Predicting Award Winners for Every NFC West Team
Following each season, NFL teams vote on team awards. There’s the team MVP, the Ed Block Courage Award, Rookie of the Year and other various accolades that differ from team to team.
Trying to predict who will win these awards is often a crapshoot, but what the heck? Added in are picks for offensive and defensive players of the year.
San Francisco 49ers
Team MVP: RB Frank Gore
Gore is the team’s best offensive player and probably San Francisco’s best all-around player. He can do it all— he's a great runner, good receiver out of the backfield and a solid pass blocker. Gore should be on pace for his sixth 1000-yard rushing season, and second in a row, to help the Niners repeat as division champions.
Rookie of the Year: RB LaMichael James
James should be a great change-of-pace speed back to complement Gore. He was also dangerous in the return game at Oregon and that should translate to the NFL. James has world-class speed and a shiftiness that makes him difficult to bring down. With so many players emerging for the 49ers last year, James could be that breakout player as a rookie.
Defensive Player of the Year: OLB Aldon Smith
Smith blew up his rookie season for 14 sacks. Most people thought the 49ers would select a Missouri player in the first round of the 2011 draft. It’s just that the Mizzou player people were thinking about was quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with Alex Smith behind center and took Aldon Smith instead. The move panned out as both Smiths played well and the younger Smith dominated veteran linemen—including a bull-rush that absolutely embarrassed former Ram Adam Goldberg.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Frank Gore
As stated above, Gore is the best offensive player on the team and, with nods to tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, this is a no-brainer.
Team MVP: CB Patrick Peterson
Peterson is one of the team’s most dynamic players and has game-changing ability. He returned four punts for touchdowns last year, one of which was an overtime return that beat the St. Louis Rams. As good as he is in the return game, Peterson is expected to improve as a defender and become a lockdown corner. If he’s successful, Peterson will be one of the best all-around players in the league.
Rookie of the Year: OT Bobby Massie
While wide receiver Michael Floyd was the first-round pick, balls in the air will find veteran Larry Fitzgerald more often than Floyd. If the Cardinals are going to have any kind of success, it will be because they got decent quarterback play.
In order for that to happen, the offensive line must play well. Massie was a fourth-rounder from Mississippi and has a real shot at winning a starting job at right tackle. He has NFL ability and was a steal that late in the draft. If Massie starts and the Cardinals contend for the division, it will be because Massie played well.
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Patrick Peterson
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is a perennial Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer. He’s still at the top of his game and has probably the best hands in the league. He fell 20 yards shy of his career-high receiving yards with “only” 1411, but set a career-high with a 17.6 yards per catch average. It was his sixth 1000-yard receiving season and he did it with two mediocre quarterbacks. There is no reason to believe Fitz won’t have another great year, even if the team doesn’t.
Team MVP: QB Matt Flynn
The Seahawks brought Flynn in from Green Bay in the hopes that the former Packers backup can find success as a starter. Flynn performed great in his two starts with the Packers. If the Seahawks are going to push San Francisco for the division title, it will be because Flynn leads them there.
Rookie of the Year: RB Robert Turbin
The Seahawks have a big question mark surrounding starting running back Marshawn Lynch, who could be facing a suspension following a DUI arrest. If Lynch misses any time, Turbin could step in. A powerful back from Utah State, Turbin averaged 6.1 yards per carry in college and his massive upper body build has already earned him the nickname, “SeaHulk.”
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Matt Flynn
If Lynch plays the entire season, he could put up big numbers. But in a quarterback-driven league, it will be Flynn who gets the Seahawks into the postseason.
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Chris Clemons
The Seahawks rewarded Clemons with a long-term deal this week. Clemons was entering the final year of his contract and now will not have the distraction of worrying about his contract. He is coming off his second straight 11-sack season and is a big reason why the Seahawks had the ninth-rated defense in the NFL last year.
St. Louis Rams
Team MVP: RB Steven Jackson
Jackson is still the team’s best player. Even as defensive end Chris Long is coming along and linebacker James Laurinaitis is steady as a rock in the middle of the defense and quarterback Sam Bradford is expected to bounce back, Jackson is the team’s unquestioned leader. The Rams will go as Jackson goes. If he puts up an eighth straight 1000-yard season and the Rams improve their win-loss record at all—which they should—Jackson will be named team MVP yet again.
Rookie of the Year: CB Janoris Jenkins
The Rams are optimistic that wide receiver Brian Quick will have an immediate impact on the offense, but Jenkins is the most talented rookie of the 2012 class. If he displays any of the talent he showed while at Florida, he will drastically improve the secondary. Jenkins has starter ability. All he needs to do is stay out of trouble. Do that and we could be talking about a multiple Pro Bowler by the time his career is over.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Sam Bradford
Jackson is the team MVP and best player, but the offense goes through Bradford. It’s a quarterbacks’ league and Bradford will look to bounce back from a terrible season in which he missed six games because of an ankle injury. He threw for just six touchdowns as the Rams won only two games a season removed from a seven-win campaign that saw him take NFL offensive Rookie of the Year honors. It’s unlikely that the Rams will reach the postseason, but improvement is expected—from Bradford and the rest of the team.
Defensive Player of the Year: LB James Laurinaitis
Laurinaitis has led the team in tackles in each of his three NFL seasons. That shouldn’t change this year. Laurinaitis was in the Pro Bowl discussion last year, and while defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn may be flashier, Laurinaitis is the leader of the defense. His consistency is unmatched on that side of the ball and assistant head coach Dave McGinnis called Laurinaitis the “perfect” middle linebacker for the team’s new defensive system. Expect another big year from Laurinaitis and possibly his first Pro Bowl selection.