More than halfway through the NFL season, these are the players who stand out the most.
As Week 10 has come, we are officially more than halfway through the NFL season. With only seven more weeks remaining, teams will be fighting to make the playoffs, with the end goal of becoming Super Bowl LII champions.
On top of team achievements, certain individuals have risen to the top of their game, showcasing their elite status in the league. There are many new faces, and a few old ones to this list, but here are my picks for the end-of-season awards.
Comeback Player Of The Year: Jared Goff
It’s interesting to see a second-year player as a legitimate Comeback Player of the Year candidate, but Goff’s also had an interesting career thus far.
Goff was drafted as the first overall pick in 2016 in hopes of saving the Rams’ franchise. Coming out of college, he was heavily compared to former California quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is statistically one of the greatest to ever play the position.
With all the pressure on him, Goff severely underperformed in his rookie season. In the seven games he started, he had a 54.6% completion rate to go along with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. His passer rating of 63.6 was the worst of any starting quarterback by a long shot.
Coming into this season, everybody was wondering if Goff was the next big draft bust. Now, fast forward 10 weeks and Goff and new head coach Sean McVay have put together the league’s best offense. Goff is already miles above his 2016 form, with a 61.2% completion rate to go with 16 touchdowns and only four picks. After all the doubters this offseason, Goff has transformed into an MVP threat and is the most improved quarterback for the most improved team.
Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Kareem Hunt
This is probably the easiest pick, because Kareem Hunt has not only been the best rookie on offense, he’s also been one of the best players.
Hunt burst onto the scene in the Chiefs’ Week 1 game against the Patriots, in which he rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown and caught another two touchdowns and added 98 yards through the air, recording one of the best first games for a rookie ever. Hunt hasn’t slowed down either, as he is still second in the league with 800 rushing yards and leads the league with 1,131 yards from scrimmage.
Not only has Hunt put up big numbers, but he’s also been efficient while doing it. As a receiver out of the backfield, he leads all players with more than 500 yards from scrimmage with an impressive 86.5% catch rate. While rushing, Hunt has gained 5.2 yards per attempt, which is the second most of all the 500-yard running backs thus far. On a team that is one of the strongest in the league, Hunt may be their most valuable weapon as a rookie.
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Marshon Lattimore
Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been the best there is in the league, regardless of experience. According to Pro Football Focus, Lattimore ranks as the best corner in the league with a rating of 93.9.
Here, Stadium breaks down just how good Lattimore is against the pass:
Not only has Lattimore been a good individual player, but he also has single-handedly impacted the Saints’ defense. This season the Saints’ defense is tied for fourth best in the league, having only allowed 165 points. Compare that to last season, when the Saints ranked 31st in the league in points allowed (454), and it’s easy to see Lattimore’s impact.
Coach Of The Year: Sean McVay
No other coach is more deserving of this award than first-year L.A. Rams coach Sean McVay.
As the youngest head coach in the history of the NFL, McVay inherited a hapless 4-12 Rams team that ranked last in points scored and 23rd in points allowed. According to Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS), a single metric that seeks to rank each team, the Rams were 31st in the league last year.
Just nine games into the season, McVay has already transformed the 7-2 Rams into a legitimate NFC threat. The offensive-minded McVay is on pace to be the first coach in NFL history to turn a team from last to first in points scored. In addition, the team is ninth in points allowed and first in the league according to SRS, while single-handedly turning quarterback Jared Goff from a potential bust to an elite signal caller.
No rookie head coach in NFL history has had such an immediate impact on his team like McVay has had on these Rams.
Offensive Player Of The Year: Alex Smith
A few weeks ago, I would have put Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith as the clear-cut MVP favorite. However, since then, the Chiefs have lost three of their last four and no longer look like the best team in the league.
Despite the Chiefs’ recent struggles, Smith still remains the best quarterback in the league. He’s passed for 2,444 yards (fourth in the league), 18 touchdowns (fourth), and a 69.6% completion percentage (third), all contributing to his league-leading passer rating of 113.9. What separates 2017 Alex Smith from years prior is his confidence in throwing the ball downfield. Smith leads the league in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (ANY/A) with 8.24. The emergence of receiver Tyreek Hill has helped Smith improve his downfield passing.
The most impressive part of Smith’s season has been his lack of mistakes. Despite an increase in downfield passes, Smith leads the league with only one interception thrown through nine games, with his first pick coming just last week against the Cowboys. Smith has paced the league so far at the quarterback position, and if the Chiefs can rally back, he could reemerge as the MVP favorite.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Calais Campbell
A strong case could be made for Marshon Lattimore here, but it seems unlikely he’ll be named both Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year. Instead, I’m going with the best player on the best defense in the league in Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell.
Since signing with the Jaguars this offseason, Campbell has helped make this Jaguars’ pass defense one of the best in NFL history. They have allowed a league-low 1,251 passing yards and given up only four passing touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions. They have the most sacks in the league (35) by a wide margin, and Campbell is a big reason why.
Ever since recording four sacks in a season-opening victory against the Texans, Campbell has been near the top of the league in sacks, and already has 11 just nine games into the season. Campbell’s 11 sacks are already the most for the two-time Pro Bowler in a season, and the 6’8”, 282 lb. lineman appears to finally be hitting his peak.
Most Valuable Player: Carson Wentz
Wentz may not statistically be the best quarterback in the league right now, but he is certainly the most valuable player for the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
In his second season, Wentz is showing just how worthy he was for the Eagles to trade up to the second overall pick for him. He leads the league with 23 touchdown passes and has thrown only five interceptions. He owns the fourth best passer rating in the league at age 25, behind veterans Alex Smith, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.
Wentz also leads the second-best scoring offense in the league, has turned the Eagles into the team to beat in the NFC, and has more wins through nine weeks (eight) than he had all of last season (seven).
By making a surprise push to the top of the league, Wentz has become a surprise candidate for the MVP award. As long as Wentz keeps leading his team to victory, he will continue to further entrench himself in the MVP conversation.
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