With the 100th NFL season finally kicking off tonight, the writers at Sports Stack decided to get together and try and predict the NFL Award winners for the 2019 season. There will probably be another version of this list around the mid-season mark so that Michael Larson can pick Adam Gase for Coach of the Year or something even more ridiculous. But for now, sit back, enjoy the last few hours before the regular-season begins with some speculation about who will be the league’s best in 2019.
Sorry it’s long, we promise it’s worth it.
Sports Stack 2019 NFL Awards Predictions
Comeback Player of the Year:
Ryan Seiple: Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets – Bell spent a year away from the game because he didn’t get the contract he wanted. I know this award is usually reserved for players coming back from injury, but Le’Veon Bell is one of the league’s premier players and I think that people forgot about him because they haven’t seen him on the field in over a year. He still has excellent patience, field vision, and receiving skills out of the backfield. Bell will remind us all of who he was before his hiatus.
Martin McConnell: Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets – He wasn’t injured, but New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell has technically been out of football since 2017. The former Pittsburgh Steeler sat out in 2018, waiting on a new contract from general manager Kevin Colbert that never came. Once he hit free agency, the real social experiment began. Would Bell still get paid, one year older after a season spent not playing?
A four-year, 52.5 million dollar contract answered the question with a mild yes. Although Bell did not become the highest-paid running back in the NFL, he did still negotiate his way to an average of over 13 million dollars per year and 27 million in guaranteed cash. Now, Bell has to show the Jets that he’s still worth the money.
Bell will certainly help out the Jets and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, giving the USC alum one of the best safety valves in the league. Bell’s work as a dual threat out of the backfield makes him a prime candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, and the 27 year old’s talent shouldn’t have gone away after one year out of football.
Conner Fleegle: Earl Thomas, Safety, Baltimore Ravens – One of the best safeties of the modern era, Thomas missed all but a few weeks last year when a broken leg ended his season. He’s healthy now and ready to go, and should slot in as the leader of a Ravens secondary that lost Eric Weddle to free agency. If he returns to his previous level of play, an already great Ravens defense gets even better and he’ll win this award. If not, look for Le’Veon Bell to be a threat to win it too.
Michael Larson Fact – Larson was the only writer to miss an award off of their selection sheet. Which is a shame, because he correctly predicted the Eagles’ Super Bowl win long before anyone outside of Pennsylvania. Then again, he also thinks the Jets are going 10-6 this year, so maybe his opinions on this won’t be missed.
William Frost: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers – This is going to go either very right or very wrong. But Garoppolo is the only QB coming off a major injury and with the exciting talent down in San Francisco being coached by one of the brightest offensive minds in football, this should be all but a given.
Ryan Smith: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers – Jimmy Garoppolo is in the best possible situation to succeed in San Francisco. He’s got weapons galore, an offensive mastermind as a head coach, and low expectations. Assuming Jimmy G can stay healthy, he should put up decent numbers this season and sway a few of those voters, especially if the 49ers end up being a sneaky playoff team.
Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Ryan Seiple: Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets – Every bone in my body wanted to put Devin Bush, but I couldn’t. Williams was seen as the best defensive player in this draft by many pundits, and was even in the mix for first overall pick at some point. He will benefit from the double teams that Leonard Williams is bound to get, and will have a productive first year in the league.
Martin McConnell: Nick Bosa, EDGE, San Francisco 49ers – If Nick Bosa is as good, or even a fraction as good, as draft analysts advertised him to be, he will run away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The San Francisco 49ers lucked into Bosa at the No. 2 pick overall, landing the Ohio State product outside of the top spot.
Even if he has some problems with injury, a healthy Nick Bosa can change an entire defensive front for San Francisco. This one is a simple pick, as long as Bosa stays healthy. As a disclaimer, if Bosa gets injured during the season, this award could go to New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
Conner Fleegle: Quinnen Williams, DL, New York Jets – I’ve been high on Williams ever since his early dominant days at Alabama. He was a man among boys in college and, to me, was easily the best defensive prospect in this years draft. He fills a much needed pass rushing void on the Jets defensive line and his dominant college days will transfer to the NFL this year better than any other defensive rookie.
Michael Larson: Devin Bush, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers – This award seems to be a two man race, both between NFL ready linebackers. Unfortunately for Devin White, the fifth overall pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bush should claim this award. The statistics should be similar but Bush will be on a better team and get more publicity. Both linebackers are playmakers and will make highlight plays by forcing fumbles, causing mayhem in the backfield, and intercepting poor throws by opposing quarterbacks.
William Frost: Devin Bush, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers – It took every ounce of strength to not take the good Josh Allen here, and he still might win it. But Bush walks into a starting spot on a talented defense that will win a lot of ball games. I expect him to get Pro-Bowl attention before the year is out.
Ryan Smith: Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I just this vision of the Buccaneers behind in a lot of games and White getting a chance to shine. Great speed and instincts are what made him such a high pick in the first place, and I’m not in love with any of these pass rushers… yet.
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Ryan Seiple: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders – Josh Jacobs is in an opportunity to succeed. Not only is he the best running back on the Raiders roster, he looks to be getting the lion’s share of touches. The Raiders passing game looks to open up the run game with the likes of Antonio Brown (maybe) and Tyrell Williams getting a lot of attention. Look for Jacobs to have a good year.
Martin McConnell: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears – Coming from a relatively quarterback-light draft class, Iowa State product David Montgomery is a clear front-runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The former Cyclone heavily influenced Iowa State’s offensive philosophy during his time in college, rushing for nearly 3,000 yards during his college career.
Tarik Cohen, while a very exciting player, cannot carry the Bears’ rushing attack on his own. Montgomery should take over as the lead back for Chicago soon enough to take some pressure off of head coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Montgomery and Cohen make up a solid tandem, and with a lack of quarterbacks truly ready to take the reigns as rookies, the Bears may have the league’s best rook on their hands.
Conner Fleegle: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals – From where I’m sitting, I don’t know if there’s a great choice for this award this year. The cardinals shifted the dynamic of their franchise to make Murray their franchise QB and gave him the keys to the car right away, and with David Johnson helping take the load off in the backfield and the ageless Larry Fitzgerald acting as a safety valve, I think Murray can have a big enough impact to lead the Cards to 5-6 wins and that just may be good enough for the award this year. Although, this is by far a pick I’m NOT confident in.
Michael Larson: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals – Unless the Giants pull a fast one on the entire world, Murray is the only rookie quarterback that will be starting all sixteen games (barring injury). Murray is playing in a fast paced offense and should have every opportunity to showcase his legs. 700+ rushing yards are in reach for Murray, along with 3,000 passing yards. There are a couple rookie running backs to look out for, but Murray should take this award as a result of more touches.
William Frost: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears – Montgomery is going to be the feature of Matt Nagy’s offense from tonight’s game onward, and by year’s end we will be wondering how so many teams passed up on the latest phenomenal day-two running back.
Ryan Smith: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders – Everyone has a homer pick, and this is mine. Not because I think Jacobs is the best rookie, but because I think he’ll have the most opportunities with the ball. The other two backs in Oakland, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are smaller scat backs, so not only will Jacobs be the team’s primary rusher, but he’ll probably stay on for passing downs.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Ryan Seiple: Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett is a freak. With the additions of Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon, Garrett likely won’t see as many double teams as he has in years past. Without all of the extra attention, Myles Garrett is going to feast on opposing quarterbacks. As the Browns get better, Garrett will come into the spotlight. In 2019, Myles Garrett goes off.
Martin McConnell: Khalil Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears – Another Chicago Bear, another end of season award. This team is going to win the Super Bowl this season, and Khalil Mack is going to be a big reason as to why. Aaron Donald included, Mack might actually be the best defensive player in the league. The former Oakland Raiders defensive end has made a massive impact on the Bears, transforming their entire defense into one of, if not the single best unit in the league.
I see Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald as solid runner-ups to Mack. However, I think a deep postseason run will allow Mack to fight off his two closest competitors and take home his first Defensive Player of the Year award since 2016.
Conner Fleegle: Khail Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears – The most dominant pass rusher in the game, Mack is fully healthy entering this season and is poised to have a monster year and that should be enough to help him narrowly edge out Aaron Donald for the award, although I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see him walk away with it either. I will say this; I think the gap between those two and third place for this will be significant.
Michael Larson: Khalil Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears – According to my boss (he’s not really) I’m a Bears fan now so might as well pick my favorite player on my favorite team to win the award he will deserve. Mack instantly turned the Chicago Bears into a Super Bowl contender when he was traded there in the 2018 offseason. The defense will remain on top of the NFL despite coordinator Vic Fangio leaving to coach the Denver Broncos. Fangio was replaced by pass rushing fiend Chuck Pagano and Mack’s numbers will blossom.
William Frost: Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams – I can’t believe I’m the only one going for the best defender in all of football. Donald could go down as one of the greatest defenders ever if he keeps up his frenetic pace of the past few seasons. Wind him up and watch him sack quarterbacks. Welcome to the league, Kyler.
Ryan Smith: Khalil Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears – I don’t want to talk about it.
Offensive Player of the Year:
Ryan Seiple: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants – A year removed from winning the award for the NFL’s best offensive rookie he looks to add more hardware. Now more than ever, Barkley is the focal point of the Giants offense. With the blend of his athleticism and lack of offensive playmakers around Eli Manning, we might see the NFL’s first 1,000 yard rusher AND 1,000 yard receiving season.
Martin McConnell: Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns – Picking Mahomes to be both MVP and Offensive Player of the Year would be boring. If it’s not Mahomes, I like Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to take home the consolation prize for MVP, the Offensive Player of the Year award.
Mayfield has all the weapons in the world, and I think the Browns’ offense could soar this season. Don’t be surprised when Mayfield makes the leap and has a 5,000 yard season in his sophomore NFL campaign. Does this pick make me sound like a homer? Maybe, yeah. But Baker Mayfield is just really good.
Conner Fleegle: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs – He might not get the MVP, but if his numbers are anywhere in the ballpark from his record breaking year last year, he should win this award going away.
Michael Larson: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – Do a little research and look up the fantasy scoring leaders for each season, and usually, the OPOY is right on top. So in that case, who will be the best fantasy football player this season? I cannot look past the fact that the Atlanta Falcons are playing THIRTEEN of their sixteen games in a dome. No weather. It’s no secret that all quarterbacks have an easier time throwing the ball when there isn’t any wind or cold to affect them. Matt Ryan should have an excellent year, and all of his wide receivers will benefit tremendously as well. The win totals won’t be the same as the 2017 season which will prevent another MVP, but playoffs are surely in sight and massive numbers are on their way.
William Frost: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants – I was hesitant with this pick because I don’t think the Giants will win enough games for Saquon to stay relevant. But on the contrary, his fantasy numbers alone mean that NFL media will pay attention. With no OBJ and a huge question mark at QB, Saquon could well break records this year.
Ryan Smith: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants – He’s the only weapon the New York Giants have, so he’s gonna get every opportunity to make an impact. He might be the best tailback in football, and 2,000 all-purpose yards feels like a given.
Coach of the Year:
Ryan Seiple: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – Bill Belichick is virtually unanimously recognized as the best coach in the game. This year, he will have his work cut out for him. After losing one of the best tight ends in NFL history while also navigating around one of his most so-so receiving corps of his career, the Patriots will yet again have an 11+ win season. This time Belichick will get hardware for all of his work.
Martin McConnell: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – For as much as I campaign for the Bears to win it all this year, I am almost certainly wrong. It will probably be the Patriots behind the best NFL player Tom Brady and legendary head coach Bill Belichick. In fact, if voters were being honest with themselves, Belichick would win Coach of the Year as head coach of the Patriots every single year.
Full disclosure, I am trying my best to not sound jaded or snarky. But frankly, the fact is that Bill Belichick might be one of, if not the best to ever do it. He should be honored in 2019 with a well deserved Coach of the Year award, but really, he should be called Coach of the Decade. Death, taxes, and the Pats winning it all.
Conner Fleegle: Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons – This is probably an odd ball pick but nothing else really stuck to me. I think the Falcons will improve drastically from a year ago, finish just behind the Saints in the NFC South, and grab a wild card spot and be a potential dangerous out as a result with that offense they have. If the Falcons do that this year, Quinn absolutely should be considered. But to be honest I have no confidence in this pick whatsoever. If all the teams I think are going to be good wind up being good, none of those guys should get it unless they have a 14-2 or 13-3 type of season, right? Why not Quinn if the falcons make the postseason? Right? Right? Or am I way off on this? I probably am. Okay, now I’m rambling. Moving on.
Michael Larson: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns – I like this to go to first year coach Freddie Kitchens. After the Cleveland Browns fired their head coach and offensive coordinator mid-season in 2018, Gregg Williams took over as interim head coach and Freddie Kitchens was handed the coordinator reigns. The two coaches brought the Browns to a 5-3 finish to the season and a 7-8-1 overall record. Kitchens received major props for the improvements of the offense in the second half of the year, and was awarded the job of head coach in the 2019 offseason. On paper, the Browns offense is overpowered, and the leadership of Kitchens should keep every persona on this team focused and prepared on a weekly basis. A top two finish on the standings will bring the MVP and best coach awards to Cleveland for the first time ever.
Ryan Smith: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns – Weirdly enough, the best coach rarely wins coach of the year. There’s a reason Bill Belichick isn’t a 15-time coach of the year. Last year, Matt Nagy was the breakout coach. The year before that? Sean McVay. So I’m going with Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns. There’s a lot of doubt surrounding Kitchens, but he’s been around the game forever and this roster is almost too good to be bad.
William Frost: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns – The Browns are such a feel good story coming into this year that I don’t even think they need to win their division for Kitchens to win this award. Whilst he’s calling plays on offense with all of those shiny toys anywhere above .500 might see him crowned as the best coach in the league. Purely for turning this shipwreck around.
Most Valuable Player:
Ryan Seiple: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – Last season Matt Ryan produced better numbers than his MVP season. Two factors affected his MVP candidacy last season: Atlanta not being a playoff team, and Patrick Mahomes’ all-time great season. This upcoming season the Falcons look primed to make the playoffs with an improvement on the defensive side and with their franchise QB getting more comfortable in the offense with each passing season. Matt Ryan wins it this year.
Martin McConnell: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs – Yeah, this one is chalk. I think Good Old Patty Mahomes will regress a little from his fifty-touchdown performance in 2018, but not enough for anyone else to rip the MVP Award out of his hands. The Chiefs are a great pick to win the AFC this season, and it’s mostly because of Mahomes doing what no other quarterback in NFL history can do. Simple enough.
Conner Fleegle: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints. Even though Patrick Mahomes is a solid candidate here, he’s going to have to do something spectacular to top his performance from last year and have the voters go back to back for him, something that very rarely happens. If Brees can repeat what he did last year, I think he has a good a case as anybody for it.