With the first round of the 2016-2017 NFL playoffs in the books, it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming award season. And no, I’m not talking about entertainment. Merryl Streep has spent way too much time on everyone’s minds in the past few days. I’m talking about the NFL. Now in the traditional format, voters from the Associated Press cast a single vote following Week 17 of the regular season for each category, so that’s how we’re going to break it down here. One winner, no mention of a runner-up. Let’s get started.
Comeback Player of the Year: Packers WR Jordy Nelson
Nelson was simply terrific in 2016. After missing the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL suffered in a preseason game, Nelson bounced back in a major way at age 31 to lead the NFL in touchdown receptions with 14. In addition to the 14 touchdowns, he also snagged 97 passes for 1,257 yards, which all rank close to the league lead. His best stretch of the season came in November and December, when Green Bay needed to run the table in order to clinch a playoff spot. He snagged no less than six receptions per game in that span, averaged 99 yards receiving, and caught five touchdown.
No one else really comes close to Nelson for this award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chargers DE Joey Bosa
It pains me to not vote for Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey here. He looked like a top five cornerback in the last two months of the season, but Bosa was simply dominant and put up near historic numbers for a rookie pass-rusher. He performed at a notch just below some of the league’s best pass-rushers, aka Von Miller and Khalil Mack. According to Pro Football Focus, none of the league’s top edge rushers produced as rookies at the level Bosa is currently. Bosa led all rookies in sacks with 10.5, and was named defensive rookie of the month twice. Ramsey will end up being a great player, but Bosa is going to take home the hardware this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
It looks as if two former Ohio State Buckeyes will be crowned as the league’s top rookies in 2016. The following excerpt perfectly explains Elliott’s candidacy:
“Ezekiel Elliott was the game’s leading individual rusher—for both teams—in all 13 Cowboys wins this season. “His 132.9 yards from scrimmage per game this season was the highest average over the last 10 years for any player on a top-playoff-seeded team, and also the highest over the last decade for a player on a team that won at least 13 games.”
Elliott is not only one of the best rookie running backs of all-time, but one of the best running backs in the league right now. His combination of vision and power makes for an incredibly dangerous NFL running back.
Defensive Player of the Year: Giants S Landon Collins
I know that I’m probably operating in the minority with this selection. But Collins was that good in 2016. Collins lead all defensive backs in total tackles, sacks, and tied for 5th in interceptions, with five. He ended the season as the only player in NFL history to have 100+ solo tackles, 2+ sacks, 5+ INTs, 12+ pass deflections, and a touchdown. Here are the stats of the last three defensive backs to win the award:
- 2007 DPOY – Bob Sanders (S, Indianapolis Colts) – 15 games – 96 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 6 passes defensed, 2 interceptions
- 2009 DPOY – Charles Woodson (CB, Green Bay Packers) – 16 games – 74 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 18 passes defensed, 9 interceptions, 3 TDs
- 2010 DPOY – Troy Polomalu (S, Pittsburgh Steelers) – 14 games – 63 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 11 passes defensed, 7 interceptions, 1 TD
Collins has better stats than all three.
Offensive Player of the Year: Cardinals RB David Johnson
If you owned Johnson in Fantasy this season, you know how dominant he was. Yet he didn’t demand any respect among the national media.
Johnson was the first player since Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray in 2014 to accumulate over 2,000 yards per scrimmage. And Johnson did so without much less help. Arizona’s offensive line ranked as below average this season, yet Johnson became the second back ever to top 100 rushing/receiving yards in 15 straight games. Johnson finished with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns. He won’t win the award in real-life because of the team he plays on, but I think he ultimately deserves it.
Coach of the Year: Cowboys HC Jason Garrett
It doesn’t seem too long ago that the national media was calling for Garrett’s job in Dallas. Now, his team stands as the number one seed in the NFC and sitting pretty at 13-3 on the year.
It’s never easy being the coach of America’s team. Dallas is placed underneath a microscope unlike any other team because of their national popularity, but Garrett handled it with as much class and success as you could possible imagine. He started a rookie at both the quarterback and running back position and dominated almost every NFL team except the New York Giants. Many pundits didn’t think Dallas was going to have a record above .500, let alone make a playoff appearance and the number one overall seed. Garrett did a tremendous job at managing this team in the face of adversity and deserves to be rewarded.
Most Valuable Player: Falcons QB Matt Ryan
We have been waiting years for Ryan to finally have that ‘breakout’ season, and 2016 was finally the year. Here is what Football Outsiders had to say about Ryan’s candidacy for MVP:
“Matt Ryan is the MVP, and I’m sorry, it’s not really close. The award is Most Valuable Player of 2016. It’s not Most Valuable Player of All Time, and it’s not Most Valuable Player in December, and it’s not Most Valuable Player Who Doesn’t Share His Locker Room with a Very Bad Defense. Matt Ryan is the No. 1 quarterback of 2016 by almost any metric, particularly advanced metrics. No quarterback faced a harder schedule of opposing pass defenses this year; Ryan played nine games against teams ranked in the top dozen for pass defense by Football Outsiders. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are all-time greats. Matt Ryan is not. But he was the best player of the 2016 regular season.”
Ryan led the league in passer rating (117.1) and yards per attempt (9.3), and had career highs in yards (4,944) and touchdown passes (38), and a career low in interceptions (seven). Most importantly, he led Atlanta to the number two seed in the NFC and quarterbacked the best offense in football.
No other quarterback, or player, was as consistent as Ryan throughout the course of the year and had a bigger impact on their team’s overall performance. Tom Brady was magnificent but only played 12 games, Aaron Rodgers did not play well for the first four weeks of the season and Ezekiel Elliott, although terrific, played behind one of the best offensive lines of all-time. You can poke holes in almost every other candidate’s resume, except for Ryan. He’s the Cover32 2016 NFL MVP.