We’re still three months away from the NFL handing out awards for 2016, but we’ve hit a milestone mark in the season. We’re officially through eight weeks, which means half of the season is in the books. There have been some outstanding starts to the year as well as some disappointing ones, but let’s take some time to focus on the ones that stood out most – in a good way, of course.
Here are award-winners for every major accolade through the first half of the season. These are not projections of who will win each award at season’s end, rather a look back on who would have taken home the hardware had the season ended today.
MVP: Matt Ryan, Falcons
Simply put, Matt Ryan has been the most valuable player in the league. Without him, the Falcons aren’t 5-3 and Julio Jones isn’t second in receiving yards. He leads the NFL with 2,636 yards and 19 touchdowns while throwing just four picks in eight games. Ryan has never experienced a stretch of games like this before, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up. But at this point in the season, he’s the unquestioned MVP.
That could (and will) change by year’s end as Tom Brady will make a serious push for the award, as will Derek Carr. Despite playing just 12 games, Brady is the favorite to take it home in February.
Runner-up: Derek Carr
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Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, Cardinals
Although it seems like a redundant award next to MVP, Offensive Player of the Year is fairly different. It’s a measuring stick for the most productive player in the league, which isn’t always the most valuable. With that being said, no player puts up the yardage totals and touchdowns that David Johnson does.
He’s on pace for more than 2,200 scrimmage yards and 16 touchdowns, which would be a remarkable campaign. To put that into context, only 12 other running backs have totaled at least 2,200 yards and 16 touchdowns in a season. Yeah, that’s pretty darn good.
Runner-up: Matt Ryan
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller, Broncos
Von Miller surprisingly doesn’t lead the league in sacks, currently sitting at 8 1/2 – a half-sack behind Lorenzo Alexander. However, his impact on the game is matched by no defender in football. He’s constantly getting double teamed by tackles, guards and tight ends, which opens up opportunities for his teammates on the other side. Shane Ray has been a big beneficiary of this trend, racking up four sacks.
Once DeMarcus Ware gets back into the swing of things, Miller should see teams become more reluctant to send extra help his way. Ware will command attention on the right side, too, making it more difficult to limit Miller.
He’s not just great against the pass, either. Regularly, you’ll see Miller make run stops behind the line of scrimmage and rally to the ball along the sideline – even if it’s 15 yards away from him. His motor is relentless and it shows on tape. He’s outstanding and the best defensive player right now.
Runner-up: Patrick Peterson
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Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
This is essentially a toss-up between two Cowboys. On one hand, Ezekiel Elliott has been the more productive player with 799 yards and five touchdowns, leading the league in rushing. On the other, Dak Prescott has been the team’s MVP as there’s no chance they’d be 6-1 without him after watching Tony Romo go down. Rookie of the Year isn’t a matter of value, though, which is why Elliott gets the nod.
As mentioned, he’s No. 1 in rushing yards this season despite playing just seven games, whereas others have played eight. He also struggled in his first two games (by his standards), failing to reach the century mark in both. He’s turned it on of late, eclipsing 130 yards in four straight games before rushing for 96 last week against the Eagles.
Elliott hasn’t succumbed many carries to Alfred Morris as some thought might happen early in the year, which only bolsters his case. He could very well be the best running back in the league already after his torrid start. He’s on pace for 1,826 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie, huh?
Runner-up: Dak Prescott
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Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa, Chargers
Joey Bosa didn’t step foot on an NFL field until Week 5. In his first game, he had two sacks and five tackles. He’s come back down to earth a bit, but he still has four sacks in four games to go along with 13 tackles. He was never viewed as a 15-sack player coming out of college, and he may never be that. But in four games, having four sacks is incredibly impressive – especially for a guy who missed all of training camp and the first quarter of the season. It remains to be seen if Bosa can keep up this hot start, but it’s promising nonetheless.
Jalen Ramsey has been great for the Jaguars, too, as has Yannick Ngakoue. Ramsey has shut down the likes of Steve Smith Sr. and Amari Cooper, while Ngakoue has four sacks and an interception this season. It’s likely those two Jaguars are Bosa’s biggest threats for the award, though none have out-produced him (even in four games) this year.
Runner-up: Jalen Ramsey
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Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer, Vikings
No coach has done more with less than Mike Zimmer in Minnesota. He’s led his team to a 5-2 record, being the last team to lose this season. He’s done so without Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil and now his offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who resigned this week.
Sure, the Vikings have taken a few steps back in recent weeks, but that was somewhat to be expected given the injuries they’ve endured. The Vikings remain one of the top teams in a struggling NFC and are in control of the North. The next few games will be telling with Pat Shurmur stepping in as the offensive coordinator. There’s a chance he’ll actually improve the offense, bringing in a west coast-style of play.
Runner-up: Bill Belichick
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Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, Colts
Andrew Luck missed nine games last season and struggled mightily in the seven he did play. In those games, he had 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, completing 55.3 percent of his passes. This season, in eight games, he already has 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions with a completion percentage of 63.7. He’s improved in every statistical category now that he’s healthy, despite having a barely improved offensive line.
He’s undoubtedly deserving of the award at this point in the season, edging guys like Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin and DeMarco Murray. Without Luck, the Colts would probably have one win and vying for a top-five pick in the 2017 draft. He certainly needs plenty of help around him, particularly on the offensive line.