Here it is, another article to celebrate the premature coronation of players around the NFL. Naturally, this is more or less for fun and games than anything else. Any player can abruptly regress or have a meteoric rise to stardom, and that’s what this is about. As of now, these players are my picks to win awards.
MVP-Patrick Mahomes: Much like last year, the race for MVP is contentious. Todd Gurley is on pace to produce 2,302 yards from scrimmage, which would be the 11th-highest total in league history. Adam Thielen also deserves honorable mention as well, because he has already broken a record and is on pace to register 148 receptions (which would break Marvin Harrison’s record for the most ever in a season) and 1,850 yards, which would trail only Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson for the most in a season.
Philip Rivers and Drew Brees also deserve nods here; they are both on pace to have the fifth and fourth-highest passer ratings in a season, respectively.
But the Texas Tech gunslinger deserves it more than anyone. Mahomes is on pace to finish with 5,052 yards (would be just the sixth quarterback to reach 5,000 yards), 52 touchdowns (second-most ever, behind only Peyton Manning’s 55 in 2013), and the highest passing touchdown percentage (9.1%) since Aaron Rodgers in 2011. Analytics also show that is by far the best quarterback this year.
Offensive Player of the Year-Todd Gurley: Mahomes would deserve this piece of hardware as well, but you can’t get everything in this world. As previously mentioned, Gurley is on pace to have an all-time great season, and that would include winning the rushing title and scoring the second-most touchdowns from scrimmage ever in a season, behind only LaDainian Tomlinson. An argument can be made that Gurley would deserve MVP with those gaudy numbers, and that could be true. But to usurp a quarterback, a non-quarterback has to essentially set new records, and Gurley may fall just short of breaking some.
Defensive Player of the Year-Aaron Donald: Look, it might be a cop out, but consider this: Aaron Donald held out through training camp and has not missed a beat. He is on pace to finish with 20 sacks, which would not only place him tenth all-time in a season for most sacks, but he would also become just the 11th different player to ever reach that many sacks in a year. Pro Football Focus has Donald rated as the best player at his position this season. Factoring all of that in, Aaron Donald may very well win his second such award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year-Saquon Barkley: This award race isn’t much of a race, as the rookie running back ranks second among rookies in rushing (behind only Denver’s Phillip Lindsday), leads all rookies in receiving (yes, you read that correctly), and is on pace to finish with 2,032 yards from scrimmage, which would be the third-most ever for a rookie, behind only Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James.
Defensive Rookie of the Year-Darius Leonard: His name may not be that recognizable given how the Colts have fared this year, but Leonard is a machine, and that is showcased by his versatility. He has the most tackles among rookie defenders, has three forced fumbles (two recoveries), and is on pace for eight sacks. He is rated as the fifth-best linebacker in football. Derwin James and Bradley Chubb have provided admirable competition, but Leonard is in a league of his own this year.
Coach of the Year-Matt Nagy: This award easily has the most competition. Sean McVay, Anthony Lynn, Pete Carroll, Jay Gruden, Andy Reid, Bill O’Brien, and Bill Belichick can all make a compelling case that they should be the recipient of the award for the best coach. But Matt Nagy proved to be instrumental in getting Khalil Mack to come to Chicago, has accelerated the development of Mitchell Trubisky, and has the Bears sitting in first place in the NFC North, with his team primed for its first playoff appearance in eight years.
Comeback Player of the Year-Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers missed nine games last year after sustaining a broken collarbone, and isn’t even close to 100% this year with a nagging leg injury. Despite this, Rodgers is on pace for 5,218 yards, 30 touchdowns, and has just one interception on his ledger, and, as usual, has put the Packers on his back and primed for a potential playoff run. Andrew Luck provides some superb opposition for the award, and yes, Luck was out of football for nearly two years and has a lesser supporting cast. But Rodgers has performed better and has endured playing through a potential season-ending injury, and that sets them apart.
There you have it, the 2018 NFL Midseason Awards.