Every offseason, football fans get hyped up about way too early predictions, hoping that their favorite team or player will be in the running for an award. With a few months left before the start of the season, let’s check who the front runners to be bringing home the honors this season are.
Coach of the Year
Brandon Staley- The ex-Rams defensive coordinator is now the L.A. Chargers new head coach. After leading the NFL in Yards and Points allowed in 2020, Staley will try to ignite a Chargers team that is on the brink of being a contender for the Super Bowl. Last year’s 7-9 team lost too many close games under seven points, so Staley has a tough job at hand with the 23rd ranked defense. 2020 Winner: Kevin Stefanski.
*Honorable Mentions: Kyle Shanahan, Kevin Stefanski, Dan Campbell.*
Defensive Player of the Year
TJ Watt- Last year’s sack leader, Watt is a versatile edge rusher who can get in the backfield. In his four seasons with the Steelers, he’s earned three Pro-Bowl invitations and two All-Pro selections. With 15 sacks last year, the expectation for him is high for sure. Can he replicate the same productivity he’s been known to produce? He’ll have his work cut out for sure, with reigning award winner Aaron Donald continually being in the running as well.
*Honorable Mentions: Aaron Donald, Chase Young, Nick Bosa.*
Offensive Player of the Year
Justin Herbert- In his rookie season, Herbert shattered records and surprised fans and analysts alike with his outstanding performances. He owns the record for most games with 300 yards passing (eight), and was surely electric to watch one game after another. Offensive player and MVP are two very closely related awards, so I wouldn’t be alarmed if we see him later on this list as well. OPOY usually incorporates other skill positions as well, because MVP is almost always given to a QB. With the impact Herbert brings to the offense, we will have him in the running for OPOY. 2020 Winner: Derrick Henry.
*Honorable Mentions: Lamar Jackson, Derrick Henry, Josh Allen.*
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Patrick Surtain ll- The Alabama product was, arguably, the top cornerback taken in this draft. At 6’2″ and 200+ pounds, Surtain II will be tested early and will be playing mostly man to man coverage for the Broncos in his rookie campaign. He’ll have multiple tests in the AFC West, with matchups against Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, and Henry Ruggs twice throughout the season. Like many other Crimson Tide products, Surtain II should be a cornerstone on the defense, barring any injury. 2020 Winner: Chase Young.
*Honorable Mentions: Micah Parsons, Jaelan Phillips, Azeez Ojulari.*
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Trevor Lawrence- The highest graded quarterback since Andrew Luck, Lawrence went first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Prince of Duval has college great Urban Meyer at the helm to try to turn around a Jaguars team that has certainly seen better days. After never losing a regular season game in his career, he will make a leap to the pros with his long time backfield partner, Travis Etienne. Lawrence is almost expected to win this award this season, but it won’t be a walk in the park. 2020 Winner: Justin Herbert
*Honorable Mentions: Justin Fields, Najee Harris, Zach Wilson.*
Josh Allen- The Buffalo Bills 25 year old quarterback had a breakout season last year, throwing for over 4,500 yards and leading them to a 13-3 record. These are definitely MVP numbers for sure. Now that Allen has established himself as an elite passer, he’ll look to take the next step by leading his team to a Super Bowl. After coming up short in the AFC Championship last year, Allen should bounce back and have an even better season in his fourth year. However, there are a few veteran and young QBs who won’t let him be crowned just yet. 2020 Winner: Aaron Rodgers
*Honorable Mentions: Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Justin Herbert.*