NFL 2021 Regular Season Awards

And so, the NFL 2021 Regular Season has come to a close. All year, we kept hearing how this would be the biggest season yet, and the NFL did not disappoint. From game winning field goals, to controversial fourth down calls, and back again for some of the best games in recent memory, the NFL delivered this year in a way it hasn't before. With the addition of another interconference game and with big names getting hurt, it's safe to say you could expect the unexpected all year long, and still be blown away week after week. Today, I'll be giving out my regular season awards and naming my All-Pro team (All-Laube sounds too narcissistic to put in a blog).

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images


Listed below are my personal picks for individual awards, All-Pro Team, and the Top 25 Rookies for 2021:


Comeback Player of the Year: Joe Burrow - Quarterback - Cincinnati Bengals

Runner up: Dak Prescott - Quarterback - Dallas Cowboys


Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons - Linebacker - Dallas Cowboys

Runner up: Patrick Surtain II - Cornerback - Denver Broncos


Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja'Marr Chase - Wide Receiver - Cincinnati Bengals

Runner up: Mac Jones - Quarterback - New England Patriots


Defensive Player of the Year: TJ Watt - Edge Rusher - Pittsburgh Steelers

Runner up: Micah Parsons - Linebacker - Dallas Cowboys


Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp - Wide Receiver - Los Angeles Rams

Runner up: Jonathan Taylor - Running Back - Indianapolis Colts


Coach of the Year: Zac Taylor - Cincinnati Bengals

Runner up: Nick Sirriani - Philadelphia Eagles


Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady - Quarterback - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Runner up: Aaron Rodgers - Quarterback - Green Bay Packers

 

CPOY:


This was the hardest decision out of all of the awards. Unlike last year where I picked two winners, both of these players dealt with a physical, lower body injury. Both players teams misses playoffs the year prior, arguably due to their injuries. This year, both teams led their teams to division titles, overcome adversity and doubters. In the end, I give Burrow the edge here. He finished with 4,611 passing yards, an NFL leading 70.4% completion rate, 34 passing touchdowns, and a 108.3 passer rating, along with 118 rushing yards and 2 TDs. In addition, he finished the season as the highest graded QB per PFF with a 91.7 overall grade. This is even more impressive consider his awful offensive line play, who ranked 22nd per PFF heading into Week 16. He was sacked an NFL leading 51 times in 16 games, taking more than 3 sacks a game on average. Although the pressure numbers aren't final as of this moment, it's safe to say he was the most pressured QB in the NFL as well. He brought his team from worst to first in one season, and give them a solid chance at making a deep playoff run.


Dak Prescott had a great season as well, finishing the season with 4,449 passing yards, a 68.8% completion rate, 37 passing touchdowns, and a 104.2 passer rating, along with 146 rushing yards and 1 TD. Despite these awesome numbers, Dak also played behind the best offensive line in the NFL per PFF, and had a monster two headed rushing attack between Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard. Yes, Burrow had great weapons as well, but almost anyone would take Dak's supporting cast over Burrow's. Congrats to both on incredible seasons, hopefully we see them duke it out in the Super Bowl in the following years...maybe even this season.


DROY:


No brainer, not only did Parsons easily lock up DROY, and possibly DPOY, but he arguably had the greatest rookie season any defender has had in NFL history. Per PFF, Parsons played 902 snaps, with 374 of them on the defensive line, 498 of them at box (or off-ball linebacker), and 30 at defensive back. He had balance snap count totals, playing run defense on 311 snaps, pass rush on 307 snaps, and in coverage on 284 snaps. Despite his balanced play, he made an impact at every position, totaling 67 pressures (an NFL leading 21.8% pressure rate), 13 sacks, 84 total tackles, 20 TFLs, 3 forced fumbles, 3 pass deflections, and a 71.5 passer rating against him. Per PFF, he also had the highest pass rush grade among all players with a 93.0 pass rush grade, beating out the likes of Aaron Donald and TJ Watt. To rank at or near the top in multiple defensive metrics as a rookie is unheard of, and yet Parsons did it all while playing all over the Cowboys defense.


There were many close seconds, like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jevon Holland, and Odafe Oweh, but Patrick Surtain II had an impressive season given his situation. He had to compete against 3 veteran cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and Bryce Callahan. Despite this, he won the starting job in Week 2, and finished the season with 4 interceptions - one of which for a touchdown, 14 pass deflections, and a 61.3 passer rating against him. He also made 58 tackles and only missed 5, which is pretty solid for a rookie cornerback. The Broncos have a future star on their defense, it'll be exciting to watch Surtain develop.


OROY:


Although there were many candidates this year, Ja'Marr makes the best case to win the award. He broke the rookie receiving yards record with 1,455 yards, with 649 of them coming after the catch, 13 TDs, and 81 catches and 128 targets. He also made big plays all year long, with 15 plays of 20 yards or more, and ranked 2nd in the NFL with 18 yards per catch. In addition to putting up a 82.8 overall PFF grade, ranking 11th among all receivers, Ja'Marr Chase had a 121.2 passer rating when targeted, ranking 6th among receivers with at least 75 targets. After Justin Jefferson's historic rookie year, we should have all expected this, considering Ja'Marr was a far better receiver coming out of college than Jefferson. Regardless, Ja'Marr shattered expectations and arguably had the best season a rookie receiver has ever had.


With a few bright stars emerging in Najee Harris, Jaylen Waddle, Kyle Pitts, and Creed Humphrey, I decided to give Mac Jones the OROY award. He wowed week after week and got the Patriots back into the playoffs. Yes, he had the 4th best defense in the league this season, but you can't tell me any other QB could have won as many games and played as well with Mac's weapons and that defense - just ask the Panthers, Browns, Bears, Saints, and Broncos, all teams that missed playoffs, despite having better offensive weapons than the Pats and top 10 defenses. Mac Jones was the 10th highest ranked QB per PFF with a 81.6 overall grade, while passing for 3,801 yards, 22 TDs, a 67.6% completion rate, and a 92.5 passer rating, all with his leading receiver being Jakobi Meyers leading the Pats with 866 receiving yards. Mac also didn't have a single rusher eclipse 1,000 yards, and no receiver had 10 TDs. To have the season he did, given what I listed above, makes him a solid candidate for OROY, but Chase does beat him out in the end.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images


DPOY:


If you asked me a week ago who the DPOY was, I would have said Parsons. So why the change? Tying the sack record is an incredible feat in it of itself, but TJ also ranked high in other categories as well. He finished the season with 62 pressures (15% pressure rate), 39 QB hits, 21 TFLs (tied for first with Nick Bosa), 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, all while only playing in 15 games, 3 of which he played less than 50% of snaps. Granted, the majority of his sacks came either against backups or rookies, or when the QB gave himself up, it's still impressive to put up that stat line against some of the best players in the world. I made a post about TJ's season last week, saying that he shouldn't be DPOY just based on sacks. After doing some more digging on my own, this season is his best argument yet for DPOY, and he was robbed the past 2 seasons. Hopefully he wins it this year.


Parsons is my second choice, but as always, Aaron Donald should be a candidate for DPOY every year. According to Next Gen Stats, Aaron has been double teamed on more than 60% of all pass plays, and still posted the 2nd highest pass rush rate in the NFL. He also had the 2nd more pressures with 86, trailing only Maxx Crosby with 100 (per PFF). Outside of pressure rate, he posted 12.5 sacks and 19 TFLs, as well as 4 forced fumbles and 4 pass deflections. Donald had another great season, and continues to make his case for best defender in NFL history.


OPOY:


Between Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp, I have to go with Kupp on this one. Both players were Triple Crown winners at their positions (leader in Receptions/Attempts, Yards, and TDs), both were the main focal points of their respective offenses, and both launched themselves into the record books at their positions. To me, Kupp was more dominant at what he did. Kupp finished the season with 145 receptions, 1,947 receiving yards (both 2nd most ever in a season), and 16 TDs, while leading the league with 849 yards after the catch and leading receivers with 89 first downs, all while never fumbling and never having a catch go longer than 60 yards. The one argument made against Kupp is that the majority of his snaps came from the slot (65.5% per PFF). Out of Kupp's 1,947 yards, 1,402 of them came from the slot. So if Kupp only lined up in the slot, and we removed the plays where he lined up anywhere else, he still would have finished 2nd in overall receiving yards. I think the fact he was able to dominate in the slot makes his stat totals even more impressive. To those who argue that he isn't a top receiver because of how much he plays in the slot, I counter by asking why don't other teams top receivers line up in the slot more often? Kupp could revolutionize the game if we see more top receivers lining up in the slot after this season.


Jonathan Taylor had an amazing season as well, tallying 322 carries for 1,811 rushing yards and 18 TDs, while hauling in 40 receptions for 360 yards and 2 TDs, totaling over 2,100 yards and 20 TDs. Taylor also had 1,272 yards after contact, which would lead the NFL by itself, as well as 50 rushes of 10+ yards. He did most of his damage on inside zone plays towards either guard, where he averaged 7.74 yards per carry and scored 4 times. His two longest runs of 78 and 83 yards also came running towards either guard. In addition, the Colts went 9-1 whenever JT rushed for more than 100 yards in a game, and went 0-7 whenever he finished with less than 100 yards in a game. If he had a better performance against the Jaguars in Week 18, many would consider him the unanimous OPOY.


COY:


No one is talking about it, but Zac Taylor needs to be considered for COY. A lot of people seem to favor Belichick or Vrabel, but Zac took his team from worst to first, finishing 4-2 in their division and posting a 10-7 overall record. He spent the offseason remodeling the defense by signing Trey Hendrickson, who is looking like the best free agent pickup from this past offseason, Chidobe Awuzie, Larry Ogunjobi, and Mike Hilton. He also drafted Ja'Marr Chase, even though they had a need at offensive line and Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater were still on the board. He went against the grain and it has paid dividends. He also was able to use Joe Mixon correctly, who has struggled through his first few years between injuries and usage. With a deep playoff run possibly on the horizon, Zac Taylor should be a lock for COY.


Another coach not getting enough attention is Nick Sirriani. He took a chance on Jalen Hurts, who didn't have a stellar rookie year when he got chances to perform, a weak receiving room, an aging offensive line, and a misfit defense, and put together a playoff caliber team. Hurts put up solid numbers, as he passed for 3,144 yards, 16 TDs, and posted a 61.3% completion rate and 87.2 passer rating. He also rushed for 784 yards and 10 TDs, which ranked 2nd and 1st among QBs respectively. In total, Hurts had 3,928 yards and 26 TDs, which are similar numbers to Kyler Murray. Nicky S ran the offense through Hurts and was able to compete, despite a 2-5 start. Granted, they beat teams that finished with losing records, it's still an impressive feat to make playoffs after a 2-5 start, being only the 5th team in NFL history to do so.


MVP:


Alright, I know it seems like I don't like Rodgers by picking against him for a second year in a row, but the same case I made last year is even stronger this year. Tom Brady has played better and played against tougher competition, all while dealing with injuries all year on his offense. Not to say Rodgers didn't go through similar struggles, but they pale in comparison to what Brady had to work with. Let's take some time and compare some of the key metrics when determining this year's MVP:

​Brady

Rodgers

Completion %

67.5%

68.9%

Passing Yards

5,316*

4,115

Yards per Game

312.7*

257.2

TDs

43*

37

TD%

6%

7%*

INTs

12

4

INT%

1.7%

0.8%*

Passer Rating

102.1

111.9*

* indicates league leader


At a first glance, it seems that Rodgers is better based on percentages and overall performance. If we take a further look into these numbers, the story tells itself. TB12 had 4 interceptions that were "unfaulted", meaning either the ball went through a receivers hand, or it was picked off on a Hail Mary. In comparison, every pick Rodgers threw was his own fault. Granted, Rodgers still throws half as many picks as Brady if we take away the unfaulted interceptions, but Brady's INT% falls to 1.1%, which looks much better and closer to Rodgers' INT%, and his passer rating would increase to 104.4, which still is considerably lower than Rodgers'. Some of these numbers may have been impacted by the overall health of each team. Let's take a look at their weapons and how many games they missed

Bucs - Games Missed

Yard per Game

Packers - Games Missed

Yard per Game

Mike Evans - 1 Game

64.7

Davante Adams - 1 Game

97.1

Chris Godwin - 3 Games

78.8

Allen Lazard - 2 Games

34.2

Antonio Brown - 10 Games

77.9

Marquez Valdes-Scantling - 7 Games

43.0

Rob Gronkowski - 6 Games

72.9

Robert Tonyan - 9 Games

25.5

Leonard Fournette - 3 Games

90.4 (run/catch total)

Aaron Jones - 2 Games

79.4 (run/catch total)

Total Games Missed

21 Games

Total Games Missed

13 Games

Total Yards/TDs from Starters

3,939/31

Total Yards/TDs from Starters

3,091/30

Total Yards/TDs from Backups

1,377/12

Total Yards/TDs from Backups

1,024/6

I will note that the Buccaneers only played 2 games with at least one starting offensive linemen out, while the Packers played 8 games with at least one starting offensive linemen out (that does not include David Bakhtiari as he was inactive until Week 18).


So what does that table above mean? For starters, we can assume two things for each team. For the Bucs, Brady is much better at distributing the ball to different weapons in his starting offense and amongst his backups - or that subjectively Brady simply has better weapons than Rodgers, and Brady had to rely more on his backups than Rodgers. For the Packers, Rodgers solely relied on Davante Adams and Aaron Jones for the majority of his passing yards - or Davante Adams is one of the best receivers in the league, and Rodgers had much better health when it came to his weapons.


If that isn't enough to convince you, here is the last point I'll make, and it was my main point last season as to why Derrick Henry should have won MVP - defenses faced.

Brady

Rodgers

Top 10 Pass Defenses

5

7

Bottom 10 Pass Defenses

2

7

Top 10 w/o Division

3

5

Bottom 10 w/o Division

2

3

Average Pass D Rank

14th

18th

Average Yards Allowed

220.07

233.18

Difference in YPG Allowed

-13.11

+13.11

YPG Difference over 17 Games

-222.87

+222.87

Total Difference in Passing Yards Total (17 Games)

​+1,201 (+944)

-1,201 (-944)

Total Difference in YPG Difference (17 Games)

​+1,424 (+1,167)

-1,424 (-1,167)

To help explain the table above, the numbers in the first four rows and the amount of teams each player versed in each category. For the first row, Brady played against five top 10 pass defenses, where Rodgers played against seven. Rows 5 and 6 are pretty self explanatory; Row 7 is the average yards allowed for each pass defense they faced. Row 8 and 9 are shows the yards per game difference and that difference over 17 games respectively. Rows 10 and 11 is where it gets interesting. Row 10 is the total difference in passing yards between Brady and Rodgers, with a second number representing an included 17th game Rodgers missed if he had his average game (he would have played the Chiefs, who allowed 251.4 pass yards per game, which is about 6 yards less than what Rodgers throws for per game). Row 11 includes the same 17th game, only this time, it also includes the season long passing yards difference found in Row 9. Since Brady had about 223 yards worth of a harder schedule, he gets the 223 yards added to his total.


Between availability of offenses weapons, distribution of the football, and overall toughness in schedule, Brady has the upperhand on Aaron Rodgers in all three phases, and thus is my MVP for the 2021 Regular Season.

USA TODAY / VIA REUTERS

 

As I stated at the top, these are my awards and not what I believe will actually happen at the NFL Awards Show. Rodgers will most likely win MVP (undeservingly, again), even though I picked TJ Watt, I have my reservations about it, but he will most likely win DPOY, and so on. Listed below is my All-Pro Team for 2021:


All-Pro Team:


QB - Tom Brady - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

HB - Jonathan Taylor - Indianapolis Colts

WR - Cooper Kupp - Los Angeles Rams

WR - Davante Adams - Green Bay Packers

TE - Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs

Flex - Deebo Samuel - San Francisco 49ers

LT - Trent Williams - San Francisco 49ers

LG - Joe Thuney - Kansas City Chiefs

C - Creed Humphrey - Kansas City Chiefs

RG - Zack Martin - Dallas Cowboys

RT - Tristan Wirfs - Tampa Bay Bucanneers


Edge - TJ Watt - Pittsburgh Steelers

Edge - Myles Garrett - Cleveland Browns

IDL - Aaron Donald - Los Angeles Rams

IDL - Cameron Heyward - Pittsburgh Steelers

LB - Micah Parsons - Dallas Cowboys

LB - Darius Leonard - Indianapolis Colts

LB - DeVondre Campbell - Green Bay Packers

CB - Trevon Diggs - Dallas Cowboys

CB - JC Jackson - New England Patriots

Safety - Kevin Byard - Tennessee Titans

Safety - Jordan Poyer - Buffalo Bills

DB - AJ Terrell - Atlanta Falcons


K - Justin Tucker - Baltimore Ravens

P - Michael Dickson - Seattle Seahawks

KR - Braxton Berrios - New York Jets

PR - Devin Duvernay - Baltimore Ravens

ST - JT Gray - New Orleans Saints

LS - Josh Harris - Atlanta Falcons


Honorable Mentions:


QB:

Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers


HB:

Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers


WR:

Stefon Diggs - Buffalo Bills, Justin Jefferson - Minnesota Vikings


TE:

Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs


Flex:

Ja'Marr Chase - Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Mixon - Cincinnati Bengals


OL:

Joel Bitonio - Cleveland Browns, Chris Lindstrom - Atlanta Falcons, Jordan Mailata - Philadelphia Eagles


IDL:

Jonathan Allen - Washington Football Team, Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs


EDGE:

Maxx Crosby - Las Vegas Raiders, Nick Bosa - San Francisco 49ers


LB:

Foyesade Oluokun - Atlanta Falcons, Lavonte David - Tampa Bay Buccaneers


CB:

Jalen Ramsey - Los Angeles Rams, Chidobe Awuzie - Cincinnati Bengals


Safety:

Antoine Winfield Jr - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Micah Hyde - Buffalo Bills


DB:

Rasul Douglas - Green Bay Packers


K:

Daniel Carlson - Las Vegas Raiders


P:

AJ Cole - Las Vegas Raiders


KR:

Andre Roberts - Los Angeles Chargers


PR:

Jakeem Grant - Chicago Bears


ST:

Nick Bellore - Seattle Seahawks


LS:

Luke Rhodes - Indianapolis Colts


Top 25 Rookies:

  1. Micah Parsons - Linebacker - Dallas Cowboys

  2. Ja'Marr Chase - Wide Receiver - Cincinnati Bengals

  3. Mac Jones - Quarterback - New England Patrtiots

  4. Najee Harris - Running Back - Pittsburgh Steelers

  5. Creed Humphrey - Center - Kansas City Chiefs

  6. Jaylen Waddle - Wide Receiver - Miami Dolphins

  7. Rashawn Slater - Offensive Tackle - Los Angeles Chargers

  8. Patrick Surtain II - Cornerback - Denver Broncos

  9. Kyle Pitts - Tight End - Atlanta Falcons

  10. Javonte Williams - Running Back - Denver Broncos

  11. DeVonta Smith - Wide Receiver - Philadelphia Eagles

  12. Penei Sewell - Offensive Tackle - Detroit Lions

  13. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Linebacker - Cleveland Browns

  14. Jevon Holland - Safety - Miami Dolphins

  15. Nate Hobbs - Cornerback - Las Vegas Raiders

  16. Amon-Ra St. Brown - Wide Receiver - Detroit Lions

  17. Pat Freiermuth - Tight End - Pittsburgh Steelers

  18. Odafe Oweh - Edge Rusher - Baltimore Ravens

  19. Christian Barmore - Interior Defensive Lineman - New England Patriots

  20. Greg Newsome II - Cornerback - Cleveland Browns

  21. Nick Bolton - Linebacker - Kansas City Chiefs

  22. Elijah Moore - Wide Receiver - New York Jets

  23. Trey Smith - Right Guard - Kansas City Chiefs

  24. Azeez Ojulari - Edge Rusher - New York Giants

  25. Elijah Mitchell - Running Back - San Francisco 49ers

Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

 

Final Notes:


With some of the greatest moments the NFL has ever seen take place this season, it's no surprise the NFL lived up to and exceeded the preseason hype. Rookies made major splashes, records were broken, veterans found the fountain of youth, and MVP caliber players shined with career years. With playoffs rolling along, let's enjoy the remainder of the biggest season of football yet.

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