Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
After Carolina’s extremely disappointing performance last season, McCaffrey should be a breath of fresh air for the squad. A modern-day every down running back, McCaffrey is equally explosive as a rusher or receiver.
Cam Newton hasn’t had a weapon of McCaffrey’s caliber throughout his career, and should have no trouble utilizing him. Jonathan Stewart may poach some goal-line opportunities, but the Stanford product will still have 250 touches and 1,500 total yards in 2017, which will be more than enough to take home this award.
Runner-Up: DeShaun Watson – Houston Texans
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jabrill Peppers – Cleveland Browns
Much like the NBA, the NFL is beginning to adopt the position-less player mindset. In Peppers, the Cleveland Browns simply selected a football player. At 6’1”, 214 pounds, Peppers can play linebacker or safety, as his tremendous versatility is something the Browns should have no problem putting to use. Peppers will line up all over the field – including returning punts and kick-offs – and should have no problem making his presence felt. Fellow Browns teammate and No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett might be stealing most of the spotlight entering the season, but it’ll be Peppers who walks home with the award.
Runner-Up: T.J. Watt – Pittsburgh Steelers
Offensive Player of the Year: Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’Veon Bell made a BIG bet on himself this offseason. Instead of signing a five-year deal averaging more than $12 million per season, Bell signed a one-year franchise tag for $12.12 million in hopes of signing a more lucrative deal during the 2018 offseason. That vote of confidence will carry through the regular season, as Bell is poised to put together one of the best statistical seasons by a running back in NFL history.
Assuming he stays healthy, Bell is a virtual lock to eclipse 2,000 total yards and 12 touchdowns (last season he had 1,884 yards in 12 games). With the Steelers looking like New England’s biggest challenger in the AFC, Bell’s prolific season will be capped off with this award.
Runner-Up: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller – Denver Broncos
Von Miller came up one point short during the voting process of winning his first Defensive Player of the Year award last season. Don’t think for a second that the Broncos’ freakish pass rusher has forgotten about this fact. Despite consistently facing double and triple teams, Miller finds a way to wreak havoc against the run and get to the quarterback.
At 6’3”, 250 pounds, Miller combines tremendous speed, instincts, flexibility and pass-rushing moves to give opposing offensive linemen nightmares. Expect the Super Bowl 50 MVP to lead the league in sacks en route to this prestigious award.
Runner-Up: J.J. Watt – Houston Texans
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt – Houston Texans
A three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner, Houston’s Watt looks to return with a vengeance in 2017. Watt only suited up for three games last year due to a back injury, but all reports are signaling that he will be ready to go this season. The development of teammate Jadeveon Clowney will only help Watt get more one-on-ones on the outside, directly helping out his sack total.
The Comeback Player award typically goes to a player that faced an injury-shortened season the year prior and bounces back to an elite level, and there’s no reason to believe Watt won’t be productive if he suits up for the majority of the year.
Runner-Up: Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
Coach of the Year: Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers
The rookie coach looks to make a big impact on his new team this year. A new city will be home for the Chargers in 2017, as Lynn inherits a talented group of players on the cusp of making the playoffs. No AP NFL Coach of the Year has won single digit games since Jimmy Johnson in 1990, so Lynn’s squad will need to hit the 10-win benchmark to have much of a chance at this award.
Los Angeles will have star receiver Keenan Allen back, Joey Bosa and Jason Verrett for a full season, and a gifted backfield that includes the gutsy Phillip Rivers and the dynamic Melvin Gordon. Even in a tough AFC West, the Chargers are primed for some postseason action behind Lynn’s coaching.
Runner-Up: Mike Mularkey – Tennessee Titans
Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
The usual suspects will be involved in this race – Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and the like – but it’s going to be the Packers signal caller that ends up clinching this award for the third time in his career. Green Bay has put together the best supporting casts since their last trip to the Super Bowl. Rodgers will have a strong assortment of offensive weapons including Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Randall Cobb and the newly signed Martellus Bennett.
Rodgers was virtually unstoppable at the end of last season, even with a defunct rushing attack and an abysmal defense. This team goes as far as A-Rod takes them. He’ll cap off another trip to the playoffs by throwing for over 5,000 yards and 40-plus touchdowns.
Runner-Up: Tom Brady – New England Patriots
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