Midseason Awards: New Season, New Studs
This year of football could go down as being one of the greatest season yet. No fans, no cheering, no noise; just pure, hard-nosed, gritty football. Just with COVID alone, we are seeing some new players shine, and some old ones fold. Do I need to say more? Here are your NFL 2020 Midseason Award Winners:
Photo: Arizona Sports
*These are based on my personal projections and feelings as to how the results will FINISH, not where they are ranked currently*
Comeback Player of the Year: Aldon Smith - Edge Rusher - Dallas Cowboys
Runner up: David Andrews - Center - New England Patriots
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Queen - Linebacker - Baltimore Ravens
Runner up: Chase Young - Defensive End - Washington Football Team
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert - Quarterback - Los Angeles Chargers
Runner up: Joe Burrow - Quarterback - Cincinnati Bengals
Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett - Defensive End - Cleveland Browns
Runner up: TJ Watt - Outside Linebacker/Edge Rusher - Pittsburgh Steelers
Offensive Player of the Year: Dalvin Cook - Running Back - Minnesota Vikings
Runner up: DK Metcalf - Wide Receiver - Seattle Seahawks
Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin - Pittsburgh Steelers
Runner up: Matt LaFleur - Green Bay Packers
Most Valuable Player: Kyler Murray - Quarterback - Arizona Cardinals
Runner up: Patrick Mahomes - Quarterback - Kansas City Chiefs
Let's break down each award one by one.
CPOY- Aldon Smith is the clear cut winner for this award. After missing the previous four seasons due to off the field concerns, he finally has made his way back and is slowly working towards his terrorizing days of old. In his first two seasons, Aldon racked up 33.5 sacks, the most ever over a player's first two seasons. Since then, he's run into drug & alcohol related setbacks and has since entered rehabilitation. His comeback has been highly anticipated this season and his play has backed it up. He has shown glimpses of his former dominance in the trenches, tallying 5 sacks (more than touted rookie Chase Young and future Hall of Famer JJ Watt), 9 QB hits, 37 total tackles, and 2 pass deflections. Anyone going through recovery can look to Aldon as a beacon of light. His play has inspired many and will continue to be a centerpiece to those who have faced similar struggles.
Last season, I was shocked Travis Frederick, the former All-Pro center for the Cowboys, did not receive the award after complications with Guillain–Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks one's nerves. This disease forced him to miss the entire 2018 season. In a similar scenario, David Andrews, the center for the New England Patriots, sat out all of 2019 after blood clots were found in his lungs. David Andrews has had a solid season, and is only missing out on this award due to Aldon Smith missing more time. Both candidates are equally deserving of this award; hopefully we see this split at the NFL Honors.
DROY- Patrick Queen has been lights out this season. The Ravens rookie has been all over the football, making 52 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and scoring 1 TD. I expect he will have one or two interceptions before the year is over, as well as a few more sacks as well. As for the runner up, Chase Young, he has been great, but inconsistent. After coming out hot in Week 1, where he sacked Carson Wentz 1.5 times, he has started to fade out, only picking up two additional sacks. Granted, he's missed two games with an injury and has been the main focus for opposing blocking schemes; but you would expect more out of the second overall draft pick.
OROY- This one was tough, but based on projections and current playing ability, Justin Herbert gets the edge on this one. After taking over in Week 2, Herbert has lit up the air with his precision passing and pocket mobility. Below is a table comparing Herbert's and Burrow's stats throughout this season:
Source: Fantasy Pros
Although Burrow has more yards and more completions, Herbert is significantly better in every other category, and has played better on a play by play basis. Burrow needs to step his game up in order to catch Herbert, and even then, I believe it is already too late for Joe.
DPOY- Myles Garrett has been on a redemption mission since day 1. Garrett's play hasn't missed a beat and is, arguably, better than it was last season, despite missing valuable playing time in the last six games of the previous season. So far, he has brought down opposing QBs 9 times, forced 4 fumbles and recovered 2, and has 5 tackles for loss. The only other player remotely close to Garrett's production is TJ Watt. TJ has had a great season so far, he has 7 sacks, 6 pass deflections, 14 tackles for loss, an interception, and 24 QB hits. He has yet to force a fumble, which is concerning given he forced eight a season ago. If TJ's production increases, he may steal this award from Garrett.
OPOY- Dalvin Cook. What a journey he's had. After missing most of his first two seasons, he has put the league on notice and has put his name in the "Best Running Back in the League" conversation. Despite only playing on 59.2% of the Vikings offensive snaps and missing a game and a half this year, he leads the league in rushing yards with 858 and rushing TDs with 12. In addition, he has hauled in 16 receptions for 173 yards and a TD. Cook, by far, has had the most production per play out of any player in the league, and it's not even close. In comparison, Derrick Henry, who is just behind Cook in yards with 843, has played 64.5% of the Titans offensive snaps. Snap for snap, Cook has played on 290 snaps, while Henry has played on 344 snaps. Easy to see why Cook is the clear OPOY. If anyone is close, and I'm excluding QBs or possible MVP candidates because I personally think it's stupid to name the same player OPOY and MVP, it's DK Metcalf. He has been playing on another level this season. Like Cook, he is now in the "Best Receiver in the League" conversation. Even with a low-production game against the Cardinals, DK has put up 43 receptions for 788 yards, 8 TDs, and 33 first downs. Yes, Russell Wilson is his QB, Tyler Lockett is on the opposite side, but despite that, he has made plays that are solely his responsibility. He beat last season's DPOY, Stephon Gilmore, multiple times, including a long TD. He chased down Budda Baker, who had a solid 10-15 yards on him, and saved a TD. He has laid the wood to defenders when asked to block, and has burnt DBs just a few plays later. I would expect him to break records in receiving TDs and yards in a season at some point in his career, and he may go down as one of the best receivers in NFL history if his production trend continues.
COY- Mike Tomlin has done a great job rallying this team back to greatness. A year ago, they were plagued with injuries and still managed to fight for an 8-8 record. This year, with most of their roster fully healed, they are the only undefeated team in the league at 8-0 and have taken down juggernauts like the Ravens, Titans, and Browns. The offense is firing off on all cylinders with Big Ben back at the helm, and breakout studs such as Diontae Johnson, James Conner, and the second round gem Chase Claypool lighting up the turf. In addition, Mike Tomlin now has more wins than any other black head coach in NFL history, as well as 14 straight non-losing seasons to start his coaching career. Matt Lafleur, who I believe should have won the award last year, has proven that he can do more with less. With only one stud receiver, a defense filled with rag tag players, and a beaten up running back group, Matt has shown he can hang with the best of them and call games almost perfectly.
Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette
MVP- Kyler Murray has grown leaps and bounds from his rookie season. Call me biased, but no one can deny that Kyler deserves to be in the MVP conversation. After stunning the Seahawks on Sunday Night in Week 7, to posting a near perfect passer rating against a good Dolphins defense a game later in Week 9, all while running the ball better than any other QB in the league, it's easy to see why he should win the award. If you still aren't convinced, let's take a look at Lamar Jackson's stats from the first half of 2019 and compare them to Kyler Murray's stats through 2020:
Lamar Jackson: 2,450 total yards, 17 total touchdowns, 73.7 total QBR
Kyler Murray: 2,673 total yards, 24 total touchdowns, 77.0 total QBR
I should remind everyone that Lamar Jackson won the 2019 MVP award unanimously. It should be noted that Lamar did turn the ball over less than Kyler, but we've seen big time numbers in turnovers from MVP winners before (Peyton Manning in 2009, 18 total turnovers)
This may come as a shock to some, but I actually have Patrick Mahomes higher than Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers on my MVP watchlist. Mahomes has had another stellar season, having four games above a 120 passer rating and only two games below 100. Along with throwing only 1 interception, he has also made magical plays happen in situations where the ball should be picked off. His deep ball is better than ever, and he has posted his best completion percentage of his career at 66.9%. With the addition of Le'Veon Bell, even though he hasn't been used all that much, expect his passing numbers to increase at a higher rate than normal.
Stat Source: Pro Football Reference
It will be interesting to see how these awards play out as the season progresses. Next, I will list who I believe is deserving of making the All-Pro First and Second Teams. Similar to what was stated above, Associated Press will award some players an award twice or will list them on the First and Second teams at different positions. Don't expect that here, you either make the list once or you don't make it at all.
First Team All Pro:
QB - Patrick Mahomes - Kansas City Chiefs
HB - Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings
WR - Deandre Hopkins - Arizona Cardinals
WR - Davante Adams - Green Bay Packers
TE - Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs
Flex - Alvin Kamara - New Orleans Saints
LT - Trent Williams - San Francisco 49ers
LG - Michael Onwenu - New England Patriots
C - Corey Linsley - Green Bay Packers
RG - Zack Martin - Dallas Cowboys
RT - Braden Smith - Indianapolis Colts
Edge - Myles Garrett - Cleveland Browns
Edge - TJ Watt - Pittsburgh Steelers
IDL - Aaron Donald - Los Angeles Rams
IDL - Stephon Tuitt - Pittsburgh Steelers
LB - Fred Warner - San Francisco 49ers
LB - Bobby Wagner - Seattle Seahawks
LB - Devin White - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB - Jaire Alexander - Green Bay Packers
CB - JC Jackson - New England Patriots
Safety - Budda Baker - Arizona Cardinals
Safety - Jessie Bates III - Cincinnati Bengals
DB - Jason Verrett - San Francisco 49ers
K - Younghoe Koo - Atlanta Falcons
P - Johnny Hekker - Los Angeles Rams
KR - Isaiah Rodgers - Indianapolis Colts
PR - Jakeem Grant - Miami Dolphins
ST - Ezekiel Turner - Arizona Cardinals
LS - Luke Rhodes - Indianapolis Colts
Photo: USA Today
Second Team All Pro:
QB - Kyler Murray - Arizona Cardinals
HB - Derrick Henry - Tennessee Titans
WR - DK Metcalf - Seattle Seahawks
WR - Tyreek Hill - Kansas City Chiefs
TE - Darren Waller - Las Vegas Raiders
Flex - Aaron Jones - Green Bay Packers
LT - Garrett Bolles - Denver Broncos
LG - Wyatt Teller - Cleveland Browns
C - Erik McCoy - New Orleans Saints
RG - Shaq Mason - New England Patriots
RT - Kelvin Beachum - Arizona Cardinals
Edge - Emmanuel Ogbah - Miami Dolphins
Edge - Khalil Mack - Chicago Bears
IDL - Cameron Heyward - Pittsburgh Steelers
IDL - Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs
LB - Myles Jack - Jacksonville Jaguars
LB - Roquan Smith - Chicago Bears
LB - Lavonte David - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB - Jimmy Smith - Baltimore Ravens
CB - Bryce Callahan - Denver Broncos
Safety - Julian Blackmon - Indianapolis Colts
Safety - Justin Simmons - Denver Broncos
DB - Rodney McLeod - Philadelphia Eagles
K - Wil Lutz - New Orleans Saints
P - Michael Dickson - Seattle Seahawks
KR - Cordarrelle Patterson - Chicago Bears
PR - Deonte Harris - New Orleans Saints
ST - George Odum - Indianapolis Colts
LS - Zach Triner - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Photo: Yahoo! Sports
A few picks may come as a shock to some, so let me help break them down.
Kyler Murray: Even though I have him set to win the MVP, I only have him being the Second Team QB. This is due to his passing numbers not being great. His rushing makes up for his lack of elite passing stats and gives him the edge over other MVP candidates.
Brandon Graham: I left Graham off here, even though he's tied for 3rd in sacks, because he has missed nearly 20% of his tackles and gets abused in the run game. This is similar to Maxx Crosby in 2019; even though he led all rookies in sacks, his pressure numbers and his ability to defend against the run were subpar.
Christian McCaffrey: Although he's played lights out when he hasn't been injured, I don't think he'll have enough games under his belt to beat out the likes of Aaron Jones and Alvin Kamara.
Aaron Donald: Aaron could arguably win DPOY and MVP every single year, he's that dominant. As far as this season goes, he's been one of the best on film, but doesn't put up the big numbers everyone is looking for when picking MVP and DPOY. He would need to have another 20 sack season and multiple turnovers to get one of those awards again, both of which are insane considering he is an interior defensive lineman.
The NFL season is far from over. There is a lot of time for certain players to make big splashes over the following weeks. I expect guys like Robert Spillane, Demario Davis, Kenny Clark, Stefon Diggs, and others to challenge some spots on my lists.
We will revisit this list the day before Super Bowl LV; changes will be marked according to my midseason predictions, and the actual end of season results. I expect there to be some differences, but hey, it's my list and I will make it how I see fit.
If you have anyone in mind that you think deserves to be in the conversation for any of the awards listed, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @the.jordan.laube; that is the best way to reach me. Until then, let's enjoy the remainder of this incredible NFL season, go Cardinals #RiseUpRedSea.