With the NFL Honors night just days away, here are my picks for each of the major awards.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan
Tom Brady was superb this season, breaking the all-time NFL record in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a six-game win streak to carry Green Bay into the playoffs. However, Matt Ryan’s efforts for the Atlanta Falcons earns him this award. Ryan led the Falcons offence as it became one of the most dangerous ever. Atlanta led the league in points scored with a remarkable 33.8 points per game on the back of Ryan’s superb play. Matty Ice threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, good enough for a passer rating of 117.1, the 5th highest in NFL history. He is playing on a different level right now, and has constantly got his defence out of trouble throughout the season. Without him, the Falcons would be nothing. He is the MVP this season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
Treating this award as a runner up trophy to the MVP award. After a slow start, Rodgers was superb in the final six weeks, leading the Packers on a six-game win streak and into the playoffs. He finished the season with 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. After people were questioning whether Rodgers was past his best earlier in the season, he proved everyone wrong and showed what he is capable of. He did all of this without a consistent running game and an average defence. Ryan beats him for the MVP but his year is good enough for the Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley
One of the toughest awards to pick. I would have given it to Von Miller if it weren’t for a relatively quiet last 4 weeks. I’m giving it instead to Vic Beasley. After a disappointing rookie campaign, in which he only recorded 4 sacks, Beasley bounced back strong in 2016. He finished the season with 15.5 sacks, the most in the league, as well as 6 forced fumbles. He was a constant threat rushing the quarterback off the edge, and is well deserving of this award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott
No brainer here. His teammate Dak Prescott had a fantastic season, but the immediate impact that Elliott had is second-to-none. The fourth-overall pick had an outstanding season, and was even in the discussion for the MVP award, almost unheard of for a rookie. In his just his first season, Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards with 1631 and scored 15 touchdowns. He changed the Cowboys offence, and was one of the main reasons for their 13-3 record. He very rarely ran for negative plays, averaging an extraordinary 5.1 yards per carry. In an age where teams are passing more and more, Elliott showed that the running back position is still just as important as ever.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa
After missing the first four games of the season, Bosa came into the Chargers side and made an instant impact. He had 41 tackles in 2016 and 10.5 sacks, which was the most by a rookie. His play only improved as the year went on, as he finished the season with 6.5 sacks in his last 6 games. The third overall pick looks set to be one of the leading pass rushers in the NFL for years to come.
Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett
Another tough one to select. Jack Del Rio has done an amazing job in turning the Oakland Raiders around. Dan Quinn has led the Falcons all the way to the Superbowl. Bill Belichick continues to do Bill Belichick things. But what Jason Garrett has done with the Cowboys this season is pretty amazing. After his starting quarterback went down with a serious injury, Garrett led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, first in the NFC, with a rookie starting at the most important position. Garrett deserves a lot of credit for not only making the bold decision to go with Dak Prescott, but for sticking with him when Tony Romo had recovered from injury. Both Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott had fantastic seasons, but Jason Garrett is a huge part of what the Cowboys did in 2016.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson
After missing the entire 2015 campaign with an ACL injury, Nelson got back to his devastating best in 2016. He ended the year with 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. After sorely missing him last year, Rodgers was certainly happy to have Nelson back. Nelson was a big part of Rodgers’ high level of play this season, and marked himself as one of the premier wide receivers in the league yet again.