2017 NFL Season Awards

2017 NFL Season Awards

The 2017 NFL season is in the books so we are going to hand out the hardware to the best of the best.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Contender: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers

JuJu really came on down the stretch of the season.  I don’t think JuJu is really a contender for this award and that it is a two horse race, but I wanted to point out how good Smith-Schuster has been.  Consider his ranks among rookies while keeping in the back of your mind JuJu didn’t amass more than 50 yards in a game until week 5.

Category Rookie Rank
Receiving Yards 1st
Touchdowns 1st
Targets 5th
Yards/Target 1st
Receptions 4th
Yards/Reception 4th

JuJu also has the highest catch percentage among rookie wideouts that received at least ten targets.  He capped off the season with a huge week 17 against Cleveland that included a 96-yard kick return touchdown.

Runner-Up: RB Kareem Hunt, Chiefs

This may end up being controversial and getting me accused of recency bias, but I am going to have Hunt as the runner up as opposed to the winner.  Hunt was phenomenal during the Chiefs’ 5-0 start and while the timing of his brilliance shouldn’t make a difference I still think his season long performance is edged out by the winner.

Hunt led all rookies in scrimmage yards with 1,782, a mark that ranks 3rd best in the NFL.  Hunt also posted 11 total touchdowns and ranked 4th in the NFL in DYAR.  Hunt did this on 325 total touches.

Winner: RB Alvin Kamara, Saints

But Kamara was just more impressive.  After the Saints shipped out Adrian Peterson, Kamara accumulated 1,324 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns.  Those numbers over a 16 game slate are 1,765 scrimmage yards and 14.6 touchdowns.

Kamara’s season totals ended up as 1,554 scrimmage yards on 201 touches and 13 touchdowns.  He also had 347 returns yards, giving him the all-purpose yards advantage over Kareem Hunt with 1,901, good for 3rd best in the NFL, and one return touchdown.

Kamara’s efficiency is nothing short of preposterous.  He finished 3rd among running backs in DYAR on only 120 carries, and first in DVOA by a mile.  You can point to a small sample size for his DVOA and the fact that such efficiency is impossible to sustain over a normal workload, and you would be right.  However, that doesn’t change that fact that Kamara was unbelievable on the carries he did have.

Not only this, but Alvin Kamara was 3rd among all rookies in receiving yards, and tied for the 3rd most receiving touchdowns.  He led all rookies with 81 catches and was 5th among rookies with at least ten targets in catch percentage (Hunt was 4th), at 81%, on 100 targets.

Kareem Hunt isn’t the wrong choice, but Kamara is the right choice.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

I am going to stick with my same two finalists from mid-season and break down the cases for both.

Marshon Lattimore out paced Tre’Davious White 5 to 4 in INTs and 23 to 22 in passes defensed.  Both rank 1st and 2nd among rookies, respectively.  Lattimore also had a pick-six.  When on the field, Lattimore was clearly the best rookie corner in football and one of the best rookie corners in years.  However, that is the crux of this argument.

White was a Pro Bowl worthy corner this season and appeared in all 16 of the Bills’ games.  Lattimore was an elite corner this season and missed three games and most of a fourth.  Functionally, Lattimore missed a quarter of the season.  White played 1,093 snaps this season, which was the most among all corners in the NFL and second among all defensive backs (Jamal Adams led with 1,100 snaps).  Lattimore played 751 total snaps.

I am a believer in the saying “your best ability is your availability,” (yes I’m talking directly to you T-Mac > Kobe psychopaths) so Lattimore would have to have been tantalizingly better in his time on the field to make up for the missed games.  Lattimore was clearly superior, but is the difference large enough?

I don’t know.  I want to say yes but there is something holding me back.  I am going to be accused of copping out but I am going to name Lattimore and White co-winners.  It is somewhat cheap, but awards have been split in the past, including the MVP.

Defensive Player of the Year


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Talk about wanting to split an award.  There is no clear or run away winner this season and a broad list could rack you up plenty of names.  Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks.  A.J. Bouye just allowed the lowest passer rating over a full season in his coverage in the history of the ProFootballFocus database.  Aaron Donald led the NFL in QB pressures.  Harrison Smith has the highest PFF grade of any defender and posted the highest Safety grade in the history of PFF.  Calais Campbell finished second in sacks and plays for the NFL’s best defense (so does Bouye, and Ramsey).  DeMarcus Lawrence ended up with 14.5 sacks (tied for 2nd) and 5 forced fumbles.  Both Joey Bosa and Everson Griffen belong in the conversation.

So here is my attempt to filter through all the options.

Contender: LB Von Miller, Broncos

Miller has an elite grade from PFF this season and led all edge defenders in QB pressures.  He finished with 10 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

Contender: DE Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys

Lawrence cooled during the final stretch of the season but still managed 14.5 sacks, 77 QB pressures (3rd in the NFL among edge defenders), and 4 forced fumbles.

Contender: LB Chandler Jones, Cardinals

Jones, as previously mentioned, led the NFL in sacks in 2017 and also forced two fumbles.  What is impressive to me is how productive Jones was despite the Cardinals not providing another real pass rushing threat.  Arizona finished 24th in adjusted sack rate and had 37 sacks on the season.  This means that Jones accounted for 46% of the Cardinals sacks, the highest such percentage among all players.

Contender: DE Cameron Jordan, Saints

Jordan finished the season with 13 sacks, twelve passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a pick-six.  The Saints had an incredible defensive turnaround this season, an effort spearheaded by Cameron Jordan.  Jordan also earned the highest PFF grade among edge defenders.

Runner-Up: DE Calais Campbell, Jaguars

On the other end of the spectrum from Jones, the Jaguars finished second in the NFL in sacks with 55 so Campbell accounts for a smaller percentage of the production while being surrounded by more talent.  People like to point to Campbell as the reason the Jags defense has turned around but Jacksonville has been putting together this collection of talent over the past two years.  Campbell, Ngakoue, Bouye and Ramsey are all studs.

However, maybe you can credit Campbell for a culture change.  He was a tone setter for this defense and an absolute terror for opposing offenses.  He finished with 14.5 sacks and and 3 forced fumbles.

Winner: DT Aaron Donald, Rams

But Aaron Donald is in a league of his own.  Donald finished with 11 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and led the NFL with 91 QB pressures.  He has the second highest PFF grade among all defenders behind only Harrison Smith.  Aaron Donald single handedly destroyed the Seahawks’ offense during the Rams’ massacre in Seattle.  Los Angeles really didn’t even need Todd Gurley to have the performance of a life-time that day, because Aaron Donald was not going to be denied.  Yes, the Seattle offensive line is putrid, but Donald looked like he was playing against a high school team.

Donald sat out week 1 and was benched week 17 for rest so he missed two games.  However, unlike my argument that Lattimore should have to share the award with White due to missed time, two games isn’t four games and I do think that Donald was better than the field by a large enough margin to be honored as the winner.

Aaron Donald is a level above the rest!

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Coolest Dude of 2017: RB Todd Gurley, Rams

Speaking of Gurley, he is definitely the coolest dude of 2017.  The NFL doesn’t track this stat, but I am willing to wager my life savings (so, like $17) that Todd Gurley led the NFL in human beings hurdled this season.  And when he wasn’t hurdling dudes he was absolutely impossible to tackle.  Just lose  yourself down a rabbit hole of Todd Gurley YouTube videos.  Trust me.

Catch of the Year

Contender: WR Antonio Brown, Steelers


Contender: WR Brandin Cooks, Patriots


Runner-Up: WR Antonio Brown, Steelers


Winner: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans


Most Savage Moment of 2017: CB Marcus Peters, Chiefs

Marcus Peters throwing a penalty flag into the stands is the most audacious thing I have ever seen in my life.  I cannot think of anything more disrespectful you could do to a referee short of physically harming them.  There seriously will never be a better souvenir from a sporting event for the rest of time.

The only thing more absurd than Peters throwing the flag is the fact that a player doesn’t actually get ejected from the game for doing so.  How is that not a rule?  That seems pretty simple to me.  It must be that the NFL rules makers never anticipated someone actually hurling a penalty flag 40 rows up into the stands and therefore didn’t deem it necessary to outline such a punishment.  Joke’s on them.

Best Touchdown Celebration – Team

This was actually the most difficult category.  Thank god the NFL changed this rule.

Contender: Steelers Play Hide & Seek

Contender: Chiefs’ Sack Race

Contender: Leonard Fournette Free Throw Attempt

Contender: Tyreek Hill’s Nascar Pit Stop

Contender: Vikings Play Duck, Duck, Goose

Contender: Le’Veon Bell Bench Press

Runner-Up: Zay Jones Force Chokes Teammate to Death

In the words of Rob Perez, this was a burial.

Winner: Lions Play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

Best Touchdown Celebration – Individual

Golden Tate dropped a People’s Elbow on the ball, so, uh, yea, he wins.

Coach of the Year

Contender: Doug Pederson, Eagles 

Before Wentz went down the Eagles were a monster.  It isn’t Pederson’s fault that Wentz, or Peters, got injured, and Pederson could have ended up higher on the list.  The Eagles finished tied for first in point differential and 5th in DVOA.  They ranked top 8 in both offensive and defensive DVOA.

Contender: Bill Belichick, Patriots 

It’s really weird to me that Belichick is unanimously regarded as the best coach alive, and has been for over a decade, yet he never garners serious consideration for coach of the year.  In any given year you could give Belichick the award and no one can really argue.  He is a victim of his own greatness as he has set his own bar so high that a below average Belichick year, while still better than anyone else, doesn’t impress us.

For the 7th time since 2003 the Patriots had at least 13 wins and New England finished tied for first in the NFL in point differential.

Runner Up: Mike Zimmer, Vikings

Speak to any coach before the season starts and tell him he has to play the season without his week 1 starting QB for (basically) 15 games, his backup quarterback is on the physically unable to perform list, he has to turn to a 29 year old career journeyman, and his rookie sensation running back will tear his ACL in week 4.  Any honest coach is not predicting 13 wins and a first round bye.

The Vikings offense kept clicking behind Keenum, Murray and McKinnon.  The Vikings finished 4th in total DVOA and are the only team to rank in the top 5 for both offensive and defensive DVOA.  The Vikings finished 5th in point differential.

Winner: Sean McVay, Rams

I’ve previously spoken about the turnaround of Jared Goff.  Todd Gurley has also enjoyed quite the rebound season.  The Rams are the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from last in scoring to first in scoring the next season.  The Rams led the NFL in scoring without anyone close to Antonio Brown, Julio Jones or Gronk on the roster. I’ve mentioned before how McVay is responsible for Wade Phillips coming to Los Angeles.

Rams finished tied for 3rd in point differential and 2nd in DVOA.  They finished in the top 6 in both offensive and defensive DVOA.  They entered week 17 in 1st for DVOA but lost the top spot to the Saints after the Rams rested their starters against the 49ers.

Offensive Player of the Year

{Tangent: I wrote before that I don’t understand how you can win MVP and not Offensive Player of the Year.  The logic behind my statement is that if you won the MVP while someone else put up video game numbers, you probably accomplished the MVP surrounded by less talent.  Thus, in theory, your accomplishment given your inferior supporting cast should still propel you to the top of the Offensive Player of the Year ballot.

I have since changed my mind.  I don’t think one player can’t win both awards in a given season, but I have come around to the idea that Offensive Player of the Year should go to the guy who simply put on the best show.  That’s all the award is.  If the results are close at the end of the year between two guys then we can begin to bring surrounding talent into the equation.  But if one guy is pacing the NFL in every statistical category he should be recognized as the best offensive player of that season.}

Contender: QB Tom Brady, Patriots

We will get to Brady a little later.

Contender: WR Antonio Brown, Steelers

Despite having his season cut short by an injury, Brown still led the league in receiving yards and was first in DYAR among receivers.  He also finished 5th in receptions and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns.

Contender: RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Bell finished second in the league in scrimmage yards with 1,946 and totaled 11 touchdowns.  Bell had the most receptions among running backs, with 85.

Winner: RB Todd Gurley, Rams

Gurley led the NFL in scrimmage yards and, despite not returning a single kick, all purpose yards.  Gurley was responsible for 19 touchdowns and finished 2nd in DYAR and 4th in DVOA among running backs.  Gurley is the driving force behind the league’s best offense.  More on Gurley in a bit.



Contender: QB Carson Wentz, Eagles

Given Brady’s lackluster finish to the season, had Wentz played all 16 games Wentz most likely would have taken home this award.  Here is a table of Wentz’s ranks in quarterback categories:

Category Rank
TD’s 2nd
QB Rating 4th
QBR 1st
DYAR 9th
DVOA 5th
ANY/A 6th
Yards/Completion 4th

Runner-Up: RB Todd Gurley, Rams

In order for a running back to win the MVP he really needs to do something historic given the difference in value between quarterbacks and running backs.  Adrian Peterson nearly broke the single season rushing record when he won MVP in 2012.  LaDainian Tomlinson had 31 total touchdowns in 2006, the single season record.  Shaun Alexander had 28 total touchdowns when he won in 2005.

Gurley had a fantastic season, but it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before.  His 2,093 scrimmage yards and 19 total touchdowns aren’t too dissimilar from the 2,118 and 20 that David Johnson racked up last season and no one campaigned for DJ to win MVP.  In 2006 Chris Johnson set the single season scrimmage yard record with 2,509 while posting a 2,000 yard rushing season along with 16 touchdowns and did not receive a single MVP vote.  Neither DJ or CJ2K ended up in the playoffs in those seasons, but it still paints a picture.

Gurley was the best back in football this year, but how much better than Bell was he?  Gurley makes the Rams go and he deserves offensive player of the year.  There is no shame in finishing second in the MVP race to the greatest player in football history.

Winner: QB Tom Brady, Patriots

Brady’s last six games were not MVP level and I think Brady is lucky Gurley didn’t play/go off against the 9ers considering how pedestrian he was in week 17 against the Jets.  A huge game from Gurley could have propelled him to the top of ballots with a lasting final impression.

Brady didn’t post an other-worldly season and suffers the same fate as Belichick: Due to setting such an astronomically high bar for excellence, we perceive anything less as not good enough.  However, here are Brady’s ranks in important quarterback categories:

Category Rank
Yards 1st
TD’s 3rd
TD % 5th
INT % 3rd
QB Rating 3rd
QBR 3rd
DYAR 1st
DVOA 2nd
Yards/Attempt 4th
Yards/Completion 9th
ANY/A 5th

The Patriots finished first in offensive DVOA.  The Patriots also finished first in Pro-Football-Reference’s Expected Points Added, and it isn’t even close.  The Patriots defense, on the flip side, is putrid.  They finished 31st in defensive DVOA.  In the beginning and middle of the season Brady was dragging the worst defense in football with him to yet another first round bye.  The Patriots ended up 5th in points allowed per game because the defense tightens up in the red zone, but they always blow it in the most crucial of situations.  Steelers fans can complain all they want about the Jesse James non-touchdown, but the Steelers shouldn’t have ever gotten that close.  The 69 yard catch and run by JuJu is absolutely inexplicable.

(Yes I realize the irony of saying the Patriots defense always blows it when they won the Steelers game on an interception, the Seahawks Super Bowl on an interception, and a lights out 4th quarter defensive performance against Atlanta in the Super Bowl allowed for their comeback.  But the Patriots defense does consistently blow high leverage situations, and constantly allows teams to score in the last two minutes of the first half.)

Brady makes this whole thing happen.  No one’s pre-snap burden is larger than his.  If he figures out what defense you’re in, you’re dead, and he normally does.

filed under: NFL


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[…] Doug Pederson deserves coach of the year consideration, and what he has done in the playoffs only confirms his inclusion as a finalist for the award.  After finishing the season with two abysmal starts against Oakland and Dallas, where Foles posted single game QBRs of 23.7 and 4.1, respectively, Pederson spent the team’s bye week watching film of Nick Foles from 2013 while he was playing for Chip Kelly to integrate more RPO’s into the Eagles offense so Foles would be more comfortable.  Say what you want about Chip Kelly as an NFL head coach, but he really evolved the RPO in the NFL game.  His downfall came when the league figured it out and he never came up with a counter.  Coaches like Pederson have come up with the counter. […]


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