The NFL Awards is usually a hot topic for debate towards the back end of the season. But with NFL Kickoff a mere two days away why not get ahead of the curve and throw in my predictions before a single ball has been snapped?
For each award I’ll be offering my prediction as well as a ‘sleeper’ choice for someone who I think could change people’s mind with a strong 2020 season.
AP Most Valuable Player Award
Prediction: Russel Wilson – QB – SEA
With the way Wilson has been playing the past couple of years there’s no surprise that he’s the frontrunner for MVP in 2020. Losing out to second-year quarterbacks in both 2018 and 2019 it’s about time he receives his props.
Seattle doesn’t boast the same rosters as Baltimore or Kansas City which is why he might take the edge over those two this season. Being able to take the Seahawks to one of the best records in a stacked NFC conference will be more impressive than whatever Jackson and Mahomes can do with better rosters in a weaker conference.
Sleeper: Deshaun Watson – QB – HOU
After a rollercoaster offseason Watson is heading into 2020 without his star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. If he can overcome not only the lack of Nuk, but also his own head coach, Watson will definitely have a case for MVP.
Having said that, he isn’t completely alone as he prepares for opening night against the Chiefs this Thursday. The Texans did add receiver Randall Cobb in free agency which went under the radar for a lot of NFL fans. They also made some moves on the offensive line – resigning rotational tackle Roderick Thompson, trading for Laremy Tunsil and drafting Tytus Howard in the first round – which will also help Watson feel more comfortable in the pocket this season.
A strong year from him, combined with the dysfunctional front office storyline, should propel the fourth year quarterback into the MVP conversation and may even see him take home the award. The Texans still have a good shot of winning the AFC South this year too which will only help his cause.
AP Offensive Player of the Year Award
Prediction: Patrick Mahomes – QB – KC
I mean, do I need to explain? After putting up 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns as well as winning NFL MVP in his first year as a starter, and then going on to win both the Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP in 2019, Mahomes has already solidified himself as the best offensive player in the league.
I don’t think it would surprise anyone if he had another great season after keeping the majority of his supporting cast for 2020. If he can put up numbers and take his team to the number one seed in the conference then the award is pretty much his.
Sleeper: Kyler Murray – QB – ARI
The Arizona Cardinals are going to surprise people this year. Kyler Murray is set to take a huge leap from his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019 and may snatch up another award this year. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals have one of the best receiving cores in the league and Murray’s numbers will reflect the added firepower.
Not only will his stats improve but I also anticipate that the number one pick from 2019 will take strides in his leadership this year as well. With other big names like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffery all favoured for the award in 2020, Murray could come out swinging and take everyone by surprise.
AP Defensive Player of the Year Award
Prediction: Aaron Donald – DL – LAR
Donald is often hailed as the best player in the league. Not a year goes by where he’s not a candidate for DPOY and 2020 will be no different. Although the rest of the Rams’ defence has regressed around him, Donald is still an absolute unit and will have the opportunity to shine once again.
Some analysts have even gone as far to say that he could break the single season sack record this year, which is currently held by Michael Straham with his 22.5 sacks in 2001. Regardless of whether or not he breaks the record, he still has a good shot of scooping up the award if he performs well in the NFC West. If he can disrupt the potent 49ers attack, take down MVP frontrunner Russel Wilson a few times and cause troubles for Arizona’s high-powered offence, he has a good shot of being DPOY.
Sleeper: Myles Garrett – DE – CLE
Not so much a sleeper; more the less-obvious pick. If Cleveland takes a step forward and puts the pressure on a strong AFC North then Garrett will undoubtedly be a big factor in that. He enters his fourth year in the league after only playing 10 games in 2019. However during his time on the field he still managed to rack up 10 sacks and 29 tackles (11 of which were for a loss).
If he can come back healthy and keep his form then he could be a sneaky candidate for DPOY.
AP Offensive Rookie Of The Year Award
Prediction: Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB – KC
After Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season, a huge Clyde Edwards-Helaire sized gap has opened up on the Chiefs depth chart. The LSU phenom fits perfectly into the Chiefs system. If Andy Reid can make the most of his instincts and out the backfield potential, he should have a strong season next to Patrick Mahomes.
The last time the Chiefs started a rookie running back in week one was with Kareem Hunt at New England on opening night of the 2017 season. After fumbling the ball on his first snap of his pro-career Hunt went for 148 yard on 17 carries, caught all five of his targets for 98 yards and found the endzone three times. I wouldn’t be surprised if CEH did the same against Houston on Thursday.
Sleeper: Brandon Aiyuk – WR – SF
After Deebo Samuel’s successful 2019 rookie campaign the 49ers went back to receiver in the first round of this year’s draft. Brandon Aiyuk may not have been a name that jumped off the paper pre-draft but he will be a nice addition to the Conference champions.
Aiyuk has a lot of work to do to have similar similar success as Samuel – 14.1 yards per reception whilst catching 70.4% of his targets. But if he does he might quietly enter the OROY conversation.
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Award
Prediction: Chase Young – DE – WAS
I don’t think this prediction comes as a surprise; Young was the first defensive player taken off the board for a reason. He’s a monster at defensive end who racked up 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss in 2019 alone. Across his three years at Ohio State he totalled 30.5 sacks, eight defended passes and 40.5 tackles for a loss.
Washington will have no issues getting production out of the 21-year-old and will prove to be a threatening piece on an otherwise mediocre defence. Anything can happen during the season but, as it stands now, I don’t see anyone arguing against Young for DROY.
Sleeper: Willie Gay Jr – LB – KC
One of the weakest parts of Kansas City’s game last season was using linebackers to plug holes on run defence. Enter Willie Gay Jr, the speedy LB out of Mississippi State, who was selected 63rd overall by the Chiefs.
Although he may not be as flashy as some of the other front seven in the 2020 draft class, Gay fills a need on a Chiefs’ roster and so should see a lot of playing time. If he can stay healthy and do exactly what they drafted him for, Willie Gay Jr should perform well in his rookie year and may start turning heads his way; even if he’s not on your radar just yet.
AP Coach of the Year Award
Prediction: Bruce Arians – TB
After what can be considered a successful offseason it’s now on Arians’ shoulders to put it all together and have a productive season. But with so many new pieces, big names and high expectations this might be a challenge for the Bucs’ head coach – especially with no preseason games to help mould them together.
However, if he does, there might just be an award waiting for him at the end of the season. Tampa Bay are set to have a strong season in a competitive NFC South. If they do, Arians can take a lot of that credit for being able to turn a group of newly-acquainted stars into Super Bowl contenders.
Sleeper: Kliff Kingsbury – ARI
Arizona sits in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Seattle and San Francisco are both contenders this year. But the Cards’ high-powered offence has a chance to upset them both. If Kingsbury can will his team to the top of the NFC West, which is my bold prediction for the 2020 NFL season, then the second-year head coach might snag the award.
Kyler Murray’s already familiar with his head coach from his college career and, as they enter their second year together in the pro’s, I predict them to be a lot more comfortable and efficient. If Kingsbury can make the most out of one of the best receiving cores in the league, and their defence takes a step forward, they might just win the West.
AP Comeback Player of the Year Award
Prediction: Alex Smith – QB – WAS
If Smith plays one game of NFL football this year I think he will be a worthy candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. The ESPN documentary ‘Project 11’ details his fight against flesh-eating bacteria, septic infections and countless surgeries. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would definitely recommend it to fully understand the gravity of Smith’s situation. There was a point where his life, let alone his leg, was in danger.
Going from that to now being cleared for football operations is an extraordinary achievement. And one that deserves recognition. He is a fighter through-and-through, the journey he’s been on since November 2018 to now shows it.
Sleeper: Bradley Chubb – DE – DEN
Chubb only played in four games last year before tearing his ACL and has worked hard to get ready for his 2020 campaign. With Von Miller now expected to miss the season due to an injury he sustained in training camp, Chubb now has the opportunity to come back and be the leader of this Denver defence.
He totalled 58 pressures in his rookie season and also racked up 12 sacks, the highest out of any rookie in Broncos history. A return to form in 2020 should see him climb up the list in the Comeback Player of the Year race.
However this year there’s some tough competition with Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger and JJ Watt also having substantial cases.
What do you make of my predictions? Who have I snubbed? Let me know on Twitter: @WiddowsonOwen