As we come a week away from the new NFL season, it seems as if everyone’s been making early predictions on award winners. Naturally, I decided to join in on the fun.
The format covers the 7 main awards: Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year. Each category will have a winner (Thanks, Captain Obvious!) and 6 honorable mentions. Why 6 honorable mentions? Your guess is as good as mine.
Finally, for the sake of visual entertainment, I’ll be presenting these awards with my style of charts. Now let’s cut to the chase. I give you the 2015 NFL Season Awards: Brick Wall Blitz Edition.
Most Valuable Player: Andrew Luck (QB: Indianapolis Colts)
Over the last couple of months, several MVP candidate QBs witnessed sudden changes to either them or their rosters. Aaron Rodgers lost Jordy Nelson for the entire 2015 season. Ben Roethliserger is without Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant for a short amount of time. Tony Romo witnessed DeMarco Murray sign with the Eagles. Future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees have seen their skill sets decline, or in technical terms, “they’ve gotten old.”
That’s where Andrew Luck came. Coming off a season with monster production, Luck has done an outstanding job of carrying a flawed Colts team into the playoffs in all 3 of his seasons. His accuracy and arm strength on the big-time plays is ahead of what his peers are currently doing, and he led the 2014 season in deep ball yards. All of this is happening in spite of a bad offensive line, a shaky run game, inconsistent receivers (outside T.Y. Hilton), little defensive support, and poor coaching.
2015 features Luck’s best supporting cast, though he still lacks a proper offensive line. Still, this is a QB who has continued to progress as he gets older, and there wouldn’t be any surprises if he wins the MVP award.
Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown (WR: Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Pittsburgh Steelers featured one of 2014’s most explosive offenses, with Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown all playing at an elite level. As you might expect, choosing the OPOY award between all 3 players was difficult.
Ultimately, I chose Antonio Brown. With Jordy Nelson’s injury, Brown is the best active route runner in the league. I realize I say a lot of receivers can gain good separation, but Brown just about makes it look too easy at times, and he gives Big Ben a 50/50 risk as well.
Antonio’s work effort has been put week in and week out, and he’s finally getting the top 5 recognition he deserves. Due to the suspensions of Bell and Martavis Bryant, we look to see Big Ben targeting Brown more often than before. Defenses may feast on this predictable pattern, but given Brown’s track record, we should still have high expectations of his 2015 season.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt (DE: Houston Texans)
You could have seen this coming from a mile away. Arguably the best player today, J.J. Watt transcends his position like no other. His rare talent allows him to create quick pressure on QBs, and when was the last time a defensive end became a sack master?
Watt is so tough to guard that he only had 1 game last year in which he did not record a single QB hit. This takes extremely elite play to achieve, and the defensive end has done that, and then some. We’re looking at perhaps the best defensive player since Reggie White, and the face of the Houston Texans has playing ridiculously consistent since his 2011 rookie season.
There’s little argument against him winning his 3rd Defensive Player of the Year Award. Actually, there should be zero argument.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Nelson Agholor (WR: Philadelphia Eagles)
The hype for this category usually goes to Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, or Amari Cooper. Personally, I see Nelson Agholor winning it this year. Agholor himself is a very talented receiver, combining top-notch speed with a 50/50 option the Eagles desperately need. He also gives them a solid return option as well.
Combine that with Chip Kelly’s ability to maximize the quality of his players, and the possibilities are endless. This is a case where a rookie is in the best situation possible, and yet his quality of talent also benefits the coach he’s playing under. As a result, we could see a terrific rookie season from the USC WR.
And I’m not just saying that because he’s on my fantasy roster.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Vic Beasley (DE: Atlanta Falcons)
In 2014, the Atlanta Falcons defense was awful. Maybe not 2012 New Orleans Saints terrible, but closer to 2013 Dallas Cowboys terrible, giving up the 27th most points and finished dead last in yards allowed.
With the arrival of Clemson’s Vic Beasley, the Falcons have now addressed their pass rushing woes. Beasley was a highly rated prospect heading into the 2015 draft, and under former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, should be able to mirror Nelson Agholor in Philadelphia, arriving in the best situation possible (though we’ll see if Quinn can improve the defense or is a product of Pete Carroll).
Beasley also gives Atlanta an option to create pressure and sacks, as the Falcons ranked 30th in the latter category according to Bleacher Report’s Cian Fahey.
Beasley also possesses terrific vision, capable of standing like a snake in the grass at certain situations before attacking, as well as using his mentality and focus to create J.J. Watt-esque pressures. It’s perfect for ATL, Georgia, and it all adds up to a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign.
Comeback Player of the Year: Sam Bradford (QB: Philadelphia Eagles)
Perhaps the most misinterpreted first round QB in the modern NFL, Sam Bradford’s career has been a mess. The promise he gave in his 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year winning debut was washed away by incompetent receivers, bad pass protection, and a shoddy run game. The fact that he couldn’t stay healthy ruined matters as well, this including a season ending ACL injury in the 2014 preseason.
Earlier in 2015, the Rams traded Bradford to the Eagles along with a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft for Nick Foles and a 2016 2nd round pick, in a move that initially bashed the Eagles. Time heals, though, and now all of a sudden, the trade has been looked at in a more enthusiastic way.
Chip Kelly may finally have the perfect QB for his system.
While not Marcus Mariota, Bradford possesses excellent arm strength and surprising deep ball accuracy, capable of being on target when given enough time to throw. With a solid run game in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews, a talented receiving core in Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor, and the best offensive line/coaching he’s ever had, we’ll finally be able to see what Bradford does when the stakes are right for him.
The former Heisman winner has already played really well in the preseason, including a Week 3 performance where he completed 10/10 passes for 121 yards and 3 TDs. Thus, his 2015 campaign is one of the most anticipated when it comes to active QBs.
Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles)
We should be giving Chip Kelly this award NOW for having the balls to release Tim Tebow.
All jokes aside, Kelly has done wonders in his first 2 seasons, maximizing the play of mediocre talent such as Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez, and Nick Foles. In retrospect, Ron Rivera stole Chip Kelly’s 2013 Coach of the Year award, because Foles’ 27-2 TD-INT ratio that year turned out to be the flukiest of flukes. Kelly’s system relies on short passes and stretching the field with getting open easily, calling as many plays as possible along the way.
With Bradford at QB, Chip Kelly has a very strong talent in a terrific situation. With a capable veteran, Kelly’s risk just might pay off and give the Eagles an actual Dream Team. It also gives him the chance to be the official Chip of the NFL.
Thanks for reading, and let’s enjoy this upcoming season with style.