The NFL season is a 17-week whirlwind, and there’s no easier way to understand this than taking a look at these midseason awards. After breaking down these same categories at the quarter-season point, it’s easy to see plenty has changed over the past five weeks. From Tom Brady’s dominance to Minnesota’s collapse to the emergence of Dallas and Oakland as Super Bowl contenders, let’s take a look at who would take home the hardware if the season ended today.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
Quarter-season pick: Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Not to take anything away from Dak Prescott, who has been an absolute revelation for Dallas, but the true superstar of the Cowboys’ offense is undoubtedly Ezekiel Elliott. Playing behind the best offensive line in the league certainly helps, but even the Cowboys couldn’t have expected Elliott to be this good, this soon. The Ohio State alum has already established himself as one of the premier backs in the NFL, leading the league in rushing (891 yards), 20+ yard runs (7) and first downs (51). Elliott is on pace for 1,782 rushing yards this season, which would be the second most by a rookie in NFL history, and only 26 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s record set in 1983. If Elliott comes anywhere close to Dickerson’s record, he’ll be a no-brainer for this award.
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Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jalen Ramsey – Jacksonville Jaguars
Quarter-season pick: Yannick Ngakoue – Jacksonville Jaguars
Joey Bosa has looked great for the San Diego Chargers, but after missing the first four games and now playing on a limited snap count, he hasn’t made the same impact Jalen Ramsey has for the Jaguars. Ramsey was set to play slot corner for Jacksonville at the beginning of the season, but after playing so well, the former Seminole has replaced Davon House as an every-down cornerback. Even more impressively, Ramsey has done well in the role, with most teams electing to target Jacksonville’s other corner, Prince Amukamara. Jacksonville has underachieved this year, but they have to be excited about Ramsey’s potential as the league’s next shutdown corner.
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Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio – Oakland Raiders
Quarter-season pick: Mike Zimmer – Minnesota Vikings
There was plenty of hype surrounding the Raiders entering 2016, but few could have expected Oakland to be sitting at 7-2 atop the AFC West division. In only his second season with the Raiders, Del Rio has created an explosive offense and a bend-don’t-break defense. With the defensive side of the ball being Del Rio’s specialty, the Khalil Mack-led unit should only improve as the season progresses. A perfect 5-0 on the road and sitting only a half game back of the New England Patriots for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, Jack Del Rio certainly deserves some recognition.
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Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
Quarter-season pick: Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Arizona is a disappointing 3-4-1 this season, and the team's record would be even worse if not for David Johnson's brilliance. The running back is responsible for an absurd 35.3 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage, proving to be equally dynamic as a rusher or receiver. Johnson has already compiled 1,112 yards and 8 touchdowns through eight games, and should continue to help open things up for Arizona’s vaunted aerial attack. A second half surge by the Cardinals would all but guarantee this award for their bellcow back.
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Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller – Denver Broncos
Quarter-season pick: Von Miller – Denver Broncos
After signing the richest deal for a defensive player in NFL history this past offseason, many were concerned Miller would become complacent. Those skeptics were proven wrong quickly, as Miller looks better and more disruptive than ever. The 6-year veteran leads the league with 9.5 sacks and is the undisputed leader of Denver’s impenetrable defense. With Denver at 6-3 and in the mix for a second straight Lombardi Trophy, Miller looks primed to take home this award for the first time in his career.
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Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Quarter-season pick: Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons
After eight good, but not great seasons with the Falcons, Matt Ryan is putting together a career year in his ninth. He has turned Atlanta into the most dangerous offense in the NFL, and is leading the league in passing yards (2,980) and passing touchdowns (23). Ryan also ranks second in yards per attempt (9.52) and third in completion percentage (69.6). Leading his Falcons to a 6-3 record and a 1.5 game lead atop the NFC South, no player has been more valuable to his team at the halfway mark.
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