Buying or Selling Every Major NFL Award Front-Runner So Far
As the 2022 NFL season approaches the one-third mark, award conversations are heating up.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has deservedly emerged as the MVP favorite, while Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons is solidly in position to chase Defensive Player of the Year. But not every race is so clear.
After the season, the Associated Press has marquee awards for six players and one head coach. Looking at early odds, though, a couple of contenders might not stay at the top.
Each front-runner is either the current DraftKings favorite or a subjective choice when odds are unavailable. The verdicts (buy or sell) are based entirely on the award's outcome, not a betting suggestion.
Coach of the Year
Front-Runner: Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles
There's no question about the early favorite, right? Nick Sirianni is coaching the NFL's last undefeated team.
Now, it's fair to suggest the Philadelphia Eagles haven't played an overwhelming schedule, as they have victories over the Detroit Lions and Washington Commanders. Still, the Birds also smashed the 4-1 Minnesota Vikings while handing them their lone loss.
In the definitely correct words of 'N Sync: Buy, buy, buy.
Voters love a good narrative, and Sirianni has overseen a marked improvement from quarterback Jalen Hurts. The third-year player is throwing with much greater efficiency and has continued to stand out as one of the NFL's most dangerous mobile threats.
Factor in a top-10 defense, and the Eagles should keep Sirianni in strong contention for the honor.
Comeback Player of the Year
Front-Runner: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley missed 14 games in 2020 because of a torn right ACL. Although the versatile back played much of the 2021 season, he rarely looked comfortable and didn't have a great year.
This comparison is rather easy. Last year, Barkley collected 593 rushing yards, 41 catches for 263 receiving yards and scored four times. This season, he's posted 533 yards on the ground and 18 receptions for 143 yards—totaling an NFL-high 676 scrimmage yards—and three touchdowns.
The former version of Barkley, the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year, has very much returned in 2022.
Carolina Panthers back Christian McCaffrey is worth mentioning, but Barkley could become a prohibitive favorite soon.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Front-Runner: Devin Lloyd, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Devin Lloyd slipped to No. 27 in the 2022 draft, and the Jacksonville Jaguars couldn't wait any longer. They traded up six spots to grab the Utah linebacker.
He's been worth the price.
Lloyd has totaled 49 tackles—which is tied for the sixth-most stops in the league—two interceptions and six pass defenses. Jacksonville has found a cornerstone for the middle of its defense.
Unlike the non-rookie awards, minimal team success isn't a hugely complicating factor. Five of the DROY winners in the last decade played on teams with a winning percentage of .500 or worse. That's the long version of saying not to count out Detroit Lions edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson or New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner.
Lloyd is a fantastic player. But there is a really good chance that Gardner, who's surrendered just 6.8 yards per target, gives the Jets a sweep in Rookie of the Year honors.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Front-Runners: Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints and Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans
If the chase for Offensive Rookie of the Year isn't the most interesting one, it's not far behind No. 1.
Chris Olave leads the class in catches (25) and receiving yards (389), while Dameon Pierce is pacing the rookies in rushing yards (412). They'll be important contributors and OROY candidates as long as they're healthy.
However, there's another player on the rise.
Jets running back Breece Hall has steadily seen an increase in his role. After notching 20 total touches in his first two games, the Iowa State product has averaged 17.7 during the last three outings. Hall has more scrimmage yards (488) than both Pierce and Olave too.
We'll settle this front-runner tie later, because Hall is the predicted winner anyway.
The wild card to remember is Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett. Voters love a QB, as the position has accounted for nine of the last 18 OROY winners.
Defensive Player of the Year
Front-Runner: Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Micah Parsons burst onto the NFL scene in 2021, racking up 84 tackles, 13 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. He landed Defensive Rookie of the Year honors while finishing second in the overall DPOY race.
This season, he's even better.
As the Cowboys have roared out to a 4-1 start, Parsons has registered 19 tackles and 12 hits. He's posted three two-sack games and forced a fumble in the recent victory over the Rams.
Only bolstering Parsons' candidacy, the reigning DPOY—Steelers edge-rusher T.J. Watt—is sidelined with multiple injuries. Rams superstar Aaron Donald is a three-time winner and annual contender, but the team's sluggish start (more on that shortly) may be an obstacle.
Parsons has the hype. Dallas is looking destined for the postseason. And a DPOY trophy may soon be on his shelf.
Offensive Player of the Year
Front-Runner: Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
As of Monday, DraftKings featured a four-way tie between Cooper Kupp, Jalen Hurts, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson for Offensive Player of the Year.
Tiebreaker goes to the defending award winner.
Strictly from a statistical perspective, Kupp is having another fantastic year. He's grabbed an NFL-best 49 receptions and ranks second in both yards (527) and touchdowns (four) in five games.
While his box-score numbers are very likely to remain impressive, the Los Angeles Rams' overall form has rapidly become an obstacle. Although this is an individual award, voters tend to pick players on strong teams. The last OPOY winner on a six-loss team was Adrian Peterson in 2012, when he nearly set the NFL single-season rushing record.
Los Angeles is 2-3. If that doesn't improve in a major way soon, Kupp's chances will drop considerably. And it's understandable if you're losing optimism regarding the reigning champs' "Kupp or Nothing" offense.
Most Valuable Player
Front-Runner: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen finished as the MVP runner-up two years ago. He's trending heavily toward the No. 1 spot in 2022.
Allen is the NFL leader in passing yards (1,651) and touchdown throws (14), also ranking third in yards per attempt (8.3). He's rushed for a team-high 225 yards and two scores while propelling Buffalo to a 4-1 record.
During this millennium, the MVP has effectively become a QB award. The exceptions came when a running back—Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander—had historic years. And it certainly doesn't seem like an outlier will appear in 2022.
Hurts and Jackson are dual-threat standouts too. Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes is still thriving even after the loss of key receiver Tyreek Hill. This race is far from over.
But especially if the Bills finish with the NFL's best record, it'd only be sensible for a prolific Allen to bring home an MVP.
Statistics via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
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