2011 NFL Predictions: Every Major Regular Season Award for Next Year
As the fate that my 2011 predictions will hopefully avoid, the 2010 regular season awards didn't quite hold up long after they were handed out.
Bill Belichick won Coach of the Year, then got bounced immediately from the postseason; the same thing happened to Tom Brady. The Falcons' Thomas Dimitroff landed General Manager of the Year and his team was humiliated at home in the divisional round by Green Bay.
Troy Polamalu looked hurt while playing well below his capabilities in the playoffs, getting beat for key touchdowns against Green Bay and Baltimore.
However, they did have fantastic regular season successes, as will the guys on my following slides. Click through for the 2011 MVP, offensive and defensive player of the year, rookie POYs and much more.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Julio Jones
The freak of nature talent from Alabama has the size and speed to terrorize secondaries any which way in the NFL.
Having Roddy White opposite him should do wonders in the way that many young players in the past have been groomed (i.e., Marvin Harrison across from Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin across from Larry Fitzgerald).
Here, I'm guessing Julio Jones jumps off to an even quicker start than the aforementioned names. With the threat of Michael Turner coming out of the backfield already, this offense is suddenly very well-rounded.
The jump from one terrifying deep threat to two is a huge one for discombobulating defensive coverage, and Matt Ryan could make the most of it with a big leap of his own.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcel Dareus
Make it two in a row for the big man in the middle (Ndamukong Suh won last year) and for Crimson Tide players (in my 2011 ROY predictions).
Marcel Dareus already seems to have a chip on his shoulder with the way he's threatened to make the Broncos pay for passing on him at No. 2. After all, he was widely projected to leave the board there for weeks beforehand, until the Von Miller reports leaked in the final hours.
Don't think he'll forget that any time soon.
And don't forget how awful Buffalo looked on defense last year either. Teams ran at will through that line; any improvement made with Dareus in the picture will be apparent. I mean, it can really only go up from here.
Oh, and let me note that I am not a Crimson Tide fan or alumni—if you watched Julio Jones or Dareus at all, it's hard to call me insane.
Coach of the Year: Raheem Morris
This award is perhaps the toughest to guess because it tends to be largely predicated on which teams surprised everyone and seemingly overachieved. So, who will overachieve?
Amidst this uncertainty, I'll stick with one of the hottest hands from last year in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Raheem Morris. With the youth and inexperience of that Bucs team in 2010, it had no business finishing 10-6 and stealing close wins week after week.
This selection means the Bucs will have to overachieve by my general criteria, which would probably mean at least 11 or 12 wins next year. I like the connection between coach and quarterback Josh Freeman here and believe it's within reach.
All aboard the Morris-Freeman bandwagon everyone, we've still got a little room.
General Manager of the Year: Mickey Loomis
We're assuming a lot with the outcome of free agency here, but we won't let that dastardly NFL lockout stop us from having fun in the meantime.
The Saints' draft addressed key needs in snatching players with first-round talent, and there's a lot of room for high-profile praise in the way they can handle the Reggie Bush situation in free agency.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis got off to a hot start in late April, landing a direly needed defensive end in Cal's Cameron Jordan at No. 24, the draft's best running back in Mark Ingram at No. 28 and a steal of a cornerback with Louisville's Johnny Patrick at No. 88.
Now Drew Brees can do his thing—and it should be enough to get past the wild-card round.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jermichael Finley
Seeing a tight end here might surprise some, but Jermichael Finley is no ordinary tight end if he can stay healthy.
Last season he was a fairly regular fixture as the top tight end chosen in fantasy football drafts—many expected a statistical explosion from the 6'5", 247-pound specimen.
But his third NFL season ended in Week 5 with a knee injury against the Redskins. In 2009 he racked up 676 yards and five touchdowns in just 13 games and 10 starts; we continue to wait for that extrapolated explosion in 2011.
People who think I'm crazy will point to all the other weapons Green Bay possesses at receiver, but it's important to note Aaron Rodgers' evolution last season along with the fact that Green Bay possesses no one near the passing-game threat of Finley at tight end.
Defensive Player of the Year: LaMarr Woodley
When in doubt, go with a Steeler.
Picking Troy Polamalua or James Harrison to repeat would've been boring, so Woodley and his 34 sacks over the past three seasons will do. What if he springs for 19 in 2011? Hardware.
A lot has been made of the new hitting rules and how they could derail the Pittsburgh defense. I'm not buying it, though I imagine there will be penalties here and there that will tick them off and, yes, cost 15 yards.
But this defense isn't great just because of the hits the NFL wishes—and in many cases, should do away with—though they surely add some intimidation.
Here's guessing that Woodley follows in the footsteps of his teammates with a defensive POY trophy of his own in 2011.
Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
It would've been inaccurate to call A-Rod a clutch quarterback this past January. Up to that point in his career, he'd put up great numbers, but his team would often come up short in close games—even with the ball in his hands at the end.
To nit-pick a bit, what happened to Green Bay's offense at the end of the Eagles and Bears' playoff wins last year? I'm not using this as my prime example, as you can argue play-calling a bit in those particular games, but it makes you wonder given Rodgers' status among the NFL's best.
Then came the Super Bowl. When Rodgers sprinkled the late-game magic on that stage, I became a believer. That was Pittsburgh's defense he ripped to shreds. I expect that mastery to only grow in 2011, especially with a young group that should only continue to blossom.