NFL Awards Watch: Lamar Jackson Emerges In MVP Race; Micah Parsons Still Unblockable

Welcome to NFL Awards Watch, my weekly column that will take a look at the five major awards handed out in the NFL: MVP; Offensive and Defensive Player Of The Year; and Offensive and Defensive Rookie Of The Year.

Week 3 produced great performances by some of the best young talent in the league. I’ll start with MVP, where each of my three contenders are beating defenses through the air and on the ground. Let’s get to it:

NFL AWARDS WATCH WEEK 3

nfl awards
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons. (Getty Images)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER 

QB LAMAR JACKSON, Baltimore Ravens

The former MVP is the best player in the league through three weeks. Not a surprise, Lamar Jackson ranks fourth in the league in rushing with 243 yards, and that’s after barely running with the ball in Week 1.

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson scrambles out of trouble. The Ravens beat the New England Patriots, 37-26. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman now has a QB who can stand and deliver from the pocket. Jackson has thrown 88% of his passes from the pocket, completing 66% of those passes for nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s locked in. He’s thrown seven touchdown passes in the last two games and has had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.

I love how Jackson bet on himself instead of taking the guaranteed money the Ravens offered him three weeks ago. While he’s been ridiculed for representing himself in the negotiations, he’s played it perfectly as long as he stays healthy. That’s the big risk, but it comes with a massive reward if he continues to play at this rate moving forward.

Two More To Consider

  • QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles 
    • Here was Hurts’ stat line when Philly finished the first half with a commanding lead over Washington: 18/27, 279 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs. He’s on the verge of superstar status and he’s doing it in a ‘prove it’ season where not many predicted he’d take advantage of the arsenal around him. He’s also making the players around him better. That’s a true sign he can be a franchise quarterback. The Eagles wanted Deshaun Watson at this time last year. Instead they’re witnessing a difference maker emerge on a big stage.
  • QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
    • He’s remains a favorite to win the award despite a Sunday in Miami where the Bills possessed the ball for more than 40 minutes and ran 90 plays but posted only 19 points. Allen passed for over 400 yards and two touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

RB SAQUON BARKLEY, New York Giants 

Barkley sits atop the offensive category this week because his team is 2-1 and he’s the biggest reason why. The Giants RB leads the NFC in rushing and is averaging 105 yards per game.

saquon barkley
New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley (26) rushes for a TD against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 26, 2022. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

In the loss to the Cowboys, Barkley took off for a 36-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to give the Giants a lead, packing a punch for the New York offense no one else on the roster can offer.

His 14-carry, 130-yard performance stands out from Monday night, but it’s flashing in neon when you consider he’s putting up those numbers against a loaded box and behind a bad offensive line.

Two More To Consider

  • WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles 
    • From his circus catch at the 1-yard line to his first half stat line of 7 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown, Smith was as unstoppable as any wide receiver in the league last Sunday. He averaged 21 yards per reception as the Eagles handled the Commanders.
  • RB Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
    • Chubb leads the league in rushing with 341 yards through three games. Behind him: Barkley and Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson. They represent the only players who have topped 300 yards rushing, and Chubb has been the most consistent of the bunch, rushing for no less that 87 yards to begin the season while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. There are 14 games remaining in the regular season. If the Browns are within reach of a wild-card spot in December as Deshaun Watson makes his Cleveland QB debut it will be because Chubb continues his dominance from the Browns backfield.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

LB MICAH PARSONS, Dallas Cowboys 

Parsons is the best thing going for the Cowboys right now.

Micah Parsons
Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons (11) runs against Hayden Hurst (88) of the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 18, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

He’s routinely wrecking plays. I believe he’s the most dominant player in the league right now because he’s a mismatch for any player on any offense trying to slow him down.

Two More To Consider

  • DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers 
    • He’s being double teamed more than any edge rusher in the NFL. It’s not working. Bosa sacked Russell Wilson for a 9-yard loss on Sunday and it took him just 2.5 seconds to drop the Broncos QB.
  • OLB TJ Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers 
    • Pittsburgh is now 0-6-1 without Watt in the lineup. They’re just average defensively without him, hitting the opposing quarterback only seven times in the two games Pittsburgh has played since his pectoral injury. That’s not nearly enough pressure.

ROOKIE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

LB DEVIN LLOYD, Jacksonville Jaguars

The first-round pick out of Utah covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Lloyd plays the run well, but also can drop and cover intended wideouts or tailbacks.

DEVIN LLOYD
Devin Lloyd (33) of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 25, 2022, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

He picked off his second pass of the season last week, something we should expect to continue. Lloyd is a difference maker for the Jacksonville defense despite missing the majority of training camp and preseason games due to a hamstring injury. He leads all rookies in total tackles with 17.

Two More To Consider


ROOKIE OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

WR CHRIS OLAVE, New Orleans Saints

He’s already being used as a top option in the Saints offense and I expect to see him targeted even more due to Michael Thomas’ foot issue.

Chris Olave
Chris Olave (12) of the New Orleans Saints catches a pass against CJ Henderson (24) of the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 25, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Olave caught 9-of-13 targets for 147 yards Sunday against the Panthers, and he’s in the Top 10 for receiving yards for all NFL wideouts.

I love when a team uses a top pick on a wide receiver and then actually gets him the football. It doesn’t happen across the league, but Pete Carmichael has Olave producing even in games where the rest of the offense struggles to find momentum. Pay attention to Olave if the Saints decide to make a quarterback change in the near future.

Two More To Consider


Jonathan Hutton is the host of OutKick 360 and will write weekly about NFL awards. Follow Hutton on Twitter and email him here.

Written by Jonathan Hutton

Jonathan Hutton hosts OutKick 360 each weekday afternoon. He spent 16 seasons as the gameday host and sideline reporter for the Tennessee Titans Radio Network and covered the biggest NFL events. Follow @HuttonOutKick on Twitter/Instagram.

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