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.
Each week, I’ll look at the frontrunners for each award. To kick us off, I’ll make my way-too-early predictions. Let’s go:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills. It’s been the Aaron Rodgers show each of the last two years, and it’s odd to not write about him or Tom Brady when composing a 3-pack for what generally is a QB award.
The more I look at the AFC landscape the more I think the award is coming from one of those top AFC teams. Allen enters his prime with a loaded roster and coaching staff around him. He was phenomenal in the Bills’ playoff run that ended with him watching the Chiefs score first in overtime. The MVP award has been dominated by Rodgers and Brady, but this is the season the new QB regime takes over with Allen leading the charge.
Two More To Consider: Chargers QB Justin Herbert, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans. Henry remains King, no matter what others are trying to tell you. As I wrote back in June, I don’t believe the Titans plan to use Henry any less than they did prior to his injury last October, and I don’t expect him to be any less effective.
Don’t forget: Henry won this award in 2020. While there are plenty of other candidates, especially at wide receiver, I give the nod to a healthy Henry impacting his team’s Win/Loss record more than any non-QB in the NFL.
Two More To Consider: Colts RB Jonathan Taylor, Rams WR Cooper Kupp
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers. I can’t wait to watch Bosa play this season. He’s coming off a year where he posted 19.5 sacks throughout the regular season and playoff run. He was solid against the run and routinely altered the opposing play design predicated on which side he lined up to rush the passer. And Bosa did all that coming off a 2020 ACL injury. He’s a beast, and he’s next to cash in on a mega contract this coming offseason.
Two More To Consider: Rams DT Aaron Donald, Cowboys OLB Micah Parsons
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers. I realize Mitchell Trubisky starts for the Steelers this Sunday in Cincinnati, but I get the feeling Pickett wins this award when he’s named the starter during the season.
This franchise doesn’t tank, and while Trubisky can keep them afloat, I’m betting Mike Tomlin and Co. make the change to Pickett in just enough time for him to lead the Steelers on two-month run that has Pittsburgh in AFC playoff contention by late December. Vince Young won this award in 2006 when he helped the 0-6 Titans finish 8-8. Pickett will bring that same rookie momentum.
Two More To Consider: Saints WR Chris Olave, Texans RB Dameon Pierce
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
DE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions. The Lions are building their team the correct way: inside out. Detroit’s offensive line might be the best in football. And this past April, the Lions were gifted Aiden Hutchinson, a strong, physical defensive lineman who will move across coordinator Aaron Glenn’s defensive front.
I love Hutchinson’s relentless style, and I believe he becomes Detroit’s first DROY since Ndamukong Suh, also the No. 2 overall pick, who won the award in 2010.
Two More To Consider: Texans CB Derek Stingley Jr., Chiefs DE George Karlaftis