Bleacher Report's 2013 NFL Awards
On Feb. 1, players from around the NFL will gather in New York City for the NFL Honors, the third annual awards-show-style presentation of the league's individual accolades.
Well, here at Bleacher Report we didn't feel like waiting. Plus, the NFL booked Alec Baldwin to host before we could get him.
In any event, the NFL National Lead Writers and Division Lead Writers at B/R gathered to cast their votes for the top players, coaches and teams.
"The envelope, please!"
Most Valuable Player
Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos (11 Votes)
This award is as foregone as conclusions get.
For all intents and purposes, the NFL might as well name this the MVQ award. Signal-callers have dominated the award in recent years. Before Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson took home the hardware last year, a quarterback had been named MVP five seasons in a row.
When a quarterback breaks a boatload of records while guiding the most prolific scoring offense in league history to the top seed in his conference, forget about it.
Manning just did that with the Denver Broncos, and he's the runaway pick for MVP.
Others Receiving Votes: Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots (1 Vote)
Offensive Player of the Year
Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos (11 Votes)
Maybe this article should be renamed "Bleacher Report's 2013 NFL Mannings."
OK, maybe not.
There will be plenty of folks rolling their eyes over the next few weeks. The deeper into the playoffs the Denver Broncos advance, the more pundits are going to gush about Peyton Manning's record-setting season.
Here's the thing, though: After posting 5,477 passing yards (the most ever), 55 passing touchdowns (also the most ever) and a passer rating of 115.1 (fifth-best of all time), there's plenty for them to gush about.
It's the Year of the Forehead. Just go with it.
Others Receiving Votes: Jamaal Charles, Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs (1 Vote)
Defensive Player of the Year
J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans (9 Votes)
This is a pick that will raise some eyebrows. After all, the Houston Texans were an absolute dumpster fire in 2013, free-falling from the playoffs a year ago to having the NFL's worst record this season.
Watt's stats also dropped off significantly in 2013. After racking up a league-leading 20.5 sacks in 2012, Watt managed only 10.5 in 2013, dropping out of the top five in the NFL.
However, Watt once again hit the 80-tackle mark while forcing four fumbles for the second straight year, and Watt was the top 3-4 defensive end in the NFL by a staggering margin, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
If you were starting a team and could pick any defender in the league to anchor your defense, who would it be?
Others Receiving Votes: Robert Quinn, Defensive End, St. Louis Rams (2 Votes); Robert Mathis, Outside Linebacker, Indianapolis Colts (1 Vote)
Rookie of the Year
Tie: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers (6 Votes); Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Green Bay Packers (6 Votes)
We have our first tie of the "ceremony." It's not exactly a surprising one either, given that Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy and San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen were easily the two most productive newcomers in the league this year on offense.
For AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst, Allen's hand in helping the Chargers make the playoffs was the deciding factor.
"Keenan Allen has had such a huge hand in helping the Chargers offense look like itself again," Hangst wrote. "He's one of the most pro-ready rookie receivers in years. He's been a true standout this season."
NFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland, however, tabbed Lacy as his Rookie of the Year pick.
"Eddie Lacy single-handedly kept the Packers postseason hopes alive. Not to mention, Lacy eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and turned in a phenomenal rookie season."
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers (6 Votes)
The vote was split down the middle for Rookie of the Year, but with Cincinnati's Gio Bernard poaching one of Lacy's votes, Allen gets the OROY honor all to himself.
It's an honor that's richly deserved. Despite not playing a single snap in Week 1, the former Cal standout reeled in 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight scores, emerging as Philip Rivers' top target for the playoff-bound Chargers.
In the words of NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller, "Gio Bernard, Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell are challengers, but Allen looked like a five-year pro in his first season."
Others Receiving Votes: Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Green Bay Packers (5 Votes); Giovani Bernard, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals (1 Vote)
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Tie: Kiko Alonso, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills (6 Votes); Sheldon Richardson, Defensive End, New York Jets (6 Votes)
OK, we may need to devise some sort of overtime rules, because all these ties are becoming unsettling.
Actually, it's not hard to see why the panel had a hard time deciding between Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso's 159 tackles or Sheldon Richardson's top-five overall ranking among 3-4 defensive ends at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It was a close call for Miller, who wrote, "Sheldon Richardson is close, but Alonso locked down the middle for the Bills from Week 1."
AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz, on the other hand, threw his support behind Richardson:
The Jets have built one of the league's best defensive lines, and Richardson is one of its anchors. He doesn't create a ton of pressure (3.5 sacks this year) but you'll almost never find him out of position in run defense.
Does this mean we need more imaginary trophies, or do we just cut the ones we have in half?
I'll get the imaginary saw.
Coach of the Year
Tie: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (4 Votes); Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers (4 Votes)
Oh for the love of imaginary sawdust.
There are any number of deserving candidates for Coach of the Year in 2013, but our panel was split between a man used to these sorts of accolades and another who looked set to be fired a few short months ago.
There's no overstating the job Ron Rivera has done in Carolina. At 1-3, the Panthers were floundering, and Rivera appeared headed to unemployment. Then Riverboat Ron took the helm, the Panthers started gambling and the team reeled off 11 wins in 12 games en route to the NFC South title.
That's good enough for NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen. "This Panthers team should not have fared as well as it did and Rivera's fingerprints are all over that. From the tenacity of the defense to decisions made on Cam Newton's development, Rivera deserves a ton of credit."
For voters including NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman, however, the job Bill Belichick has done guiding an injury-ravaged New England Patriots team to yet another AFC East crown was even more impressive.
"Patchwork defense, offense, everything," Freeman said. "Maybe the best coaching job he's ever done."
Others Receiving Votes: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (3 Votes); Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals (1 Vote)
Comeback Player of the Year
Darrelle Revis, Cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 Votes)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers surrendered a lot to acquire cornerback Darrelle Revis in a trade with the New York Jets, hopeful that the 28-year-old could return to form after losing the 2012 season to a torn ACL.
Revis had some struggles early on, mainly because the Buccaneers were curiously using him in predominantly zone coverages.
However, once the Bucs wised up and let Revis start locking receivers down, Revis Island returned to the NFL horizon.
By season's end, Revis' 2013 stats looked quite a bit like his 2011 numbers, and Revis reclaimed his spot atop Pro Football Focus' rankings at the position.
Others Receiving Votes: Brent Grimes, Cornerback, Miami Dolphins (1 Vote); Brian Orakpo, Linebacker, Washington Redskins (1 Vote)
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (12 Votes)
It's been pretty well established by now that in the Year of the Forehead, if Peyton Manning is eligible for an award, he's going to win said award.
That's what happens when a player ties the record for passing touchdowns in a game in Week 1.
Then proceeds to throw at least four touchdown passes in a game eight more times.
All while throwing for more than 300 yards in a game 12 out of 16 tries.
Other than that though, Manning really didn't do that much.
Top Running Back
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (11 Votes)
At the season's midway point, this vote was split right down the middle between McCoy and Jamaal Charles.
Now, it's McCoy who is the runaway choice as top running back.
The fifth-year veteran led the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards, picking up 5.1 yards per carry while chipping in nine rushing scores and 539 receiving yards and two more touchdowns through the air.
According to NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon, "The league's leading rusher is at his best in the fourth quarter and when games are close. He's also gotten better in December. No doubt here."
Others Receiving Votes: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (1 Vote)
Top Wide Receiver
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (9 Votes)
You know the bar has been set high when nearly 1,500 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns is considered a disappointing season by some.
After setting an NFL record for the most receiving yards in a season two years ago, that's exactly what some are calling Calvin Johnson's 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 scores in 2013.
Injuries cost Johnson two games and limited the 28-year-old down the stretch, but Megatron was still the pick of three-quarters of the panel as the NFL's top wideout in 2013.
Given his 329-yard explosion against the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year (the second-most ever in an NFL game), it's rather hard to argue.
Others Receiving Votes: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (2 votes); Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns (1 Vote)
Top Tight End
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (12 Votes)
If it's possible for a vote to be more lopsided this year than any involving Peyton Manning, it's the race for top tight end in 2013.
There's Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, then a gap that would take four days to drive across, then everyone else.
There was a several-week stretch earlier in the season where Graham was the NFL's leading receiver at any position, not just tight end.
Graham's pace cooled off considerably later in the year, but the fourth-year pro still managed more than 85 catches and 1,200 receiving yards, barely missing Rob Gronkowski's NFL single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end (17) with 16.
It's Jimmy Graham's world. Other tight ends only live in it.
Top Offensive Lineman
Nate Solder, Offensive Tackle, New England Patriots (8 Votes)
They don't get the glory of the quarterbacks they protect or the accolades of the running backs they open holes for, but a strong offensive line is as critical to success in the NFL as any of the skill positions.
With 160 potential candidates among starters, there's a large pool of talent for our voters to choose from, but just as at midseason, a large majority of the panel cast their vote for tackle Nate Solder of the Patriots.
On a New England team wracked by injuries on both sides of the ball, Solder was a steadying force. The 25-year-old ranked ninth overall among offensive tackles at Pro Football Focus in 2013, committing only three accepted penalties all season long.
Others Receiving Votes: Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Cleveland Browns (3 Votes); Mike Pouncey, Center, Miami Dolphins (1 Vote)
Top Defensive Lineman
J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans (9 Votes)
The 2013 Bleacher Report Defensive Player of the Year gets the nod along the defensive front as well, but since we've already established his bona fides let's talk a bit about the young man who came in second.
As wide as Watt's lead over the second-best 3-4 defensive end at Pro Football Focus is, the gap between Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams and 4-3 end No. 2 is equally as eye-popping.
Quinn broke out in a huge way in 2013. His 57 tackles nearly doubled his career high. Quinn's 19 sacks led the NFC, as did his seven forced fumbles.
That year was enough to garner the vote of NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen.
"Too much talent, speed and ability," Bowen wrote. "Quinn is the player I look forward to watching on the tape every week."
Others Receiving Votes: Robert Quinn, Defensive End, St. Louis Rams (3 Votes)
Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (6 Votes)
We may be entering a Golden Age at the linebacker position. Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks, Kiko Alonso of the Buffalo Bills, Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals are all finishing their first or second seasons in the league.
That's a lot of players to choose from, and it doesn't even take into account resurgent veterans like Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts and Karlos Dansby of the Arizona Cardinals. Or sack masters like Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Never mind Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith in San Francisco.
It's Kuechly—who led the NFL in tackles in 2012 as a rookie—who gets the nod after anchoring one of the NFL's top defenses in Carolina this season.
Of Kuechly, who had 156 tackles, two sacks and four picks this year, Bowen said, "I should have stuck with my preseason pick of Kuechly. He is the ideal fit at the Mike 'backer position and he will only get better."
Others Receiving Votes: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 Votes); Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts (2 Votes); NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers (1 Vote); Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs (1 Vote)
Top Defensive Back
Richard Sherman, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks (11 Votes)
Seattle's Legion of Boom is widely considered the NFL's best defensive backfield, and the star of that secondary is cornerback Richard Sherman.
The third-year pro, who is known nearly as much for what he says off the field as what he does on it, had another fantastic season in 2013, intercepting eight passes for the second straight year in a season NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman called "one of the best a DB has had in the past 10 to 15 years."
AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz concurred, stating that Sherman is "the best defensive back playing the game right now, and probably will be for a long time."
Others Receiving Votes: Earl Thomas, Free Safety, Seattle Seahawks (1 Vote)
Top Special Teams Player
Justin Tucker, Kicker, Baltimore Ravens (8 Votes)
That's right. Here at Bleacher Report even kickers get love! Far too long have they toiled in obscurity!
Viva La Garo Yepremian!
Sorry, got a little carried away there.
It's really not hard to get carried away about the season Tucker just had in Baltimore. Yes, the Ravens may have missed the playoffs, but it certainly wasn't Tucker's fault.
After missing two field goals in Week 2, Tucker missed once more the rest of season. nailing 36 of 37 tries from Week 3 on.
That included a December game in Detroit where Tucker became the first player in NFL history to hit on field goals of 20-plus, 30-plus, 40-plus, 50-plus and 60-plus yards in the same game.
As AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst put it, "Justin Tucker accounted for 131 of the Ravens' 303 points through Week 16. That's certainly enough to make him 2013's best kicker and most important special teams player in the league."
Others Receiving Votes: Cordarrelle Patterson, Kick Returner, Minnesota Vikings (4 Votes)
Eli Manning, Quarterback, New York Giants (7 Votes)
We've now reached the point in this article where, were this an actual awards show, ratings would skyrocket as things become awkward.
You see, it's time for the awards that aren't really awards, beginning with the player who was the biggest disappointment in the NFL in 2013.
That ignominy goes to Eli Manning of the New York Giants.
For the first time since his rookie year, Manning posted a passer rating below 70. His 27 interceptions led the NFL and was a career high.
For AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz, it came down to Manning or free-agent bust Mike Wallace of the Miami Dolphins.
"Mike Wallace has pulled himself from out of the doldrums lately", Frenz wrote, "but Eli Manning is now in his third season with 20 or more interceptions, the most of any active quarterback in the NFL right now."
Others Receiving Votes: Matthew Stafford, Quarterback, Detroit Lions (2 Votes); Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins (2 Votes); Josh Freeman, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Minnesota Vikings (1 Vote)
Biggest Rookie Bust
Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs (6 Votes)
Eric Fisher was the first overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 draft, a can't-miss prospect who was supposed to anchor the Chiefs' line for the next decade.
Instead, it's Branden Albert who is headed to Honolulu, while Fisher has struggled in his first NFL season.
Granted, a switch to the right side hasn't helped matters, but the youngster allowed six sacks in 2013 and ranked 70th at his position, according to Pro Football Focus.
NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller didn't mince words. "The No. 1 overall pick shouldn't be outplayed by (backup) Donald Stephenson."
Others Receiving Votes: Geno Smith, Quarterback, New York Jets (4 Votes); Dee Milliner, Cornerback, New York Jets (1 Vote); Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Miami Dolphins (1 Vote)
Biggest Surprise Team
Kansas City Chiefs (8 Votes)
We'll wrap up the 2013 Bleacher Report NFL Awards with a pair of team awards, beginning with the squad that was the league's biggest surprise.
There are a number of worthy candidates, including division champions in Philadelphia and Charlotte and a team in the desert that went 10-6 but missed the postseason.
However, the panel's pick is the Kansas City Chiefs, who underwent one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history this year.
With a new quarterback in Alex Smith and a new head coach in Andy Reid, the Chiefs, who had the NFL's worst record a year ago, won their first nine games of the season en route to an 11-5 finish and a wild-card spot.
Yes, the team struggled a bit in the second half, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a team no one expected to still be playing in January.
Others Receiving Votes: Carolina Panthers (3 Votes); Arizona Cardinals (1 Vote)
Most Disappointing Team
New York Giants (7 Votes)
Of course, there's a flip side to the biggest surprise team, and there were no shortage of contenders for the title of biggest disappointment of 2013.
The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs. The Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Washington Redskins, all division winners a year ago, combined to go 9-39.
With that said, the title of 2013's biggest flop goes to the New York Giants.
It wasn't just that the Giants finished the season 7-9. After all, there were teams with worse records, and the Giants missed the postseason in 2012 as well.
It was the way the Giants got to 7-9. There wasn't an uglier stretch of football played outside the city of Houston than the six-game losing streak that opened Big Blue's season.
It was an orgy of awful. Penalties and turnovers and blown assignments. A symphony of incompetence, and from a team that won the Super Bowl just two years prior.
There may be teams that lost more games, but no NFL franchise has more stink to wash off where 2013 is concerned than the New York Giants.
Others Receiving Votes: Atlanta Falcons (3 Votes); Houston Texans (2 Votes)