.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: This is another award race that I don’t consider close at all. Saquon Barkley has been electric ever since he first stepped onto the field in his first preseason game. Despite having a terrible offensive line and facing loaded boxes each week due to Eli Manning’s poor performance, he has been stellar. He is 5th in the NFL in touchdowns and 7th in yards which immediately puts him into the conversation as an elite back with the likes of Gurley, Bell, Hunt and Gordon. I am sure people expected him to succeed based on what we saw from him in college but he is consistently dominating opposing defense both in the run and pass game, making him a constant threat wherever he is on the field.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: For this pick I am really going to have to bite the bullet and put my Raider fandom aside. I loved this guy coming out of the draft and hoped the Raiders would draft him and they had two opportunities to do so but instead elected to draft their supposed left tackle of the future. That guy is Derwin James. James has been all over the field for the Chargers, registering 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 4 tackles for loss. If those numbers don’t tell you how talented the guy is then nothing will. Sure, Darius Leonard of the Colts wouldn’t be a bad pick for DROY either but James is a just a playmaker to be blunt.
Coach of the Year: Again, I am forced to put my Raider fandom aside for this pick because my vote for Coach of the Year is Andy Reid. His ability to consistently churn out offensive juggernauts is unmatched and even though his defense has been suspect he has still managed to lead his team to a 7-1 record.