AP Most Valuable Player: Tony Romo, Cowboys
This has been one of the most difficult to determine MVP races in a few years. My pick this year though has to be Romo. The Cowboys’ quarterback finished the year with the best completion percentage, highest yards per attempt average and top passer rating. He did all of this while battling through a tough back injury that plagued him throughout the season. Romo also took care of the ball throwing only nine interceptions. What really validates Romo as the MVP was his five game winning drives, which tied for the league lead. He led the Cowboys to their first playoff berth since 2011 as well. He was the best player in the league this year.
AP Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Cardinals
If I had told you that the Cardinals were going to win the NFC West this year back in September, you would’ve laughed at me. While they did not win it, only losing on a tiebreaker with Seattle, they finished tied for the best record in the league and made the playoffs despite losing the first two quarterbacks on their depth chart. That is a testament to the hard work of Arians. His team managed 12 wins this year despite having one of the most banged up offenses in the league. The Cardinals defense was simply incredible in some games this season and Arizona’s coach found some creative ways to move the ball offensively. Even when backed up against a wall, he succeeded. There is no doubt that Arians was the best coach in football this year.
AP Offensive Player of the Year: LeVeon Bell, Steelers
You can argue DeMarco Murray all you want, but when you play behind the road grading line that he had this year, you should do well. Plus the guy fumbled it five times this year. Meanwhile, Bell never fumbled the ball on any of his 290 carries or 83 receptions. Bell also averaged the same number of yards per carry so it stands to reason that he could have had Murray’s same production if had the same number of attempts. What really sets Bell apart is his versatility; he was a threat on the ground and through the air. Bell finished only 46 yards from scrimmage behind Murray, despite having 73 fewer touches. Bell was impressive and effective on his way to being the best offensive player in the league.
AP Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans
This one is absolutely no contest. Watt was far and away the best player on the defensive side of the football this season. He finished the season with over 20 sacks, the most tackles by a defensive lineman and the most pass deflections by a defensive lineman as well. He was a disruptive force yet again with his big play ability, scoring two defensive touchdowns, one on an interception and one on a fumble recovery. Watt showed a knack for forcing turnovers as well with his four forced fumbles and five recoveries. It is not set in stone, but this is the most sure thing at the NFL Honors ceremony.
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
And he only needed 12 games to do it. He could even make a case as the best overall receiver this season. Beckham had over 90 catches, 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns. Every single one of those totals ranks in the top 10 for the NFL this season. The Giants’ rookie also had the most receiving yards per game by any player in the league. He also had the highlight reel catch of the decade thus far. No one deserves the award more than the New York wideout and I think he will walk away with it next Saturday.
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: C.J. Mosely, Ravens
People are clamoring for Khalil Mack here but I think Mosely had the better season. The Ravens linebacker racked up 133 tackles this year, good for seventh in the NFL. He also had 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble. He became the backbone of a stout Baltimore rush defense allowing the fourth fewest rushing yards per game. He was also named a Pro Bowler, the first Ravens rookie ever to be named one. Considering Ray Lewis played for this franchise, that is downright impressive.
AP Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
You have to look at Gronk and wonder, “Wait he was hurt last year?” The Patriots tight end looked fairly fluid with how he moved around the field this season. His credentials for the award speaks for itself. He finished with the fourth most receptions, the most receiving yards and tied for the most receiving touchdowns among tight ends. He made some spectacular catches and proved once again that he is a very solid blocking tight end. Gronk roared back to life this year and should be awarded for his triumphant comeback.
Those are all of the top awards. There are several other ones to be named that night but these are the ones that are the most talked about. So now, I want to know if I got them right. Let me know what you think.