I published an article at the mid-season point with my predictions for the NFL Honors that will take place in February. After a dramatic second half of the season, I want to discuss if I am sticking with my guns or making any changes and why. Let’s take a look.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Mid-Season: CJ Stroud, QB Houston Texans
End of Season: CJ Stroud, QB Houston Texans
What he has done consistently through the year with pedestrian weapons and as a first-time Head Coach in a (previously) battered organization is beautiful. Let’s also remember that Dameon Pierce had an extremely disappointing season.
Despite missing a couple of games, breaking the passing record for a rookie quarterback without targets like Davante Adams or DeAndre Hopkins downfield is something to behold. Consider the incredible talent we have seen coming into the league in recent years: Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes. Those three also had arguably better supporting cast than the rookie out of Ohio State. Stroud would get my vote hands down.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Mid-Season: Devon Witherspoon, CB Seattle Seahawks
End of Season: Jalen Carter, DL Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen has been one of the most (if not, the most) consistent powerhouses on this Eagles’ defense despite their late-season struggles. Not only has he played in 15 games signaling his durability, but here are some other impressive stats:
-2 forced fumbles
Some teams shied away from selecting the Georgia standout due to off-the-field concerns, but so far in Philly he has been a complete home run.
Offensive Player of the Year
Mid-Season: AJ Brown, WR Philadelphia Eagles
End of Season: Christian McCaffrey, RB San Francisco 49ers
I can’t think of another offensive weapon that is as surefire as CMC. There is a ton of discourse regarding the talent of Brock Purdy (I think he is fantastic), but having a security blanket for a runner of his magnitude is truly priceless. San Francisco’s record shows that too as they head into week 18 at 12-4.
McCaffrey has been hanging around in the NFL MVP conversation for most of the season. Anyone new to the NFL knows that this is generally going to a quarterback, so even to be mentioned in that company speaks volumes of his gifts on the field.
He leads the league in yards from scrimmage (2,023) and is tied for the lead in touchdowns scored. Since joining the 49ers mid-season in 2022, McCaffrey has stayed healthy and has proven he deserves OPOY!
Defensive Player of the Year
Mid-Season: Myles Garrett, DE Cleveland Browns
End of Season: Myles Garrett, DE Cleveland Browns
This Cleveland defense is atop the list of most feared in the league and Garrett deserves a huge chunk of the credit. Before trotting into week 18, the top-ranked pass rusher has tallied:
-17 tackles for loss
-42 total tackles
-4 forced fumbles
Keep in mind, this defense has its stretches of being worn down when the team was continuously moving to different quarterbacks. The Cleveland defense has allowed the fewest yards per game all year.
Coach of the Year
Mid-Season: DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans
End of Season: Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
What Ryans has accomplished in Houston is no small feat; however, Kevin Stefanski has officially outshined him. Coach has led this team to a playoff berth which is the first time in NFL history after starting four different quarterbacks. He wooed Joe Flacco from his retired life and got him immersed in a system that has the veteran quarterback now shattering records.
This Browns team has been tested on all accounts, on the injury front.
The cherry on top of all of this is the fact that there has been a lot of criticism and team distraction due to the decision to roster Deshaun Watson. Stefanski has kept this team hungry and dominant in a difficult conference week-to-week. They are on a four-game win streak as they cascade into week 18 against Cincinnati.
Comeback Player of the Year
Mid-Season: Damar Hamlin, S Buffalo Bills
End of Season: Damar Hamlin, S Buffalo Bills
I get it. Joe Flacco. Until Joe collapses and is resuscitated on live television only to fight through it, live, and play another down of football, the COTY has got to be our Buffalo soldier, Damar Hamlin.
Most Valuable Player
Mid-Season: Lamar Jackson, QB Baltimore Ravens
End of Season: Lamar Jackson, QB Baltimore Ravens
Before I jump into stats, let’s point out that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have beaten both the 49ers and Dolphins in back-to-back weeks. A big reason? Lamar’s arms AND legs. If you take passer rating seriously, he recorded a 145.31 in those two games. His latest win against an AFC foe, Miami, included FIVE touchdown passes. He had the number one seed locked in by the time Baltimore heads into week 18 and has led this team to 13 wins.
Not only does Jackson lead the league in rushing YPA, but he is the Ravens’ rushing leader as well. Let’s consider the fact that Jackson has faced nine teams who are currently in playoff contention and here are those stats:
-Completions: 166/249 (66.7%)
-2,292 yards and 19 TDs
-Only 4 interceptions
-85 rushing attempts for 506 yards
-4 rushing touchdowns
The 26-year-old is just weeks away from securing his second NFL MVP honor and it was a pleasure to see him live in action week 17 in Baltimore!
Who gets your 2023-2024 NFL Honors? Holler at us @DraftCountdown on X!