NFL Rookies Best (and Worst) Set up for Early Success

So every year guys get drafted by teams that just put them in the perfect situation, whether that be the scheme fit or having the right supporting cast around them. A lot of times success and failure in the NFL is based on just being in the best situation. So with that, let’s take a look at some rookies that are in the best and worst position to succeed.

Best: Sony Michel-RB-New England Patriots

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This one’s not quite so obvious, but hear me out. Yes, Michel is in a VERY crowded backfield in New England and he’s going to be in an offense that prefers to throw the ball (who could blame them with the GOAT slinging it). However it’s a very similar situation to what he had at Georgia and look how that turned out. Michel shared a backfield first with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, then with Chubb and D’Andre Swift. Nowadays he’s going to be sharing with James White (pass catcher), Rex Burkhead (wildcard), and either Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee (power back) and replacing Dion Lewis as the de facto all-around guy. One of Michel’s main issues coming out of college was stamina and when you’re splitting carries, it allows you to remain fresh throughout the game. Michel will basically be doing the exact same thing in New England that he was at Georgia only this time the roles are more defined and there will likely be a specific gameplan geared towards his skills. I think that bodes well for his future NFL success. He may never reach 1000 rushing yards in a season, but his yards per carry is probably going to be nuts.

Worst: Sam Darnold-QB-New York Jets

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Darnold is probably the safest quarterback in this year’s class. There’s very little that he does poorly, or at least there are far fewer red flags than what you get from the other quarterbacks. However there was one major flaw at USC that had me a little concerned about team fits and that was the fact that his play dropped significantly when the talent around him wasn’t as good. He was awesome his redshirt freshman season when he was throwing to guys like Juju Smith-Schuster, however when Juju was drafted by the Steelers and Darnold’s entire offensive line went pro as well, he struggled mightily. While from a talent standpoint, the Jets are obviously better than USC, they are one of the least talented offenses on paper. Robbie Anderson is the #1 receiver and while he had a pretty solid season last year, that was more out of necessity than anything. The offensive line of the Jets isn’t great either and unless the front office somehow manages to swing a deal for some talent before Darnold gets the starting job (whether that be this year or next), he could be in for a world of hurt, no matter how good he is.

Best: Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

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Barkley doesn’t really need help to be great but he’s going to get it anyway. Not only is he the most talented runningback to come out of college maybe ever, but he’s going into a situation that will be really beneficial for him. Now yes, the Giants sucked last season, but injuries and offensive line woes played a big part of that. Well ODell Beckham Jr is coming back healthy and the Giants signed Nate Solder at left tackle and drafted Will Hernandez out of UTEP to play guard. Plus, if they should decide to move Ereck Flowers to guard, that could wind up being beneficial for his career. So having Beckham back to take pressure off of him and an improved offensive line should set up Barkley nicely for early career success.

Worst: Denzel Ward-CB-Cleveland Browns

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Ward is a really good corner but given the Browns’ lack of options at the position, he may draw #1 receiver duties from Day 1. Now granted, it worked for Marshon Lattimore with the Saints last year, but I felt like Lattimore was a more complete player than Ward was. Ward struggled with the bigger receivers and there are plenty of them in the AFC North like AJ Green, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Michael Crabtree. Plus there’s also the smaller but even more dangerous Antonio Brown to contend with. Lattimore didn’t have an ideal group of guys to cover either like Julio Jones and Mike Evans, but again, he was more polished than Ward is and Lattimore also didn’t have to draw #1 receiver duties out of the gate. And even if he did, he had better safeties available to bail him out should he need them. I’m not saying Ward isn’t up to the challenge because if any cornerback in this year’s rookie class is it’s him, but his situation isn’t ideal by any stretch.

Best: Rashaan Evans-LB-Tennessee Titans

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Evans was a leader on Alabama’s National Championship-winning defense and it looks like he’s going to be thrust into the limelight in Tennessee as well, as he immediately becomes the best member of the Titans’ needle-thin linebacking corp. The offensive lines he’ll be going up against in the AFC South are mediocre and the only really potentially deadly runningback he’ll have to face at this point is Leonard Fournette. He’s also got an excellent coach of linebackers in Mike Vrabel as his head coach so he’s going to get even further mentoring. He’s in prime position for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Worst: Rashaad Penny-RB-Seattle Seahawks

<> on December 23, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Penny was a reach by Seattle, however given that he was likely going to be gone the next time they picked (late 3rd round), I can understand why they went that route if they were so high on him. Penny’s a good back, don’t get me wrong, and he fits the bruising style of running back the Seahawks like to employ. However the Seahawks have once again hardly touched that god-awful offensive line this offseason so they’re just setting Penny up for failure. Duane Brown at left tackle is the only competent guy on that offensive line and he’s going to be 33 when the season starts. He’s basically going to be running for his life out there. Plus aside from Doug Baldwin, there aren’t any receivers of note to take the pressure off the running game. Again, Penny does have the power to bulldoze over guys, but he’s going to get stuffed behind the line more often than not and I’ve got a feeling his yards per carry numbers are going to be pretty ugly.

So those are just a few guys that have some interesting situations brought about with them. I stuck with just first rounders given that the expectations for them are so much higher than the others. Let me know what you think of these conundrums in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Revisiting the 2017 NFL Draft Class

With Thursday’s 2018 NFL Draft quickly approaching, it got me to thinking back towards last year’s event. During this week of draft coverage that I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing my best to abstain from going into too much depth over the 2017 class because we just don’t know what we have with each player as of yet. In 2016, Jared Goff, who was taken #1 overall by the Rams, was looking like a colossal bust. He didn’t win a single game as a rookie and he looked totally overwhelmed by NFL competition. Enter a new head coach in Sean McVay and Goff became one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks and helped lead the Rams to a division title. There’s also Robert Griffin III in 2012. He set the league on fire as a rookie but a knee injury in the playoffs followed by being rushed back to play before he was ready sapped him of his explosiveness and his weaknesses as a passer were exposed. So quite frankly, we really don’t know what we have in the young stars like Deshaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt or with the unknowns like Mike Williams and John Ross. But let’s take a look at how the first round went last year and see how these guys did and what it means for their futures in the league. The number in parentheses is where they ranked on my Big Board.

1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-EDGE-Texas A&M (1)

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Garrett struggled with injuries as a rookie but when he was on the field, he was a beast. He played 11 games and recorded 7 sacks, including 2 in his first game. If he can stay healthy, he looks like he’s going to be a beast off the edge for the Browns.

2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers)-Mitchell Trubisky-QB-North Carolina (19)

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Trubisky basically just played like a rookie. He had some good moments but he also made his share of mistakes. He ended up going 4-8 as a starter and threw for 2193 yards with 7 TD’s and 7 picks while completing just 59% of his passes. Not great, but there’s something there with him. He’s getting a new head coach in Matt Nagy, who likes to run RPO’s and we saw how well Nick Foles did with those in the playoffs. He’s also actually getting a supporting cast of receivers, as the Bears signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears)-Solomon Thomas-DL-Stanford (5)

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Thomas didn’t do a ton as a rookie, but he didn’t really need to. He played 14 games but he started 12 of them and only recorded 3 sacks. He did flash some of the ability that made him the third overall pick, though, and we’ll have to wait and see how he grows in year 2.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Fournette-RB-LSU (3)

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Fournette basically did exactly what I expected him to do, which is to be the Jaguars’ bellcow and he was the focal point of their offense. He rushed for 1040 yards with 9 TD’s and while his YPC wasn’t great (3.9), that can be attributed to the fact that he was the only real weapon on Jacksonville’s offense and teams were stacking the box against him.

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)-Corey Davis-WR-Western Michigan (17)

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Davis spent much of the season injured and didn’t record his first NFL touchdown until the playoffs against the Patriots, where he had a very impressive game in the Divisional Round. He caught two TD’s and started looking like the receiver we expected him to be.

6. New York Jets-Jamal Adams-S-LSU (2)

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Adams immediately became a leader in the Jets’ locker room and was an enforcer on the field. He and fellow 2017 rookie Marcus Maye formed a pretty good safety tandem that should have Jets fans very excited.

7. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike Williams-WR-Clemson (14)

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Williams basically did nothing as a rookie. He was limited by injuries, playing 10 games and starting just 1, however he only managed to catch 11 passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns. It’s still early, but this hasn’t been a promising start for the former Clemson star.

8. Carolina Panthers-Christian McCaffrey-RB-Stanford (12)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

McCaffrey didn’t put up gaudy rushing stats, as he only ran for 435 yards on 117 carries, but he was utilized far more frequently in the passing game, catching 80 passes for 651 yards. With Jonathan Stewart no longer with the organization, expect an uptick in carries for the former Stanford star.

9. Cincinnati Bengals-John Ross-WR-Washington (23)

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Ross, who was famous for posting the fastest 40-yard dash time in Combine history at 4.22, was a nonfactor for the Bengals last season. He played just 3 games due to injury, but even in those games he didn’t amount to anything. He failed to catch a pass and his lone touch was a carry that he fumbled. A pretty poor start to Ross’ career if I do say so myself (and I do).

10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills)-Pat Mahomes II-QB-Texas Tech (47)

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I was not a fan of taking Mahomes in the first round because I felt he had the steepest learning curve of any quarterback in recent memory, coming from Texas Tech. However he landed in the perfect situation in Kansas City and got a chance to make a start in Week 17, leading the Chiefs to a victory over the Broncos. The Chiefs traded Alex Smith so this is Mahomes’ team now. We’ll have to see how he does with it.

11. New Orleans Saints-Marshon Lattimore-CB-Ohio State (7)

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One could argue that Lattimore was 2017’s best rookie. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year and is already considered to be one of the top corners in the game, which says a lot considering he had to cover the likes of Julio Jones and Mike Evans twice each.

12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns)-Deshaun Watson-QB-Clemson (26)

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People are ripping the Browns for not taking Watson here and trading this pick to the Texans, but to be honest, given how poor they were run last year, I don’t think Watson has the same success in Cleveland that he did in Houston. Before his untimely ACL injury, Watson led the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns and was running away with Offensive Rookie of the Year. He looks like he’s the quarterback of the future for the Texans.

13. Arizona Cardinals-Haason Reddick-EDGE-Temple (9)

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Reddick was one of my favorite players in the 2017 class but he didn’t really do much as a rookie. He played in all 16 games but made just 3 starts, recording 2.5 sacks but he did force a couple fumbles. It’s a big step up in competition going from Temple to the NFL so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this stage.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)-Derek Barnett-EDGE-Tennessee (13)

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Derek Barnett’s stats were okay overall, however a lot of that was due to just how deep the Eagles were at defensive end, as he had to compete with the likes of Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Vinny Curry for snaps. However Barnett and Graham teamed up to make one of the most critical plays for the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win, when Graham strip-sacked Tom Brady and Barnett recovered. He flashed a lot of potential and could be a force for this Eagles defensive line.

15. Indianapolis Colts-Malik Hooker-S-Ohio State (6)

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The Colts finally addressed the defense in last year’s draft and Hooker looks like a good pick. I had him as a Top-10 talent but he slipped to pick number 15 and looked like an absolute ballhawk for the Colts. However his season was cut short due to injury but he still managed to rack up 3 picks in just 7 games.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Marlon Humphrey-CB-Alabama (25)

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Humphrey got off to a slow start but he really came on by the end of the year. As you can see from the photo above, the Ravens were trusting him to cover the likes of AJ Green with a playoff berth on the line. Humphrey will likely get more opportunities at opponents’ number 1 receivers in due time.

17. Washington Redskins-Jonathan Allen-DL-Alabama (10)

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Like Hooker, Allen was a top-10 talent that fell, though this was due to concerns over his shoulder. The concerns were very real, as that shoulder caused him to miss most of his rookie season. However when he was on the field, Allen was absolutely dominant, particularly against the run. Hopefully an offseason of rehab will help him because the Redskins desperately need a run stuffer.

18. Tennessee Titans-Adoree’ Jackson-CB-USC (N/A)

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I thought this was a massive reach by the Titans because I had Jackson as a late-second/early-third round pick due to his lack of size but, credit to him he held his own out there. He was a starter from day 1 and with the Titans’ addition of Malcolm Butler, Jackson can kick inside to the slot to face the shiftier receivers, which is where he will be best utilized.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-OJ Howard-TE-Alabama (4)

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Howard had an up-and-down rookie season, though he finished it with 432 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not eye-popping by any means, but tight ends typically have the toughest transition to the NFL given how much they’re asked to do nowadays so I’d say watch out for Howard next season.

20. Denver Broncos-Garrett Bolles-OT-Utah (31)

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Bolles had one of the sweeter draft moments when he brought his infant daughter on stage with him to greet Roger Goodell when his name was called. Bolles was a Day 1 starter for the Broncos and while he did suffer through injury problems, he was decent when he was on the field. Probably not going to be an All Pro, but he’ll be a more-than-competent tackle for Denver.

21. Detroit Lions-Jarrad Davis-LB-Florida (28)

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Eyebrows were raised when the Lions took Davis over Alabama’s Reuben Foster, but given Foster’s legal situation, this looks like the right choice, especially considering how well Davis played as a rookie. He’s a guy Matt Patricia will have a lot of fun with in his first season as a head coach.

22. Miami Dolphins-Charles Harris-EDGE-Missouri (20)

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Harris wasn’t much of a factor for the Dolphins as a rookie, playing in all 16 games but registering just 2 sacks. With Cameron Wake already up there in age, now would be a good time for Harris to start showing he was worth the first round selection.

23. New York Giants-Evan Engram-TE-Ole Miss (24)

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Engram wasn’t much of a blocker for the Giants but he was an excellent receiver, which is kind of what was expected of him coming out of college. Engram led all rookie tight ends in receiving yards at 722 and also caught 6 touchdowns for the Giants. He looks like a good complimentary piece to ODell Beckham Jr.

24. Oakland Raiders-Gareon Conley-CB-Ohio State (N/A)

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This pick was REALLY controversial because Conley had been accused of rape just weeks before the Draft. I had taken him off my board altogether just out of fear of the allegations being true. However the Raiders took Conley anyway and the charges were later dropped. He only played 2 games due to injury but the Raiders must have liked what they saw because he’s currently slated as their #1 corner.

25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Jabrill Peppers-S-Michigan (18)

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Peppers struggled as a rookie but he was also playing at a position that didn’t best utilize his abilities. He was playing a lot of free safety where he has to cover a lot of ground rather than nickel corner where he can chase guys around the field, which is what he’s best at. If the Browns can find a centerfielder-type safety (like Minkah Fitzpatrick), then it would allow Peppers to do what he does best.

26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks)-Takkarist McKinley-EDGE-UCLA (16)

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Takk McKinley got a bit controversial when he got really hyped and passionate after he was selected 26th overall in the Draft, going so far as to drop an F-bomb into Deion Sanders’ mic on live television (which I saw coming a mile away given how much emotion he was showing). I actually found the moment kind of endearing because it shows just how passionate this guy is. He was a situational pass rusher for the Falcons as a rookie and he looked pretty good, registering 6 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles in a limited role. He’s going to have more opportunities this season so watch out for him.

27. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Tre’Davious White-CB-LSU (27)

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What a trade by the Bills. They move back from 10 to 27, get an extra first rounder in 2018, and use the pick they do get on Tre’Davious White, who was the highest-graded rookie corner by Pro Football Focus (even higher than Lattimore, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year over him). White has already earned the Bills’ #1 corner job and was a big part in Buffalo making the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century.

28. Dallas Cowboys-Taco Charlton-EDGE-Michigan (44)

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Charlton was drafted as an insurance policy in case DeMarcus Lawrence left in free agency after the 2017-18 season. Lawrence got franchise tagged so Charlton will have another year to develop alongside the stud pass rusher. He’ll need it, too, because he was mediocre as a rookie, registering just 3 sacks. He did flash some potential, though, but more work needs to be done.

29. Cleveland Browns (from Green Bay Packers)-David Njoku-TE-Miami (FL) (21)

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The Browns traded up with the Packers to land Njoku and while his overall stat line wasn’t that great (32 catches for 386 yards and 4 TD’s), it seemed like every time the Browns popped up on the screen when I was watching NFL Redzone the play somehow involved Njoku. I think he’s primed for a big Year 2.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers-TJ Watt-EDGE-Wisconsin (29)

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JJ’s little brother had about as good an NFL debut as you could ask for, recording 2 sacks and registering an interception in his first game. He finished the year with 7 sacks and looks like he’s going to be a stud for the Steelers for some time.

31. San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks through Atlanta Falcons)-Reuben Foster-LB-Alabama (8)

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This one’s a little tricky. Foster was excellent on the field, however his days with the 49ers may be numbered due to an off-the-field incident. Foster has been accused of domestic violence, where he allegedly punched his girlfriend 8-10 times, which ruptured her ear drum. He was also found in possession of numerous illegal firearms. If convicted, he could face up to 11 years in prison. 49ers GM John Lynch has publicly stated that if Foster is convicted, he will be cut immediately. However they want to wait for the judicial process to conclude because they cut Tramaine Brock before his domestic violence case was over and he was cleared of all charges. But despite great on-field performance, Foster’s NFL career may be in jeopardy if these horrific allegations are true.

32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)-Ryan Ramczyk-OT-Wisconsin (22)

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This is the pick the Saints acquired from the Patriots for Brandin Cooks and it was one of several home runs the Saints had in this draft class. Ramczyk was seen as a raw talent and people were concerned when he had to enter the starting lineup in week one due to an injury to Zach Strief. However he played excellently at right tackle and is going to start there for the foreseeable future for New Orleans.

So that’s how the first round played out last year. Injuries played a factor for a lot of these guys but you cannot deny they showed a lot of ability. Not a lot of guys who are already looking like busts (Mike Williams and John Ross are the only guys that I can really consider to be in danger of falling into that category). Of course, two of the biggest talents in this class, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt, went in the third round. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the 2018 class. Of course, you can get your next-day coverage here at Wyman’s Sports. Let me know what you think of the 2017 Draft Class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2017 NFL Awards

Happy New Year everybody! I apologize for no blog yesterday but I was downing IPA’s like they were Miller Lites and was in no position to begin my NFL postseason series blogs. I won’t be doing a playoff predictions segment as that would defeat the purpose of doing NFL picks, which I’ve decided to continue doing for the postseason, the first of which will be posted on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday. Haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do the entire Wild Card Round for the Saturday blog or if I’m going to do Saturday’s games on Saturday and Sunday’s games on Sunday. Stay tuned. But with the NFL regular season wrapped up, I’d like to start handing out some awards. Some of these will be real NFL awards, a few will be made up. But all of them mean something and each player will have to make room in their trophy case for what I’m handing out. So with that, on to the awards.

NFL MVP: Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

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I’m going to get an earful from my friends and family for not choosing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for this, but looking at the overall stats, I didn’t feel like there was any other option. Not only has Gurley been a major part of the Rams sudden turnaround, but his stats are insane. He’s second in the NFL in rushing with 1305 yards and led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also was second amongst runningbacks with 788 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. So that’s 2093 yards from scrimmage with 19 touchdowns. The one knock I have against Gurley’s candidacy is his fumbling, which he led NFL runningbacks with 5. However, the fact that he carried the ball 279 times could be an explanation. I’m not sure where Gurley ranks in terms of fumble rate, as I lack the willpower to do all the math for every player, but I don’t think he’d be at the top of that list. As for Tom Brady, I was all in on his MVP candidacy until his streak of 5 straight games with an interception late in the season. Plus, his numbers started trending downwards by the end. Gurley only got better.

Others receiving consideration: Tom Brady-QB-New England Patriots

*Disclaimer* I’m not putting down an Offensive Player of the Year because Gurley would also win that. The argument would be repetitive.

Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell-DL-Jacksonville Jaguars

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I won’t go too much into this, as I had Campbell as my midseason DPOTY in my midseason awards blog. Basically check out my segment on Campbell and reapply it to here. He kept at his rate from midseason. He finished tied for second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks and that came despite his playing primarily on the interior of the defensive line, where by nature he would take on double teams. You just don’t see that from guys outside of JJ Watt. Plus, Campbell’s presence helped this Jaguars defense take a gigantic leap from last year, as they went from a decent unit to arguably the best in the league. Guys like Dante Fowler Jr finally broke out and Yannick Ngakoue quietly became one of the league’s top pass rushers.

Others receiving consideration: Aaron Donald-DT-Los Angeles Rams, Chandler Jones-EDGE-Arizona Cardinals

Coach of the Year: Sean McVay-Los Angeles Rams

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There were a few candidates for this spot, as there were a lot of breakout teams in 2017. But I’ve got to go with Rams rookie head coach Sean McVay for a couple reasons. Number 1 being the Rams had been totally stagnant for about a decade, never seeming to be able to rise above being 8-8 and coming off a disastrous first year in Los Angeles, as Jeff Fisher was fired midseason on the Amazon Prime series “All or Nothing.” They were the worst offense in the NFL in 2016 as well. Enter McVay. The Rams completely flipped and went from the worst scoring offense in 2016 (14.0 PPG) to the highest scoring offense in 2017 (29.9 PPG). Not bad from a guy who was younger than a large chunk of quarterbacks in the league (he was 31 when he was hired). But the biggest deciding factor for me for McVay being COTY is the development of Jared Goff. Goff was the #1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft and he had a disastrous rookie year, as he went 0-7 as a starter and was already looking like a bust. Under McVay, however, Goff became one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, going 11-5 as a starter, finishing 10th in the NFL in passing yards at 3804, 3rd in yards per attempt at 7.98, tied for 5th in passing touchdowns with 28, and only threw 7 interceptions, which was fewer than the totals of Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Tom Brady. That’s the difference a good coach can make.

Others receiving consideration: Sean McDermott-Buffalo Bills, Doug Marrone-Jacksonville Jaguars, Doug Pederson-Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Belichick-New England Patriots

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara-RB-New Orleans Saints

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Kamara did it all for the Saints this year. He ran, he caught, and he returned kicks on occasion. He was third amongst rookies in rushing yards with 728 on only 120 carries for an average of 6.1 YPC, which led all NFL runningbacks. This came despite the fact that he was sharing a backfield with Mark Ingram, who was having a great season in his own right. Kamara also was a great pass catcher for the Saints, as he had 81 catches out of the backfield for 826 yards, trailing only Steelers standout Juju Smith-Schuster and Rams stud Cooper Kupp for rookie receiving yards. And he’s a runningback. He also took a kick to the house against the Buccaneers in Week 17 and averaged 31.5 yards per kick return (granted he only returned 11 kicks, but still, that’s a terrific rate). Alvin Kamara is my clear favorite for OROTY. Now if only he’d get rid of that damn septum ring. God I hate those things. I don’t know how people can think they look good.

Others receiving consideration: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs, Juju Smith-Schuster-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers, Leonard Fournette-RB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore-CB-New Orleans Saints

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The Saints have ROTYs on both sides of the ball, it seems. Lattimore ranked among the best cornerbacks in the NFL, leading what has actually been a really good class for rookie cornerbacks, as Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White and Dallas’ Jourdan Lewis also had strong seasons. Lattimore was consistently put on the opposing team’s best receiver and had 5 interceptions this season, including a streak of 3 games in a row with a pick towards the end of the season, including one he caught with his ass.

According to Pro Football Focus, Lattimore was graded as the 5th best corner in the NFL and graded amongst the game’s elites. He looks like he has a long, successful career ahead of him.

Others receiving consideration: Tre’Davious White-CB-Buffalo Bills, Carl Lawson-EDGE-Cincinnati Bengals

Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski-TE-New England Patriots

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2016 was a lost season for Gronk. He was always injured and missed out on the Patriots’ amazing run to their victory in Super Bowl LI. I even read articles that suggested that Gronk is now expendable for the Patriots and could be the next in their high-profile cuts. How did he respond? Only with 69 catches (which I swear he did on purpose) and led all NFL tight ends with 1084 yards (which was 10th in the entire league) to go along with 8 touchdowns. At 28 years old, Gronk continues to show the league why he is the absolute best.

Others receiving consideration: Keenan Allen-WR-Los Angeles Chargers

Breakout Player of the Year: Jared Goff-QB-Los Angeles Rams

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As I highlighted in my defense of Sean McVay being COTY, Goff was a borderline bust heading into his second NFL season. The Rams gave up a fortune to the Titans to pick him as they were looking to make a splash with their return to Los Angeles. Well that move was looking like a disaster as Goff was absolutely dreadful in 2016, going 0-7 as a starter, completing only 54% of his passes, while throwing only 5 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. But he did a complete 180 in 2017, where he was about as efficient as any quarterback in the NFL.

Others receiving consideration: Adam Thielen-WR-Minnesota Vikings, Marquise Goodwin-WR-San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo-QB-San Francisco 49ers

Play of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins Touchdown Catch on Christmas Day vs Steelers

Others receiving consideration: Maurice Harris one-handed touchdown vs Vikings, Tarik Cohen punt return TD vs 49ers

My Favorite Player of 2017: Tarik Cohen-RB-Chicago Bears

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Tarik Cohen’s nickname “The Human Joystick” perfectly sums up the type of player he is. He’s only 5’6, but he’s nearly impossible to catch in the open field. Just look at this punt return against the 49ers, which nearly won for my play of the year.

He also likes to do things like this in his spare time.

This kid’s an electric factory.

Others receiving consideration: Carson Wentz-QB-Philadelphia Eagles, Tyreek Hill-WR-Kansas City Chiefs

That’s it for my NFL Awards segment. Check back in tomorrow when I rank each NFL player by position, followed by my Top 100 players. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Midseason Awards

It’s Week 9 and that marks the official halfway point of the NFL regular season so I thought it was high time I got to prematurely handing out awards I have no authority to give. These are my thoughts on who I would vote for if the NFL season were to end today. I’m going to touch on the major awards as well as a few made up ones. So without further ado, here are my midseason awards.

NFL MVP: Carson Wentz-QB-Philadelphia Eagles

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photo credit: Philadelphia Sports Nation

Wentz has taken a HUGE step forward in his second year in the league, leading the Eagles to the NFL’s best record at the season’s halfway point while also being third in passing yards and first in passing touchdowns. His elusiveness in the pocket has been the talk of the league as day-in and day-out he makes plays that are just shocking to behold. This was a tough choice because there are two other really legitimate candidates: Tom Brady and Alex Smith. Brady leads the NFL in passing yards by almost 400 yards despite not having safety net Julian Edelman and Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception this season. But I think I’m going to go with Wentz simply because I think the Eagles would absolutely IMPLODE without him, whereas I think the Patriots and Chiefs would remain afloat without Brady or Smith (that’s more a credit to the coaching than anything).

Others receiving consideration: Tom Brady-QB-New England Patriots, Alex Smith-QB-Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers

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photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I want to set one quick ground rule about my edition of this award. I don’t consider quarterbacks mainly because the MVP is basically already a quarterback’s award unless a runningback has a mind-blowing season (each of the last 3 runningback MVP’s have set a major record in the season they won the award or at least approached one). So you won’t be seeing Brady or Wentz or Smith here. I’m going with Antonio Brown mainly because of how far ahead of other receivers he is right now. His 835 receiving yards leads the NFL, next closest is Adam Thielen with 627. His 57 catches lead the NFL, next closest is Jarvis Landry with 50. His 287 yards after catch is 5th, however everybody else in the top 10 on that list is a runningback, whose yards after catch are pretty much all of their receiving yards because of where they typically catch the ball. So not a difficult decision for me here.

Others receiving consideration: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs, Toddy Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams, Le’Veon Bell-RB-Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell-DT-Jacksonville Jaguars

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photo credit: Big Cat Country

Not only is Calais Campbell a terrifying physical specimen (6’8 300 pounds), he’s also a damn good football player. After the Cardinals didn’t resign him in an effort to get younger defensively, Campbell signed with the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars and he has been a leading catalyst in this “Sacksonville” revolution. He’s tied for second in the league with 10 sacks and he’s doing it from the interior of the defensive line, where he faces constant double teams. The potential knock against Campbell would be that perhaps his numbers are so good because opposing offensive lines have to deal with Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr, and people who argue that would have a point. But I present a counter point: why didn’t Ngakoue and Fowler have great production until Campbell got to Jacksonville?

Others receiving consideration: DeMarcus Lawrence-DE-Dallas Cowboys, Marcus Peters-CB-Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs

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photo credit: Fake Teams

I want to give a quick shoutout to Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who may have won this midseason award had he not just torn his ACL as I was starting this blog (seriously, I had my opening paragraph written when a buddy of mine texted me the news). Watson was tied with Wentz for the most passing touchdowns in the NFL with Wentz and his insertion into the starting lineup for Tom Savage changed the Texans from an absolute joke to a juggernaut. Now that I’ve given Watson his due, it’s time to talk about the insane season Kareem Hunt is putting forth. Hunt leads the NFL in rushing at 763 yards. Le’Veon Bell trails him by just 3 yards, however Bell needed 48 more carries and Hunt still leads. Since fumbling his first career carry against New England, Hunt has arguably been the best runningback in the league. Not bad for a third round pick from a mid-major school. I feel ashamed for having 8 runningbacks ahead of him in my NFL Draft rankings.

Others receiving consideration: Deshaun Watson*-QB-Houston Texans, Leonard Fournette-RB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore-CB-New Orleans Saints

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photo credit: The Advocate

I really wanted to consider Browns DE and #1 overall pick Myles Garrett for this, as he has 4 sacks in 4 games played, but he’s missed too much time for me to consider him. There really aren’t a whole lot of other defensive players who stand out outside of the cornerback position, which has been really good for rookies. Bills and Cowboys rookies Tre’Davious White and Jourdan Lewis have been excellent in their roles but I think Marshon Lattimore has been the absolute best of the bunch. Lattimore is already the top corner for the Saints and has been a major factor in this defense’s turnaround. He typically follows the opposing team’s number 1 receiver and can keep up with any receiver in the NFL with his 4.36 speed.

Others receiving consideration: Tre’Davious White-CB-Buffalo Bills, Jourdan Lewis-CB-Dallas Cowboys, Jarrad Davis-LB-Detroit Lions, Carl Lawson-DE-Cincinnati Bengals

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick-New England Patriots

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

photo credit: Patriots Wire

The league almost has to cast Belichick aside because otherwise he would win this award every year. The Hoodie is arguably the greatest coach to put on a headset and he continues to do great work this season. The Patriots have dealt with a number of injuries to key contributors, such as Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower as well as down years from guys like Malcolm Butler but the Patriots still find themselves at 6-2 heading into their bye. The defense also struggled MIGHTILY to start the season but since the Tampa Bay game this defense has gone from embarrassing to very competent and even held the high-flying Falcons offense to 7 points. There’s nobody better in sports today than Bill Belichick.

Others receiving consideration: Andy Reid-Kansas City Chiefs, Sean McDermott-Buffalo Bills, Sean McVay-Los Angeles Rams, Doug Marrone-Jacksonville Jaguars

Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen-WR-Los Angeles Chargers

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photo credit: Chargers Wire

Keenan Allen tore his ACL and lost his season in Week 1 of the 2016 season, devastating Chargers fans and me, having drafted him in the fourth round of my fantasy draft. The loss of Allen was a huge blow to the Chargers but he returns this year healthy and is 8th in the NFL in receiving yards at 548.

Others receiving consideration: Julius Peppers-DE-Carolina Panthers, Rob Gronkowski-TE-New England Patriots

Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Alex Collins-RB-Baltimore Ravens

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photo credit: Field Gulls

Alex Collins was a guy I liked coming out of the 2016 NFL Draft from Arkansas. He reminded me a little bit of a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch but my main knock was he had bricks for hands. Nevertheless, I thought of him as a third round pick. The rest of the league disagreed with my projection and Collins wasn’t taken until the 6th round by the Seattle Seahawks. He bounced around from practice squad to active roster before getting cut before the 2017 season and claimed by Baltimore. All he’s done for Baltimore is win the starting job and lead the league in yards per carry (6.0). Meanwhile, Seattle struggles to find a runningback that sticks.

Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Dante Fowler Jr-DE-Jacksonville Jaguars

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Dante Fowler Jr was a borderline bust entering this season, who was more known for “savage” moments off the field rather than his performance on it. However this season, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft looks like a completely different player, as he is constantly getting pressure in the quarterback’s face and is on pace for a double-digit sack season.

All Pro Teams (First player listed is First Team, second player listed is Second Team)

QB: Tom Brady-New England Patriots, Carson Wentz-Philadelphia Eagles

RB: Kareem Hunt-Kansas City Chiefs, Le’Veon Bell-Pittsburgh Steelers

RB: Todd Gurley-Los Angeles Rams, Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears

WR: Antonio Brown-Pittsburgh Steelers, Adam Thielen-Minnesota Vikings

WR: DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans, Brandin Cooks-New England Patriots

WR: AJ Green-Cincinnati Bengals, Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs

TE: Zach Ertz-Philadelphia Eagles, Travis Kelce-Kansas City Chiefs

OT: Tyron Smith-Dallas Cowboys, Taylor Lewan-Tennessee Titans

OT: Trent Williams-Washington Redskins, David Bakhtiari-Green Bay Packers

OG: Marshall Yanda-Baltimore Ravens, Shaq Mason-New England Patriots

OG: Zack Martin-Dallas Cowboys, Trai Turner-Carolina Panthers

C: Alex Mack-Atlanta Falcons, Travis Frederick-Dallas Cowboys

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence-Dallas Cowboys, Joey Bosa-Los Angeles Chargers

DE: Everson Griffen-Minnesota Vikings, Yannick Ngakoue-Jacksonville Jaguars

DT: Calais Campbell-Jacksonville Jaguars, Geno Atkins-Cincinnati Bengals

DT: Fletcher Cox-Philadelphia Eagles, Akiem Hicks-Chicago Bears

LB: Justin Houston-Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Kerrigan-Washington Redskins

LB: Bobby Wagner-Seattle Seahawks, CJ Moseley-Baltimore Ravens

LB: Von Miller-Denver Broncos, Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals

CB: Marcus Peters-Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

CB: Richard Sherman-Seattle Seahawks, Jalen Ramsey-Jacksonville Jaguars

S: Earl Thomas-Seattle Seahawks, Devin McCourty-New England Patriots

S: Glover Quin, Detroit Lions, Micah Hyde-Buffalo Bills

K: Greg Zuerlein-Los Angeles Rams, Kai Forbath-Minnesota Vikings

P: Bradley Pinion-San Francisco 49ers, Pat O’Donnell-Chicago Bears

Those are my midseason NFL Awards picks. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.