NFL Honors 2013: Most Deserving Player for Major Awards

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 09:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball against the Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field on December 9, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Not long before Super Bowl XLVII bestows one team with the ultimate collective award of 2012-13, the NFL will hand out some of its most esteemed individual trophies.

The league's awards special airs on Saturday, and with its airing, a number of riveting debates will come to an end (though so many more will only be beginning).

Let's take a look at who most deserves (not necessarily who will win) the most prestigious awards of this past season.


MVP/Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Has their ever been two stronger, more-qualified candidates for such an award?

You can't go wrong with either Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning as your NFL MVP. There are no real losers. You've probably heard this argument rehashed ad nauseam, too, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet.

Neither team, the Minnesota Vikings nor the Denver Broncos, would have made the playoffs without their offensive catalyst. So the issue of "value" almost becomes moot.

But while Manning's year was remarkable in many ways, Peterson's was an anomaly. For one man to almost break the single-season rushing record in 2013—where every offensive system and rule change has been tailored specifically to boost the passing game—is too grand to ignore.

Give that man some hardware.


Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Spur-of-the-moment candidates, the likes of Charles Tillman or Aldon Smith, popped up all season long, but at the end of the day, this is a two horse race: J.J. Watt versus Von Miller.

Miller excelled for the second-straight year in Denver, becoming the cornerstone of a top-five defense in the NFL. His unit, as a whole, is stronger that Watt's fast-fading Texans crew, but that shouldn't diminish Watt's value. 

Because what the lumbering son-of-a-fireman did in Houston this year was of another world. He didn't just threaten to break Michael Strahan's all-time sack record; he threatened to break Michael Strahan's sack record rushing from the inside. He also batted down so many passes that he earned the moniker "J.J. Swat."

In a day and age when the league is increasingly attracted to speed—even on the once-rugged offensive line—Watt is a throwback to other, more physical times. And he does a hell of a job at it.


Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

I'm a stickler for semantics, and for what this award is (or at least claims to be), Peyton Manning is the one, only, and obvious choice. 

I can see why some mistakenly think this award should go to Adrian Peterson. He came back from a torn ACL in record time, with nearly NFL-record results. But he didn't incur that injury until Christmas Eve, playing in 12 games and amassing nearly 1,000 yards in the process.

This award is meant for players who came back to the league after a prolonged absence. Adrian Peterson does not fill that bill.

But Peyton Manning sure does. He missed all of the 2011-12 season after neck surgery—a procedure that many pundits, myself included, thought would be the end of his storied career.

This year Peyton came back with a vengeance, and what he did with the Denver Broncos was remarkable. He reminded us just how good he is, and how much better the league is when Eli's not the best Manning in it.

That deserves some sort of hardware.


Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

The MVP race has, potentially, never seen such a qualified pair of candidates. But the ROY race has, most certainly, never seen such a deserving quintet.

Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris all have legitimate cases for the award, and I wouldn't scoff at any of their victories.

Realistically, though, we all know this is a three-horse race between Griffin, Luck and Wilson—an impressive trio of rookie QBs who not only started from Day 1, but also led their teams to the playoffs.

Griffin and Wilson had better advanced numbers, which makes me lean  toward them over Luck (who had a legitimate No. 1 receiver and an easy schedule aiding him). 

In the end, I like RGIII over Man-muscle Wilson because I think he had less to work with as a whole. That is, Seattle gave Wilson quality defense every week, while Griffin knew only to expect the unexpected.

He was the ballast of Washington's season, and remains the centerpiece of a bright future.