Last week, I predicted the All-Pro teams. The major awards are a lot easier to predict because most of the candidates are constantly talked about in the media. However, there are many awards where the races are tight, especially the rookie of the year awards. Here are my picks for the 2018 NFL awards:
MVP: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs QB)
As tough as it is to not pick Drew Brees to win his first MVP, Patrick Mahomes truly earned the award this year. In his first season as a starter, he incredibly joined Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to throw for 50 touchdowns. He also threw only 12 interceptions to go with those touchdowns and finished the season with over 5,000 yards passing. What Mahomes has done is nothing short of incredible; while Brees was extremely efficient this season, the offense’s lull at Dallas and at Carolina knocks him down a peg. The MVP could go either way, but Mahomes seems to have a slight edge.
Others in the race: Drew Brees (Saints), Aaron Donald (Rams)
OPOY: Drew Brees (Saints QB)
The Offensive Player of the Year award typically goes to the best non-quarterback in the league. However, Brees and Mahomes were so brilliant this year that whichever one does not win the MVP needs to have his season recognized with at least an OPOY award. It would be unfortunate if Brees, who threw a masterful 32 touchdowns and five interceptions, to go along with completing a record 74.4 percent of his passes, ends up with no hardware this season. If not a quarterback, this award could go to Todd Gurley.
Others in the race: Todd Gurley (Rams), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
DPOY: Aaron Donald (Rams DT)
Of all the 2018 NFL awards, this is the only easy one to pick. Aaron Donald had 20.5 sacks this season which is absolutely unheard of for an interior lineman. The fact that he was two sacks away from the all-time record as a defensive tackle/ 3-4 defensive end is mind-blowing. Donald ran away with this award in the second half of the season, with 10.5 sacks and 24 QB hits in the last ten games. Not only was Donald a beast rushing the passer, but he also was still a monster in the run game with a league-leading 25 tackles for loss on the season. Aaron Donald is already the best interior lineman ever. At this pace, he will end up as at least a top three defensive player of all time.
Others in the race: JJ Watt (Texans), Fletcher Cox (Eagles)
OROY: Saquon Barkley (Giants RB)
Saquon Barkley became just the third player in NFL history to have 2,000 yards from scrimmage as a rookie. By joining Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson and All-Pro Edgerrin James in that category, Saquon also became the 2018 NFL leader for scrimmage yards. He was the reason that the Giants were even competitive in most of their games. The more New York game Barkley the ball, the higher the chance they had of winning; it was that simple. Baker Mayfield may receive a lot of votes because he is a quarterback and helped bring some wins to Cleveland. But while Mayfield was probably the best rookie quarterback in the NFL, Barkley has an argument for being the best running back overall.
Others in the race: Baker Mayfield (Browns), Philip Lindsay (Broncos), Quenton Nelson (Colts)
DROY: Darius Leonard (Colts LB)
In a matter of weeks, Darius Leonard went from a second-round pick with upside to one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He finished the season with a league-leading 163 total tackles and 111 solo tackles. He also broke the Colts franchise record for total tackles. This race is tight between Leonard and Chargers safety Derwin James, but the Colts linebacker gets the edge because he adds seven sacks, eight QB hits and four forced fumbles, which are great numbers for a primary coverage/tackling linebacker. James also had stronger players around him such as Casey Hawyard, Desmond King, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. On the other hand, Darius Leonard was the main defensive playmaker for Indianapolis.
Others in the race: Derwin James (Chargers), Bradley Chubb (Broncos)
Comeback Player of the Year: JJ Watt (Texans DE)
This is essentially a two-horse race at this point, as JJ Watt and Andrew Luck are both playing extremely well right now. Watt gets the edge because he is coming off two separate injuries in back to back season and is also playing slightly higher level. The former three-time defensive player of the year ended the season with 16 sacks, 25 QB hits, 18 tackles for loss and a league-leading 7 forced fumbles. If it weren’t for Donald’s incredible dominance, Watt would be getting consideration for a fourth DPOY award.
Others in the race: Andrew Luck (Colts), Deshaun Watson (Texans)
COY: Matt Nagy (Bears)
Matt Nagy, as a first-year head coach, led his team to a 12-4 record and an NFC North division title. He has made a great impact on second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky who looks a lot more poised this year than last. Adding Khalil Mack to an already very good defense was helpful for Nagy, but it doesn’t take away from the coach’s creativity on the offensive side of the ball (for example, having Trubisky throw TDs to D-linemen or linebackers). Anthony Lynn also did a great job with the Chargers, but his team has a lot more talent overall than the Bears do.
Others in the race: Anthony Lynn (Chargers), Frank Reich (Colts), Pete Carroll (Seahawks)
Executive of the Year: Chris Ballard (Colts)
After dealing with the sudden withdrawal of Josh McDaniels from the head coaching position, Ballard had to hire another HC. He chose Frank Reich, the former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator. Reich currently looks like a great hire and is taking Indy to the playoffs in his first season.
Ballard’s great 2018 draft also helped with that. He took Pro Bowl guard Quenton Nelson in the first round, a terrific pick. Then, he selected solid starting right tackle Braden Smith and the aforementioned Darius Leonard with back to back picks at the top of the second round. He also drafted Tyquan Lewis in the second round, a contributor on the defensive line and took running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins later in the draft; both those running backs are in the rotation and were key for this team when Marlon Mack was injured. Not to mention, sixth-round pick Deon Cain went on IR before the season started and he has a chance to be a great number two receiver behind TY Hilton.
Others in the race: Ryan Pace (Bears), John Dorsey (Browns)
Featured image by ClutchPoints
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