The 2016 NFL season is finally wrapped up. Congratulations to the Atlanta Falcons for choking away the Super Bowl! Now that the season is over, I’ve decided to hand out my very own NFL awards.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers QB Green Bay Packers — Remember when people thought he was not that good anymore? That was hilarious! Rodgers is without question the best quarterback in the game, and it is not close. He has no real flaw or wart in his game, like just about every other QB does. Saddled with a below average team in terms of talent, he has carried the Packers deep into the postseason regularly throughout his career. As we all saw, this season was no different. He is probably worth 6-8 wins per season for Green Bay and should win the MVP award nearly every year. This award is different for others, as they alter their definition of “MVP.” MVP means most VALUABLE Player, not the best player in a particular season and not the most statistically productive for 2016. The term specifically states most valuable. Aaron Rodgers is more valuable to his team’s success than any player in football. Matt Ryan was the most statistically productive QB in 2016, but he was not more valuable to his team than Aaron Rodgers.
OPOY: David Johnson RB Arizona Cardinals — I’ll put this in fantasy terms just to give context about how much more productive Johnson was than other elite players at his position. While David Johnson amassed an incredible 367.8 points, the next best four RBs (E. Elliott, L. Bell, L. McCoy, and D. Murray) scored 309, 279, 273, and 269, respectively. It should also be noted that Johnson scored all of his points in only 15 games. He had over 2,000 all purpose yards and 20 total touchdowns. Simply put, no player was more productive than Johnson, and it was not a fluke. His game breaking speed, ability to make defenders miss, and receiver-level catching ability (he coincidentally is an ex-wide receiver) makes him a player that should remain elite for a long time at a position that now demands more versatility than ever before.
DPOY: Von Miller EDGE Denver Broncos — Von Miller had 13.5 sacks this year to go along with 3 forced fumbles, and he finished 6th in the league with 29 QB hurries (per Sportingcharts.com), all while seeing extra attention from the offenses he faced. Double teamed, sometimes even triple teamed, Miller still manages to terrorize opposing offenses. He’s not one dimensional, either. He sets the edge and drops into coverage on occasion, and even there he holds his own. His pass rushing ability and speed make him the best in the game, and he is unrivaled across the league. If he fell one more pick in the 2011 draft to the Bills, we’d likely be seeing him terrorize the AFC East every year.
OROY: Dak Prescott QB Dallas Cowboys — While he is definitely overhyped in that he’s talked about as a great QB, he certainly played well this season. He will most likely come in at about 12th on my 2016 QB rankings, and that is excellent when you consider he was a 4th round rookie who started the entire season and won 12 games. He demonstrated impressive touch and decision making throughout his campaign. I do have concerns about his ability to maneuver a pressured pocket, but right now that does not seem to matter with his elite offensive line. If he is not on the Cowboys, they lose more games than if Ezekiel Elliott is not on the Cowboys. This was an easy decision. The NFL is a passing league.
DROY: Jalen Ramsey DB Jacksonville Jaguars — Here’s a quick statistic: per Pro Football Focus, the top 4 CB in number of snaps chasing opponents’ #1 WR: Patrick Peterson, Casey Hayward, Tracy Porter, Jalen Ramsey. A rookie cornerback who has already joined the ranks of the best, Ramsey was phenomenal this season at the premium position on a defense in today’s NFL. Simply, it is the hardest and most important position in a pass heavy, sack-scarce NFL. A rookie performing this well at this position just does not happen. I cannot wait to watch Ramsey’s career play out.
CPOY: Jimmy Graham TE Seattle Seahawks — I definitely didn’t expect this. Players are not supposed to be able to come back from a patella tendon rupture and be full strength for the next season. Often, it destroys a player’s athleticism. Yet, here was Graham being his usual ridiculous self. He had 65 catches, 923 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t look like much compared to Graham’s standard, but from where he was supposed to be physically, they are miraculous. Moreover, his stats truly do not do his play justice. His receiving ability is still top notch, making contested catches regularly and making plays after the catch. Hopefully, this is a sign that future patellar tendon ruptures have a higher chance of recovery to full strength.
Most Surprising: The Atlanta Falcons — Boy, are they good. They were pretty good last year despite Matt Ryan’s struggles, but this year’s offense was a machine. On a record setting True Turnover pace, they have demolished both good and bad defenses, and seemed to only get better each game. They averaged 28 points per game against the top half of the league in defensive DVOA. What’s more, their youth on defense is growing faster than expected. Vic Beasley has been a terror after a disappointing rookie season. Deion Jones has been a big contributor (unexpectedly for me), as has Keanu Neal (expected), and the defense has been average, overall. That’s really all they need out of their defensive unit: average play. They have gotten it, and they only seem to be getting better.
Most Disappointing: Josh Doctson WR Washington Redskins/Laquan Treadwell WR Minnesota Vikings — Most would put Jared Goff here, but if you expected him to look a lot better in year 1 as a QB, you probably expected too much. For this distinction, you need someone who was expected to a have an impact in year 1 but fell flat. These two first round WRs simply let their teams down, each for different reasons. Josh Doctson, by far my favorite WR in the 2016 draft, had a nagging achilles injury that limited him to only 2 games. I still have very high hopes for him (in his second game he had a 57 yard catch), but it was tough to watch his elite talent sidelined for so long. As such, I am hereby issuing a 2017 fantasy sleeper alert on Doctson. Treadwell had an injured hamstring that limited him to half a season, but even so, when healthy, he failed to get on the field or make any sort of impact. Making just one catch in his rookie season, his inability to separate and run crisp routes is a concern in the long term. I was down on him, Corey Coleman, and Will Fuller, but hopefully Treadwell proves me wrong after this tough rookie campaign.
Most Underrated: Philip Rivers QB San Diego Chargers — I am going to use the next 2 awards to simply talk about guys who are either way too overhyped by the masses or not talked about enough. Rivers’s 2016 was a championship level season. He really was that good. I would not oppose anyone who ranked his season as the second best in the league. Carrying a roster full of young, unproven players, an ancient tight end, and a constantly injured team, Rivers was able to keep his team in every single game. He played under pressure constantly, not to mention a porous defense, but his ability to maneuver in the pocket and throw his receivers to space where they could play after the catch was unmatched. While he just turned 35, Rivers appears to have a lot left in the tank and, with a healthy and more talented team, looks to get back into the postseason. The Chargers will be one of my favorite sleepers going into 2017.
Most Overrated: Derek Carr QB Oakland Raiders/Kirk Cousins QB Washington Redskins- I cannot stress this enough: these two guys are not good quarterbacks. Carr is average, but Cousins is simply bad. Both are set up similarly, with elite talent around them and not relied upon to do a lot. Derek Carr’s trademark is to often waste clean pockets and check down prematurely, rather than allowing a play to develop. He is often made to look fantastic by open wide receivers and elite after the catch plays. Cousins, meanwhile, needs a perfect scenario to be effective. He has next to no ability to play under pressure in a muddled pocket, and his arm is adequate, at best. Without his elite group of pass blockers and pass catchers, Cousins is a bottom 5-6 starter. Always remember: you need to consider the context of the system and the talent around a player when evaluating his ability.
Best Backup: Tony Romo QB Dallas Cowboys — I cannot say this enough: Tony Romo is a better QB than Dak Prescott. Do not let people tell you otherwise. The move Dallas made was simply because of Romo’s health and age. If they were truly trying to play the better player, then Romo would have played. He is the 7th or 8th best QB in the league right now, and he will be the center of every QB discussion this offseason. If he proves to be healthy and to be able to stay healthy, then his new team will be a playoff contender next season.
Coach of the Year: Dan Quinn Atlanta Falcons — I talked a lot about Atlanta earlier, so I will keep this short. Their defense is not supremely talented. While it has a few talented players (Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley, etc.), they are actually missing by far their best player (Desmond Trufant), and yet are still improving! That is amazing in and of itself. The Seattle model is to keep things simple and let the players use their athleticism to play fast. Indeed, Atlanta does appear to play extremely fast. We will have to monitor how the team progresses into next season to determine they are simply a flash in the pan or if they can sustain success, but in 2016 Quinn deserves the nod. His team destroyed expectations and was the best team in the NFL in 2016. With all of that being said, good job blowing the Super Bowl.