Week 14 NFL MVP, Award Rankings

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 8, 2017

Week 14 NFL MVP, Award Rankings

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    It's the last month of the 2017 NFL regular season, which means races are heating up.

    There are the playoff races of course. But really, who cares? So what if you win that Super Bowl thing? What's the upside? One trophy that everyone on the team has to share?

    Sharing is the worst thing ever.

    No, the real drama lies with the league's individual awards, where players get to keep a whole trophy all to themselves.

    With four weeks to go, it's time to handicap those races, whether it's the logjam for Defensive Player of the Year, the runaway in the making for Offensive Rookie of the Year or which quarterback will win this year's Most Valuable Player honors.

    Oh yeah. It'll be a quarterback.

    It's just about always a quarterback.

Coach of the Year

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    No. 1 Contender: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

    A 31-year-old coach who is younger than some of his players takes the reins of a plucky, down-on-their-luck NFL team and leads them from the basement of their division into the playoffs in his first season at the helm.

    It sounds like the plot of a Disney movie, but in 2017, truth is stranger than fiction. Two weeks ago the Rams won an L.A. showdown with the New Orleans Saints, and if the Rams pull off a similar win Sunday over the Philadelphia Eagles, the McVay train is only going to pick up steam.

          

    No. 2 Contender: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

    Lose your starting quarterback to a season-ending injury? No problem!

    Lose your talented rookie tailback as well? Piece of cake!

    At 10-2, the Minnesota Vikings are as hot as any team in the NFL—winners of eight straight. The NFC North is all but a done deal.

    There's plenty of credit to go around in the Twin Cities, but a large share belongs to head coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings have adopted the personality of their coach—they are tough, they are hard-nosed…

    And they never, ever quit.

          

    No. 3 Contender: Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

    Doug Pederson actually caught a bit of flak this past week after a couple of shaky decisions on coach's challenges (one flag that was thrown, one that wasn't) contributed to Philadelphia's second loss of the 2017 season in Seattle.

    But it was Philadelphia's second loss of the season.

    The Eagles have gone from a 7-9 cellar dweller to 10-2 and on the brink of an NFC East title in Pederson's second year at the helm. For much of the season, the Eagles have looked like the NFL's most complete team.

    And that success is certain to thrust Pederson into the thick of the Coach of the Year race.

         

    No. 4 Contender: Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

    In most seasons, Doug Marrone would be getting a lot more Coach of the Year run than this. At 8-4, the Jaguars have already won their most games since 2010. One more victory this year will give Jacksonville its first winning season since 2007—the last time the Jaguars made the playoffs.

    Yes, much of Jacksonville's success can be traced to a stacked defense. And some will credit it to the arrival of Tom Coughlin as the executive vice president of football operations this year.

    But heading into a big Week 14 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, the Jaguars are in first place in December for the first time since that 2010 season—and Marrone deserves some dap for that.

           

    No. 5 Contender: Todd Bowles, New York Jets

    Right now, you're probably wondering why Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots isn't listed here. Or maybe Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. After all, both those teams are 10-2 and tied atop the AFC.

    But both of those teams were also expected to do well in 2017.

    The New York Jets most assuredly were not.

    Yes, the Jets are just 5-7, but New York has been a tough out each and every week. Six of those seven losses are by single digits, and the Jets have two wins over teams that are either in or tied for first place.

    No team has exceeded expectations more that Gang Green in 2017.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

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    No. 1 Contender: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints

    The Defensive Rookie of the Year race is a tricky call. Almost all of this season's top first-year defenders have missed time in 2017 with injuries.

    That includes Lattimore, who sat out the Saints' last two games with a bad ankle.

    However, assuming that Lattimore returns to his pre-injury form as the top corner in New Orleans, he's the best bet to bring home the hardware.

    As Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune pointed out, prior to getting hurt, Lattimore wasn't just the highest-graded rookie cornerback at Pro Football Focus.

    He was the highest-graded cornerback overall.

         

    No. 2 Contender: Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns

    The title of Myles Garrett's rookie season might well be, "What could have been."

    When he's been on the field and healthy, Garrett has looked the part of the No. 1 overall pick. Garrett has piled up five sacks in seven games, including two in his debut—one of which came on his very first play.

    However, Garrett's also missed almost half the season, so while his per-game production has been great, it's doubtful he'll be able to catch Lattimore.

          

    No. 3 Contender: Tre'Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills

    Like most of the names on this list, White may be set to miss time, compliments of the cheap shot from Rob Gronkowski that earned the star tight end a well-deserved one-game suspension.

    Still, even if White sits for a game or two, his play to date is still going to land the 27th overall pick in the thick of the DROY convo.

    White has intercepted three passes as a rookie, including the one a week ago that drew Gronk's wrath. As his 47 total tackles demonstrate, he's also been busy. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown at the youngster from the get-go.

    And with few exceptions, he has held his own playing full-time for the Bills.

          

    No. 4 Contender: T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Just what NFL quarterbacks need. Another Watt boy wreaking havoc in the NFL.

    J.J.'s younger brother is more than just a pass-rusher though. As Lindsay Jones reported for USA Today, in addition to being tied for second among rookies with five sacks, Watt also ranks fifth among rookies in passes defensed—the only non-defensive back on the leaderboard.

    Watt has quickly gone from a situational player to a full-time outside linebacker in Pittsburgh. Since late October, he's played at least 80 percent of Pittsburgh's defensive snaps in every game.

    It shouldn't come as any surprise given his surname, but Watt's the real deal.

            

    No. 5 Contender: Reuben Foster, ILB, San Francisco 49ers

    Like many of the DROY contenders, Foster's missed significant time due to injury. But per Chris Biderman of Niners Wire, Houston head coach Bill O'Brien came away impressed after watching film ahead of a Week 14 tilt against San Francisco

    "Reuben Foster’s probably one of the top two inside linebackers that we’ve played this year," O’Brien said.

    Foster could also be set for a late charge up this list. He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Month for November after leading all first-year players with 30 tackles—in a month when Foster had his bye week.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

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    No. 1 Contender: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    With each passing week, Alvin Kamara puts more distance between himself and the rest of the pack.

    Kamara has been nothing short of a revelation for the first-place Saints. On the ground, he is averaging an eye-popping seven yards a pop on his 87 carries with seven touchdowns. Through the air, he's reeled in 62 passes for over 600 yards with four more scores.

    Kamara is averaging close to 8.5 yards every time he touches the ball and was averaging over 100 total yards and almost a touchdown per game until a concussion cut his Week 14 outing short in the first quarter.

            

    No. 2 Contender: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Granted, Fournette's numbers aren't as impressive as Kamara's. Or even Kareem Hunt's. For the season, the fourth overall pick has gained 822 yards on the ground on 207 carries. He's just over 1,000 total yards for the year with eight touchdowns.

    Fournette has also slowed down of late, topping 100 rushing yards just once in the last month and picking up only 82 yards on 32 carries over his last two games.

    But Fournette is also receiving the lion's share of attention from opposing defenses that are stacking the box against him. He's far and away the offensive centerpiece for the Jaguars.

    He's also easily the offensive MVP for an 8-4 Jaguars team having its best season in years.

          

    No. 3 Contender: Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

    If Fournette has tailed off a bit, then Hunt has gone screaming off a cliff into a bottomless abyss.

    During Kansas City's five-game winning streak to open the season, Hunt topped 100 yards on the ground four times and averaged 6.3 yards a carry.

    Since then, Hunt has averaged 3.3 yards a carry and has rushed for 100 yards exactly never.

    Does Hunt deserve some of the blame for that free-fall? Perhaps. But he also deserves credit for his early-season success and the almost-1,300 total yards he's piled up so far.

                   

    No. 4 Contender: Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

    Necessity is the mother of invention—and one heck of a motivator.

    With the receiving corps for the New York Giants torn to pieces by injuries, Engram has been forced to become the team's No. 1 receiver.

    Engram has dropped his share of passes, ranking in the top 10, but he also ranks inside the top five among rookies in receptions and yardage. He leads all rookie pass-catchers with six touchdowns.

           

    No. 5 Contender: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

    Had Watson not torn his ACL at the beginning of November, it would all be over but the crying in this category.

    That terrible ending aside, it wouldn't be right to not at least pay respect to what Watson was able to accomplish in seven games this season.

    He passed for 1,699 yards, tossed 19 touchdown passes, posted a passer rating of over 100 and added 269 more yards on the ground.

    Watson was the real deal. His season getting cut short was the NFL's biggest bummer in 2017. While youngsters like Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers will have played a full(er) season, Watson is still likely to receive more OROY votes.

Comeback Player of the Year

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    No. 1 Contender: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams

    As a rookie, Jared Goff looked lost as the Rams quarterback. There were more than a few grumbles that the Rams had squandered the top pick in the 2016 draft.

    Now, he looks like a 4,000-yard passer and potential MVP candidate. He has a plus-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio playing for a first-place team that has exceeded expectations this season by about 1,700 miles.

    The voters for these kinds of awards love to give them to quarterbacks. And at that position, Goff is the most deserving candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

                         

    No. 2 Contender: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

    Goff wasn't the only Rams player who struggled in 2016. After topping 1,100 rushing yards as a rookie, Gurley's production plummeted last year. He gained just 885 rushing yards and averaged only 3.2 yards per carry.

    It's been a much different story this year. Gurley's yards per carry is up a full yard, he's closing in on a second 1,000-yard season on the ground, and he's developed much better receiving chops. He's caught 48 passes for 563 yards.

    From the penthouse to the outhouse and right back to the penthouse.

             

    No. 3 Contender: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

    If the Chargers keep winning and capture the AFC West, Allen is likely to climb this list. Yes, team success matters at awards time.

    Allen's qualifications for the award aren't in question. After playing in just nine games in 2015 and 2016 combined due to a litany of injuries, Allen has been both healthy and productive in 2017.

    For the season, Allen has caught 77 passes for 1,032 yards and five scores. His numbers of late have been ridiculous: 33 catches for 436 yards and four scores over the last three games alone.

            

    No. 4 Contender: Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings

    It's fair to question whether you can call Keenum's 2017 season a "comeback."

    We've never seen anything resembling this from him in the NFL. If you compare Keenum's 2016 numbers to this year, there's, well, no comparison.

    Keenum's touchdown-to-interception ratio has gone from minus-two to plus-11. He's averaging almost a yard more per attempt. His passer rating is over 20 points higher.

    Oh, and Keenum has won his last eight starts. Is that good? It sounds good.

          

    No. 5 Contender: Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks

    It's been a rough year for the "Legion of Boom."

    Well, most of it anyway.

    With Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman both out with serious injuries, it has fallen to Earl Thomas to hold the back end of the Seahawks defense together one year after his own season was cut short by a broken leg.

    Thomas has responded in a big way, playing some of his best football in years. He's topped his tackle total from last season, equaled his interceptions (including a 78-yard pick-six) and has been a key part of the Seahawks keeping pace with the Rams in the NFC West.

    Thomas probably isn't beating out the offensive stars listed here, but that doesn't mean he hasn't had one heck of a rebound campaign.

Defensive Player of the Year

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    No. 1 Contender: Aaron Donald, DE, Los Angeles Rams

    The Defensive Player of the Year race may be the hardest to handicap of the lot. But it shouldn't be.

    It's Aaron Donald's world.

    In 11 games this season, Donald has matched his sack total from a year ago, and those sack numbers only tell part of the story. Donald's pressure numbers are off the charts as well.

    He lives in the opposing backfield.

    Donald is the most dominant defensive player in the NFL today. Period.

              

    No. 2 Contender: Bobby Wagner, ILB, Seattle Seahawks

    There have been exceptions (Luke Kuechly in 2013), but generally speaking, it's difficult for an inside linebacker to win DPOY. The "splash" plays aren't there most of the time.

    Someone forgot to tell Bobby Wagner.

    Last year's leading tackler is again near the top of the league, with 113 stops through 12 games. Wagner has also pitched in 1.5 sacks and two interceptions, showing that he's just as adept rushing the passer or in coverage as stuffing the run.

    In a year when the secondary has been ravaged by injuries, Wagner has emerged as the leader of Seattle's defense.

            

    No. 3 Contender: Calais Campbell, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Calais Campbell has long been one of the more underrated two-way defensive ends in football. Yet he's never been a serious contender for this award, largely because entering 2017 he had never logged double-digit sacks in a season.

    Until now, that is.

    Campbell has exploded in his first year in Jacksonville (and first as a 4-3 defensive end at the NFL level), posting 46 tackles, 12.5 sacks (third in the league) and three forced fumbles.

    He's the best player on the league's best defense.

            

    No. 4 Contender: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Dallas Cowboys

    There are a handful of defensive ends who deserve consideration here, including Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings and Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers.

    But it would be remiss not to include the NFL's sack leader among the contenders for Defensive Player of the Year.

    Demarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys has been much more than just 13.5 sacks in 2017—5.5 more than his career best before 2017.

    He's also played the run well (50 tackles) and leads the NFC with four forced fumbles.

           

    No. 5 Contender: Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints

    The New Orleans offense gets all the love, but lost amid all the talk about the Saints' running backs and another great year from Drew Brees has been the fact that Cameron Jordan has been an absolute monster at defensive end.

    With three games still to play, Jordan has already tallied 10 sacks—the second-highest total of his seven-year career. He's much more than just a pass-rusher, too. Jordan's 40 solo tackles leads all defensive ends this season.

    It's that versatility—the ability to stuff the run and make quarterbacks cry with equal aplomb—that has landed him in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.

Offensive Player of the Year

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    No. 1 Contender: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

    Tom Brady may or may not be the NFL's Most Valuable Player (he's at least on the short list), but if he doesn't win MVP, he'll likely bring home his third OPOY honor.

    The numbers are hard to argue with. Brady's 3,632 passing yards, 8.3 yards per attempt and 109.7 passer rating lead the NFL. Only Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles has thrown more touchdown passes, and Brady has only four interceptions in 12 games.

    The Golden Boy may be getting old, but so far it isn't showing one bit.

    No. 2 Contender: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

    It's shades of Super Bowl XLIX: Wilson and Brady duking it out for the right to a piece of hardware.

    Wilson has spent most of this season standing on his head in an effort to keep the Seahawks in the NFC West race, and the numbers reflect it. He's seventh in passing yards with 3,256, tied with Brady for the second in the league with 26 touchdown passes and has chipped in another 432 yards and three scores on the ground.

    Those 432 rushing yards are more than twice as many as any other player on Seattle's roster.

    Standing. On. His. Head.

              

    No. 3 Contender: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Personally, this writer would like to see more non-quarterbacks win Offensive Player of the Year, if only because a signal-caller will probably be named the NFL's MVP.

    If that is the case in 2017, then Le'Veon Bell has an excellent chance of hearing his name called.

    It isn't just that Bell's 1,057 rushing yards lead the NFL. Or that the 25-year-old has also pitched in 66 receptions for 502 yards.

    Bell's 336 total touches lead the NFL by a sizable margin. It's awfully hard to name a player more important to his team than Bell is to the Steelers.

          

    No. 4 Contender: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Except maybe for Bell's teammate in the Steel City.

    Brown has been using the 2017 season as a reminder that he remains the gold standard at wideout.

    Just as Bell leads the NFL in total touches, Brown leads the NFL in passing targets with 141. And receptions with 88. And receiving yards with 1,296. And yards per game with 108. And touchdown catches with nine.

    OK. To be fair, he's tied with DeAndre Hopkins in touchdown grabs.

    Come on, Antonio. Quit slacking. 

    No. 5 Contender: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

    Gurley's raw stats aren't quite as gaudy as Le'Veon Bell's. But given that the third-year pro is on pace to crack 2,000 total yards and find the end zone 15 or 16 times this year, you aren't going to hear the Rams complaining.

    Or Gurley's fantasy football owners, for that matter.

    To his credit, on a per-touch basis, Gurley has been more effective than Bell in 2017. He's averaging 4.2 yards a carry as opposed to 3.9 for Bell, and Gurley's robust 11.7 yards per reception is a full four yards higher than Bell's.

    He's also outscoring Bell 11 total touchdowns to six, if numbers are your thing.

Most Valuable Player

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    No. 1 Contender: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

    More often than not in recent years, the NFL MVP has been awarded more to the best player on a good team (who plays quarterback) than the player who is truly the most valuable to that team.

    This year in Wilson, voters can do both.

    More than any other quarterback for a contender, Wilson is the Seattle offense. Despite no running game and a bad offensive line, Wilson is single-handedly keeping the Seahawks in the playoff hunt.

    Per Daniel Levitt of FiveThirtyEight, among the leading MVP candidates, Wilson leads the league in total accrued yards (rushing and passing). He's also responsible for the most offensive touchdowns.

         

    No. 2 Contender: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

    In Brady's age-40 season, he leads the league in passing yards. He has thrown 22 more touchdown passes than interceptions with a passer rating of 109.7—tops among all qualifying signal-callers.

    Oh, and the Patriots are 10-2 and barreling toward another Super Bowl.

    The greatest quarterback in NFL history is having one of the best seasons by a player his age in NFL history—maybe the best.

         

    No. 3 Contender: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

    The unlikely ascension of Wentz and the Eagles may have hit a snag in Seattle last week, but that doesn't change his status as a leading MVP contender.

    Wentz ranks outside the top 10 in passing yards, but the second-year pro leads the NFL with 29 touchdown passes. He has thrown just six interceptions and ranks fifth among quarterbacks with over 200 attempts in passer rating at 102.0.

    This week's showdown in Los Angeles gives Wentz a chance to get that ascension back on track.

          

    No. 4 Contender: Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings

    Yes, Case Keenum.

    The same Case Keenum who spent most of his career as a journeyman backup. The same Case Keenum who opened 2017 as the Vikings backup only because Teddy Bridgewater wasn't ready yet. The same Case Keenum who it's continually speculated Bridgewater could replace at any moment.

    That speculation grows sillier by the week. Yes, Keenum's numbers (2,703 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions) aren't as impressive as the other quarterbacks listed here, but he's continually made plays when he needed to for a Vikings team that has won nine of their last 10 games.

    Keenum has earned this spot.

          

    No. 5 Contender: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams

    At this point, you might be wondering why there aren't any non-quarterbacks listed here.

    That's easy. The odds of a player who doesn't play the position winning MVP in a given year are terrible. No non-QB has been named MVP since Adrian Peterson in 2012, and he's the only one in the last decade.

    Odds are Jared Goff isn't going to win it either, barring a miraculous push down the stretch.

    But the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft is having a phenomenal second season with the Rams under Sean McVay, with almost 3,200 passing yards and 20 scores.

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