One of the most fun things to do every offseason is to make your picks for all of the major awards. From MVP to Defensive Player of the Year to Coach of the Year, it is always fun to try and predict the season through the lens of those awards. It is also a very difficult task. Just take it from me. Last year I thought Kyler Murray would win the MVP and Kyle Pitts would win Offensive Rookie of the Year. I was wrong. But that isn’t going to stop me from trying it again this year so here are my predictions for all of the NFL end-of-season awards along with a longshot pick just for fun (betting odds courtesy of FanDuel are also provided with each pick).
MVP: Justin Herbert +900
I am far from the only person anticipating a huge season from Herbert this year. He is a very trendy pick to emerge as a superstar and join the other quarterbacks at the top of the game. Of course, there is no better way to do that than by winning MVP. His path to winning the award is quite simple. First, he needs to win the division. By leading his team to the AFC West crown ahead of other quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Derek Carr, Herbert would stake his claim to the award. But he also needs to dominate in the box score as well. The blueprint for that is also pretty simple. It is not a stretch to assume that the Chargers will be the most productive offense in the league with Herbert at the helm. He threw for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns last year which were the second and third most in the league, respectively. If Herbert leads the league in either of those categories this year then he will be the easy pick to take home the MVP award.
Longshot: Trey Lance +2500
It may seem crazy to think about Lance winning MVP but there was a time when guys such as Mahomes and Lamar Jackson were thought of as insane MVP picks as well. There has been a recent trend of second-year quarterbacks breaking out and Lance is the best bet of last year’s rookies to follow suit. He is also surrounded by a team that already made the NFC Championship Game last year so it is not out of the realm of possibility for Lance to make the leap and lead the Niners to similar success while winning the MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Jefferson +1400
This one is always a tough one to predict because you never know how the voters will use the award. Sometimes they just give it to the same guy that wins MVP (although that has stopped recently), sometimes they give it to a great quarterback that didn’t have as much team success, and sometimes they give it to a very deserving non-quarterback. If the voters do go the latter route this year then they will have a hard time giving the award to anybody other than Jefferson. He is already breaking records just two years into his career and might be in store for the best season of his career. The main reason to expect an even bigger year from Jefferson (1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns last year) is that the Vikings’ new head coach, Kevin O’Connell, is coming over from the Los Angeles Rams. Yes, the same Rams that just had Cooper Kupp put together arguably the best season ever for a wide receiver and win the Offensive Player of the Year award himself. If Jefferson gets used in a similar way as Kupp, which is almost certainly going to happen, then he could have an equally good season. Jefferson may possess more raw talent and ability than Kupp so we could be in store for something special from the third-year wideout.
Longshot: Ja’Marr Chase +3000
If Jefferson doesn’t end up winning Offensive Player of the Year then why not give it to his former LSU teammate Chase? The second-year wide receiver is also out to a record-setting start to his career and it could end up including this award. If Chase and Burrow come out in 2022 looking even better than they did last year then it wouldn’t be surprising if Chase can rack up 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Year: Nick Bosa +1000
Bosa is a bit of a riskier pick than the three guys in front of him (Myles Garrett, TJ Watt, and Aaron Donald) but he is definitely worthy of being in that group. He was right up there with those guys in terms of production last year with 15.5 sacks, fourth in the league, and 21 tackles for loss, tied with Watt for first. And Bosa did all that coming off an injury-marred season in which he played just two games. So now he has a chance to build off of that heading into just his fourth year in the league. Team success isn’t necessarily as important to this award as others but that could be what gives Bosa the edge over the other top candidates. With the Browns and Steelers likely to miss the playoffs, you could argue that Bosa is more impactful to an actually successful team than Watt and Garrett. If the 49ers can have another great season and field another top-tier defense then Bosa has a great chance to earn some hardware.
Longshot: Jeffrey Simmons +7500
If you want another emerging young star on the defensive line then Simmons is a great option. He has already earned his place among the most dominant defensive tackles in the sport, earning an All-Pro nod last year. He is criminally underrated and clearly underpriced when it comes to Defensive Player of the Year odds. If the Titans can wreak some havoc on the defense again then it will be largely because of Simmons and he should get rewarded.
Comeback Player of the Year: Derrick Henry +500
Since this is an award with virtually no standard criteria, the best bet is to usually go with the favorite. Most of the time the winner is already decided before the season starts since it is largely based on a player’s narrative. So in that case, Henry is a good pick because he meets what seems like the loose requirements for the award. Missed some amount of time last year. Check. Is good when they do come back. Check. That is pretty much it so as long as Henry is back to being his normal self (or just at like 80 percent, which would put him on the level of other normal players) then he should win this award easily.
Longshot: JK Dobbins +3000
Again, with no clear idea of how this award is decided Dobbins is about as good of a longshot as you can get. He missed all of last year with a preseason injury, derailing what was supposed to be a breakout year for him. If he comes back healthy and experiences success in that Ravens’ backfield then he could be productive enough to be named the Comeback Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year: Matt Lafleur +2000
There are a ton of good coaches that have not won this award but no other non-winner is currently coaching better than Lafleur. A lot of the credit for the Packers’ recent success has gone to Aaron Rodgers, and deservedly so, but Lafleur also deserves some respect. He has done an incredible job at not only dealing with the eccentric Rodgers and the whole Jordan Love situation but also just coaching the Packers very well. If Green Bay can have another great year despite all the talent they have lost on offense then Lafleur should finally get his due.
Longshot: Mike Tomlin +3000
Tomlin is another coach that deserves more credit than he has received and it is absolutely criminal that he has never won this award. He has never had a losing season in Pittsburgh and if he manages to keep that streak alive then he should be the guy winning this award. Even if the Steelers don’t end up making the playoffs, Tomlin should still be rewarded for the incredible job he has done.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dameon Pierce +1100
Without a highly drafted quarterback to run away with this award, Offensive Rookie of the Year is wide open this year. So why not go with a player that is lined up to be the starting running back for the Texans? Pierce may not have as much talent around him as some other rookies but he will certainly get a bunch of touches and be given ample opportunity to produce. Not only does Pierce have the starting role all to himself but he is also just a really good running back. He has already impressed early on in training camp and preseason so the talent is clearly there. If Pierce can get to the 1,000-yard mark, even if it is done a bit inefficiently, then he has a very good chance to end up winning the award.
Longshot: Alec Pierce +5000
Maybe it’s just something with the last name but I also think this Pierce has a good shot at winning the award. If everything goes right for Pierce then he will be the number two option in an offense led by Matt Ryan, which would put him in a better position to succeed than just about every other rookie receiver. If the first-year quarterbacks and running backs struggle and Pierce leads all rookies in receiving yards, which I expect to happen, then he will probably end up winning the award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aidan Hutchinson +420
Yes, I am actually going with the favorite on this one but before you call me a coward let me explain myself. Sacks are the best way to impress the voters for any defensive award, and Hutchinson will certainly rack up more sacks than any other rookie. Hutchinson will be a starting defensive end for the Lions and will have a ton of chances to rush the quarterback on passing downs. And since he is arguably the best pass-rusher in this rookie class it makes sense that we will rack up the most sacks of the bunch. He also has the type of personality to deserve some recognition as a rookie and is a great story as a hometown kid playing in Detroit.
Longshot: Malcolm Rodriguez +6000
Yes, I am picking another Lion but anyone else watching Hard Knocks this year knows the impact that the rookie nicknamed “Rodrigo” has made already. The best way other than sacks to impress the voters is to record a bunch of tackles, which Rodriguez can definitely do. If the day-three pick can earn a starting spot in the middle of the Detroit defense then he will have as good a chance as any other rookie linebacker to end up with the award.