NFL Awards Watch: Rookie Of The Year Races Heat Up

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.

JONATHAN HUTTON NFL AWARDS WATCH ARCHIVE

There’s a new leader for MVP, a close competition that feels like the vote will come down to Week 18. Micah Parsons should start looking over his shoulder for the league’s top defensive player award, while the NFL’s premier wide receiver resides in the North. I also have new leaders in both rookie categories. Let’s get to it:

NFL Awards Watch: Week 13

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

QB JALEN HURTS, Philadelphia Eagles 

Hurts led a Philly offense that threw for 380 yards against a Titans defense that had been solid all season, yet appeared helpless against the versatile Hurts. All three of his touchdown passes were at least 20 air yards, and he’s now 9 for 16 on passes into the end zone. The key for his MVP candidacy: He’s piloting an Eagles offense that passed for nearly 400 yards against the Titans a week after rushing for 363 yards against the Packers. Hurts accounted for 157 of the 363 yards on the ground and has totaled six touchdowns over the last two weeks for the 11-1 Eagles. 

Two More To Consider:

  • QB Patrick Mahomes, San Francisco 49ers. Mahomes didn’t do anything to hurt his MVP stock in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. I have Hurts receiving my vote as we enter the heart of December schedules, but Mahomes isn’t going down without a fight. He faces a schedule with only one remaining opponent boasting a winning record (Seattle).  
  • QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins. The league’s most efficient passer threw a 75-yard touchdown on the first play against the 49ers, but the San Francisco defense stymied him when it mattered most. The Dolphins posted plenty of yards, but not points. Tagovailoa completed a season-low 55 percent of his pass attempts and threw two interceptions before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Josh Allen is about to pass Tua in the MVP race. 
A Total Play In Packers Vs. Eagles
Jalen Hurts is the front runner to be named NFL MVP. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

WR JUSTIN JEFFERSON, Minnesota Vikings

The league’s most impressive wide out hauled in seven catches for 45 yards and a touchdown against a strong Jets defensive game plan. Jefferson was held in check for the majority of the game, but caught a 10-yard touchdown pass halfway through the fourth quarter against DJ Reed that ultimately led to the Vikings yet again winning a one-possession game. 

Two More To Consider:

  • WR Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins. He always produces. Hill caught nine passes for 146 and a touchdown against San Francisco.
  • WR Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs. Kelce had a rare fumble in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals and was held to four catches and 56 yards receiving. He was held out of the end zone for the first time in four games but remains second in the NFL for touchdown receptions with 12 scores.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

WR CHRISTIAN WATSON, Green Bay Packers.

Where has this version of Christian Watson been all season? He now has seven touchdowns on just 25 catches. He’s also the only rookie receiver in NFL history to score eight touchdowns in a four-game span. Randy Moss accomplished that as a veteran. I thought the Bears were actually going to beat the Packers last Sunday. Then Aaron Rodgers and Watson took over.

Two More To Consider:

  • WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints. The rookie has started eight games and leads all rookies with 60 catches for 887 yards while adding three touchdowns. He gets bonus points for producing these numbers while playing in this Saints offense. 
  • RB Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks. He missed a blitz pickup that likely led to his sideline spat with quarterback Geno Smith. The rookie had three carries for 36 yards before an ankle injury ended his day.
Aaron Rodgers has found a reliable #1 target in rookie Christian Watson. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

OLB MICAH PARSONS, Dallas Cowboys

He remains the leader, but Nick Bosa is coming on strong for the 8-4 Niners. Parsons remains at 12 sacks on the season. But that number will climb as more snaps come for Parsons on a team that leads the league in point differential. The Cowboys will be in the lead and Parsons will feast on quarterbacks forced to throw to stay on pace with the scoreboard.

Two More To Consider:

  • DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers. Tagovailoa was sacked three times, all by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Nick Bosa, who also added two tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Bosa now leads the league with 14.5 sacks, setting the tone for the most consistent front four in the NFL. Bosa disrupted Tua Tagovailoa’s spacing and timing, which resulted in his lowest completion percentage of the season. 
  • DE Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders. Crosby forced a fumble on the very first play of the game against the Chargers. Normally it would have counted as a sack, but Crosby remains at 10.5 on the season because the ball bounced beyond the line of scrimmage, resulting in a rushing attempt by Justin Herbert.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CB TARIK WOOLEN, Seattle Seahawks

The rookie is now tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions on the season, which is also a Seahawks rookie record for picks.

Two More To Consider:

  • CB Sauce Gardner, New York Jets.
  • DE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions.

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

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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