What a fun idea, let’s just get a few of the Stackers together, throw a couple of brief award predictions together, and see who has the most right at the end of the season. Sounds good, right? Well nearly 3,000 words later, we have a monster of a roundtable on our hands. Sit back, scroll through, and see who we think will win all of the awards at the end of the season.
2018 NFL Midseason Award Prediction Roundtable
Comeback Player of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): J.J. Watt
C’mon. It’s gotta be J.J. Watt. Andrew Luck is doing pretty well, Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers are okay despite being on a chaotic team, and it’s so nice to see the Jacksonville Jaguars return to form, but the best comeback belongs to J.J. Watt. As of writing this, he has eight sacks in his last five games and looks like the J.J. of old. Welcome back big fella, I hope this isn’t the only time you hear your name called tonight.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Andrew Luck
Larson Fun Fact #1- Larson predicted the Eagles winning the NFC Championship last August.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck hasn’t played football for close to two years because of a shoulder injury. The fact that he is even playing makes him deserving of the award. Not to mention halfway through the season he’s thrown 23 touchdowns. Andrew Luck’s return to football has been nothing short of impressive and should be the Comeback Player of the Year.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): J.J. Watt
Injury has plagued the once great defensive end and it appears that 2018 is finally his comeback season. With 8 sacks in 8 games, Watt is tied for 2nd for the season behind Aaron Donald (10).
William Frost (@willfrost_): Adrian Peterson
The Cardinals placed Adrian Peterson on IR in November of 2017 and many people around the league assumed that this may be the last we saw of Adrian Peterson. Almost a full year since, we are now talking about a 33-year-old back who would have a legitimate shot at taking home the rushing title if it wasn’t for Todd Gurley. Peterson has 587 yards at an impressive 4.6 YPC and is a large reason as to why the Redskins have a two-game lead at the top of the NFC East. Which is impressive considering he wasn’t even with the team until rookie Derrius Guice tore his ACL.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): J.J. Watt
This award is a slam dunk. After being limited to eight games and just 1.5 sacks the last two seasons due to injury, Watt is back to his elite pass rushing form, currently ranking second in the league in sacks and leading the league in forced fumbles. As long as he can stay healthy the rest of the year, this award is his to lose.
GM/Exec of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): Jon Gruden
This is half-satirical. I don’t believe that Jon Gruden will even be in the conversation for GM or Executive of the Year, partly because he’s not an executive or a general manager, but mostly because most people have been very critical of what he’s done with the team so far. I don’t like this award, I made that very clear last year, no need to dig it back up, but considering the Raiders are set to have four picks in the top 40 of this year’s draft, and nearly $70,000,000 in cap space next year, he’ll have every opportunity to build exactly the team that he wants. I’m just ahead of the curve, wait until the Raiders take Nick Bosa, Devin White, and N’Keal (or is it K’neal? I honestly never know) Harry, and you’re all picking Chucky NEXT Halloween. 🤨
And let me tell YOU something BROTHER. WATCHA GONNA DO, BROTHER, when GRUDEMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU, BROTHER? (Flexes, 24 inch pythons, etc, etc)
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Ryan Pace
Larson Fun Fact #2- He once tore his ACL… on the bench press.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Les Snead
You know when you play a Madden franchise with your friends and make moves to stack your team? Les Snead has done that, but in real life. The Rams defensive line is as dangerous as any front four ever, and the offense added another speedy weapon by trading for Brandin Cooks. Even if the Rams win it all this year and then fall short in coming years, his job should be safe because the job he did this year with building a team to win now while also extending Gurley, Cooks and Donald, is exemplary.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Ryan Pace
Two words. Khalil Mack. Anything any other GM does this season will be overshadowed by the fact that Pace was able to get a one-of-a-kind defensive end in a trade that shocked the world.
William Frost (@willfrost_): Doug Williams
Let me just throw a couple of numbers out there before I’m lambasted for not picking Les Snead okay? The Rams were already good – admittedly they added an unbelievable number of pieces, but the transformation of this Washington team is remarkable. Washington has gone from dead last in run defense in 2017 to the second best in football through the first half of this season. Taking Alabama defensive linemen in 2017 and ’18 has proved to be an astute move as the front seven has transformed.
The secondary has also managed to maintain their place in the top half of the league when defending the pass despite trading away their number one corner to Kansas City. Talking of that Kansas City trade, Alex Smith has this team on the brink of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Letting Kirk Cousins walk could prove to be one of the smarter moves by any front office this season, as Washington have found their franchise quarterback and freed up cap space to acquire more standout talent like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Les Snead
The Rams are sitting as the best team in football, and the offseason that Snead had can be directly linked to this. After finishing last year as the leagues breakout team with an 11-5 record, Snead went all in this past offseason, acquiring star cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, acquired help at wide receiver in the form of Brandon Cooks and then inked him to a long term extension, and then made an already scary defensive line even better by snagging Ndamukong Suh. In addition, he got high money extensions finalized with Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald and bolstered the pass rush even further by acquiring Dante Fowler on the day of the NFL Trade Deadline. Clearly the Rams are in “win now” mode, and all of Snead’s moves have paid off with an 8-0 record so far.
Coach of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): Andy Reid
The obvious pick is Sean McVay, and I get that, but look at what Kansas City is doing. The Rams loaded up on weapons. Between Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp, the Rams were always going to be elite. But the Chiefs? Nobody was picking the Chiefs to start the season, and now they’re arguably the best team in football. The development of Patrick Mahomes alone warrants some big recognition for And Reid.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Sean McVay
Larson Fun Fact #3- As long as I’m in charge of recruiting for websites, he’ll always have a job with me.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Hue Jackson. Just Kidding. Sean McVay
The Rams are 8-0 and McVay is a genius. ‘Nuff said.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Andy Reid
Sean Mcvay could easily get this award, and he’s earned it as well. I just think what Reid has done in Kansas City this season has been special. When the Chiefs traded Alex Smith away, I don’t think anyone believed Patrick Mahomes was ready to take over. Instead, Mahomes has taken over this Andy Reid offense and flourished. I know they’re no longer undefeated but this Chiefs team looks legitimate and you gotta give props to Reid.
William Frost (@willfrost_): Andy Reid
Andy Reid has taken a second-year quarterback and turned him into the heir to the MVP throne. Mahomes is helped by extraordinary talent across all levels of the offense but the level of success that this unit is currently enjoying is largely thanks to excellent scheming from Big Red. It remains to be seen if the Chiefs can make any noise in the post-season, but Andy Reid looks to have curated a formidable team in KC.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Sean McVay
He’s the head coach of the best and only undefeated team in football as we hit the halfway point, and in a few short weeks time the Rams will probably have the NFC West officially sewn up. The only potential challenger to this that I see is Jay Gruden if the Redskins continue to play good football and remain atop the NFC East, but right now, it has to be McVay.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): Saquon Barkley
I wanted to give this to Baker Mayfield. I really, really, really did. How can you argue against what the guy is doing in Cleveland, even during a tumultuous season?! But, as it goes, it’s the young Saquon Barkley that’s been showing out and showing off this season. He’s on pace for over 2,000 all purpose yards and 14 total touchdowns. And he’s doing it on THAT team? Incredible.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Saquon Barkley
Larson Fun Fact #4- He thinks Derek Carr sucks but he hasn’t watched a Raiders game in his life.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley has been everything he was billed to be coming out of Penn State. He is a special player and is currently the best player the Giants have. He already has 1,000 total yards and 7 total touchdowns while not fumbling the ball once. If his second half mirrors his first half he will be a worthy candidate for rookie of the year for the offensive side, and could develop into a future offensive player of the year contender and maybe get MVP votes, not unlike Todd Gurley.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Saquon Barkley
Okay, so the Falcons aren’t great. But do you know who is? Calvin Ridley. Potentially one of the hottest starts to a rookie season for a wide receiver ever, Ridley had six touchdowns (which puts him fourth in the entire league) before defenders had time to blink. On pace for over 50 catches, 750 yards and 12 TDs, Atlanta can be very happy that the Alabama product fell into their lap this April.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Saquon Barkley
Barkley is second among all rookies in rushing and leads the NFL among rookies in receiving. He’s already over 1000 total yards and leads all rookies with 7 total touchdowns, and is arguably the most important piece of a lackluster Giants offense. In short, Barkley is a lock.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): Denzel Ward
This is going to be an interesting one, because Darius Leonard in Indianapolis has been balling out as well, and I honestly think he’ll probably win it… but I’m going with my gut, and my gut says the best defensive rookie I’ve watched this year is Maurice Hurst…
But he’s not going to win, so I’ll give it to the second best rookie I’ve seen, and that’s Cleveland’s young corner, Denzel Ward. He already has three picks, just eight games into his young career, and despite some growing pains, he’s looked fantastic so far.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Darius Leonard
Larson Fun Fact #5- Larson is the only member of Sports Stack to be winless in Madden against other Stackers.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Denzel Ward
Denzel Ward has been a ballhawk this season. Already collecting three interceptions and contributing to a forced fumble and two recoveries. Other than Ward, no defensive rookie has been truly impressive. They would have to blow me and the actual people that vote on this award away in the second half to take this award away from Ward. This guy is good.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Darius Leonard
I know Denzel Ward has been amazing for Cleveland but Leonard has been quietly having a great season for the Colts. In 8 games, he has 88 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 pass deflections and 3 forced fumbles.
William Frost (@willfrost_): Derwin James
Derwin James is currently tied for the team lead in sacks with three and a half and he plays safety. The best safety of the 2018 draft class is proving his worth as a swiss-army knife type defender in Gus Bradley’s secondary. James ranks seventh in PFF’s safety grades this season largely down to the fact that he’s able to do everything well. A future star in this league, unfortunately Kansas City’s dominance through the first half of the season means that this Chargers team isn’t getting enough attention.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Denzel Ward
Ward has made a number of impact plays for the Browns defense this year, and is one of the major reasons behind the success that Cleveland has seen, something that fan base has been craving for a long time. He came in and started making an impact from the very first game, gathering a pair of interceptions against Ben Roethlisberger, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
Offensive Player of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): Todd Gurley
C’mon. The guy is on pace for 2,300 yards and 30 touchdowns. Adrian Peterson won the MVP with 14 more yards and 13 fewer touchdowns. That’s insane to me. Throw in the fact that the Rams are the best team in football, and the likes of Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Adam Thielen, and Julio Jones can hit the road, Jack.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Adam Thielen
Larson Fun Fact #6- Larson and Ryan are gonna become best friends next spring.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley has been the best offensive player in football through 8 weeks. He is averaging 143.9 yards from scrimmage per game and has scored 15 touchdowns, putting him on pace to gain 2,302 yards from scrimmage and score 30 total touchdowns. Numbers fitting of an MVP, but he isn’t a quarterback so he’ll be OPOY for the second year running.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Todd Gurley
In the first eight games, Gurley has dominated with 800 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 169 carries. Gurley also adds 31 receptions for 351 yards and 4 touchdowns to his impressive resume.
William Frost (@willfrost_): Todd Gurley
Can LA retain their clean sweep of the annual awards for coaches and players on both sides of the ball? We’ll have to wait and see. But there’s nobody coming close to matching Gurley’s production through the first half of this season. Astonishingly, Gurley has yet to have a game without scoring a touchdown in 2018 – be it in the air or on the ground. On pace to finish the year with over 2300 yards and 30 touchdowns, this one really isn’t up for debate.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Todd Gurley
Gurley is on a tear this year. The leagues leading rusher with 800 yards (181 yards more than second place) is already over 1150 total yards and 15 total touchdowns after just eight games this year. If not for the fact that the MVP is historically a quarterback heavy award, Gurley would have a very strong case for the MVP honor as the offensive leader of an undefeated Los Angeles Rams team.
Defensive Player of the Year
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL): J.J. Watt
This isn’t a popular pick, I know. I’m supposed to take Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack like everyone else, but I can’t turn a blind eye to what J.J. Watt is doing in Houston! He’s trailing Aaron Donald in the sack race right now, but I don’t know how long that will last. He’s been the most consistent pass rusher this season, with Donald getting most of his sacks in the last two weeks and Khalil Mack fading into obscurity like he seemingly does at some point every season. Watt wins Defensive Player of the Year for the NFL record fourth time.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Khalil Mack
Larson Fun Fact #7- we’re also publishing our division championship predictions today and Larson is the only person who hasn’t sent his in yet.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): D.J. Swearinger
Swearinger leads the league with 4 pick and has forced two fumbles and recovered one. If Swearinger keeps up his first half pace he will be the MVP of Washington’s defense and will be a deserving candidate for defensive player of the year.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Khalil Mack
William Frost (@willfrost_): Aaron Donald
Can you believe that Aaron Donald leads the league with 10 sacks from defensive tackle despite not reporting for training camp? The best defender in football is back at it again, notching up 70% of his devastating numbers in the last three weeks alone. If Donald is only now just hitting his stride, we could be talking about one of the better seasons by a defender in league history.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Aaron Donald
Donald is already in the double digits in the sacks department halfway through the year and he plays on an undefeated team. If not for the pass rush that Donald is generating, an already injured and imperfect Rams secondary would be getting more imploded than they already are. But as it is, the Rams are still unbeaten, and Donald is a large part to do with that, and as long as the Rams keep rolling and he stays hot, the award is his to lose. The only potential change to this is if he slips up, which in that case, look for the likes of Khalil Mack and JJ Watt to come up and swipe this award, but Mack is currently banged up, and it doesn’t look like Donald’s production is slowing down anytime soon.
Most Valuable Player
Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL):
To me, there were only three possible contenders. Two quarterbacks and a tailback. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, New Orleans’ Drew Brees, and Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley. Just for fairness, I’m going to make an argument for all three, and then tell you who I’m picking.
Patrick Mahomes is basically a rookie, and he’s on pace for 5,052 yards, 52 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. I’ll write that again, because I’m not sure you understand. In his first full season as a starting quarterback, this guy is on pace to become only the sixth quarterback in NFL history with over 5,000 yards, and only the third with at least 50 passing touchdowns. Throw in the second best record in the AFC and you’ve got a bonafide M.V.P. on your hands.
Oh Drew Brees, always the M.V.P.’s maid, never the M.V.P. Over on our sister site, BroSports.blog (the best kind of B.S.), I broke down why Drew Brees hasn’t won the M.V.P. award before now. Well… that could change this season.
Brees is on pace for well over 4,500 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. Sure, his numbers aren’t as gaudy as Mahomes’, but they’re clinical. Brees is so efficient, it’s scary. He’s completing 77% of his passes. That’s 12% better than Mahomes. And if the Saints can beat Los Angeles this weekend? They might be gearing up to take the NFC’s number one seed.
I already broke down why Gurley was the offensive player of the year, but let’s take a deeper look at his M.V.P. eligibility. In the last ten years, only one non-quarterback has won the league M.V.P., and that was Adrian Peterson. In 2012, Peterson accounted for 2,314 total yards and thirteen touchdowns, carrying Christian Ponder and the Vikings to the playoffs.
Gurley is on pace for 2,302 total yards and 30 total touchdowns, and the Rams have the best record in football. That’s just the pace too, Gurley could end up having more than that before all is said and done. Barring an injury or a meteoric collapse in Los Angeles, his M.V.P. claim is very legitimate.
So who takes it?
C’mon. It’s Mahomes. 5,000 yards? 52 touchdowns? First round bye in the playoffs? In his first season as a starter? It’s insane. There’s no contest. Sorry Gurley, and really, really sorry Brees, but Kansas City gets their first league MVP this season.
Michael Larson (Twitterless): Patrick Mahomes
Larson Fun Fact #8- Michael Larson is one of the most talented sports journalists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and if he ever decides to focus on his work and commit himself to it? He could be one of the greats.
Still a jabroni, though.
Ryan Seiple (@Ryan_Seiple): Patrick Mahomes
I was going to give this to Todd Gurley, but he could rush for 3,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and still not win the award because it’s rigged toward quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes is still a deserving recipient. At this point in the season he’s thrown for 26 touchdowns to only six interceptions and has quarterbacked the Chiefs to a 7-1 start.
Christopher Bolden (@Bolden7): Drew Brees
Brees has already broken Peyton Manning‘s record for career passing yards and could realistically beat the touchdown record in a year or two as well (as long as Brady retires before him). Brees is on pace for a 13th consecutive 4,000 yard season and will more than likely secure his Saints a top 3 spot in the playoffs. Brees has also only thrown one interception this season thus far in what should be his first ever MVP season.
William Frost (@willfrost_): Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes has 26 touchdowns in eight games this season, which puts him on pace for the second-best touchdown total for any quarterback in history. In a season where Drew Brees is seemingly breaking every record within his reach, Mahomes is showing Alex Smith how to win games and excite fans at the same time. Ironically, Smith was in the MVP conversation after KC’s blistering start last year – but Mahomes won’t drop the ball in his push to the post-season.
Conner Fleegle (@McFleegle): Patrick Mahomes
While it is really tempting to give this award to Drew Brees, the NFL is always looking for the next big, young superstar to push, and Mahomes fits that role perfectly in his first year as a starter. Young, dynamic, and the league leader in yards and touchdowns whose already responsible for 28 touchdowns after 8 games, it makes sense, especially with the Chiefs currently sitting as the best team in the AFC.