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For my awards season, I went through team-by-team within their division and I selected one ‘winner’ from each team and then chose a divisional winner. One winner from the eight NFL divisions then faced off in an ‘Elite Eight’ head-to-head until we named our winner for the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Today, we look at: Offensive Player of the Year 2018 season.
NFC EAST Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
Dallas = A lot of people would argue Amari Cooper, but he had the most overrated affect on this team…he was a media sensation, and with good reason. Dak deserves more credit than Amari. However, it’s Ezekiel Elliott in a landslide. Dallas builds everything around him and he delivers…no injuries or real letdowns, he just does his work week in-and-out.
Philly = Zach Ertz easily. Record setting season for output. Worked well with Wentz and Foles. I never thought he’d produce like this in the NFL. He was ‘the guy’, everyone knew it, and no one seemed able to stop him.
Washington = Adrian Peterson…I mean, how is this possible for someone his age to look better now than he did 3-4 years ago? Unreal. I tip the cap.
NY Giants = Saquon Barkley over OBJ, but it’s close…OBJ getting hurt in-season kinda tipped the scales. Barkley was like Ezekiel…answered the bell every series and produced.
WINNER: Saquon Barkley by a hair. Ezekiel right there but considering how much teams threw at stopping Barkley and how much weaker the team was around him and the would receiving numbers…Barkley gets my nod over Zeke, barely.
AFC EAST Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
New England = The player that most key to winning this year for the Pats, strangely enough – James White. The more James White was involved, the more likely the Patriots won the game. It wasn’t Tom Brady’s best year, and I know he’s their best player/MVP. But best offensive performance in 2018, the guy that was key to winning, statistically, was James White and I want to acknowledge that.
Miami = I’ll go Ryan Tannehill by default. Albert Wilson got hurt as he was coming on. Kenyan Drake was important, but they downplayed his role later in the season. Tannehill was playing well for a stretch and then fell apart at the finish line with three straight losses.
NY Jets = Boy, I don’t even know here. I’ll go with Robby Anderson because he made some catches this season that were unreal. He made a bad Sam Darnold season not look even worse. Sadly, that makes you the Jets’ offensive MVP.
Buffalo = You have to go Josh Allen, no? As much as I think he’s a terrible NFL QB, I have to give him credit – he ran for 8 TDs in 12 games and had respectable 5-6 record as a starter. Sure, 10 TDs/12 INTs in 11 starts…but he ran with a passion and helped the team win games and excited the fan base. And there’s no one else to get all that excited about except Zay Jones (7 TDs). Allen provided more of a spark with the fans/team, so let’s give it to Allen before he is pushed out of the league a la the Jake Locker that he is.
WINNER: Wow, what an ugly group to pick from. I’m pretty sure no one from the AFC East will make it to the finals for Offensive Player of the Year. I will choose James White to be the AFC representative because his higher-end work earlier in the year translated to wins…why the Pats moved away from him in the 2nd-half is a mystery.
NFC WEST Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
LA Rams = It’s Jared Goff and it’s not even close. When the media cast votes for Todd Gurley over Goff this year, they should be fired. The Rams looked fine without Gurley late. Goff fell off a bit late in the season, but that masks some brilliant play to get LAR off to an undefeated start – and that KC game on MNF, that was stunning. He faced the top teams in the NFC (NO) and AFC (KC) and threw for a combined 7 TDs/1 INT with a rushing TD and 402.0 passing yards per game.
Seattle = Russell Wilson by a landslide. 4th in the NFL in passing TDs while being one of the most sacked QBs in the league, again. If he ever got protection and a real offensive coordinator to run a pass game through him – he might be the best QB in the NFL.
San Francisco = George Kittle…let’s hear it for the tight ends!! Fantastic all season. The one consistent weapon on this team – the 49ers/Kyle Shanahan uses Kittle better than any coach uses a TE in the NFL, in my book.
Arizona = Larry Fitzgerald…by process of elimination. Another solid-ish season despite the most dreadful coaching in the history of football, potentially.
WINNER: I’ll go with Russell Wilson. Under the most difficult circumstances (bad O-Line, terrible offensive plan) he got Seattle to the playoffs when most thought it not possible. Seattle won some games purely by Wilson being miraculous late in games.
AFC WEST Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
Kansas City = Easiest call of this entire segment – St. Patrick Mahomes. The question is, will he be the overall O-POY? Is this a total no-brainer?
LA Chargers = You gotta hand it to Philip Rivers…another quality season despite everyone knowing who is getting the ball. I can’t figure out how he keeps producing at a high level, so I just top my cap.
Denver = Phillip Lindsay, probably the biggest rookie surprise of 2018. He just didn’t have a capable season, he was a force/lethal for parts of the season.
Oakland = Jared Cook, I guess? He was the one guy who kept coming up big on and off in an otherwise wasted season.
WINNER: Has to be Mahomes? Best record. 50 TD passes. Going to be hard to beat for anyone in the final 8.
AFC SOUTH Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
Houston = I will go with Deshaun Watson over DeAndre Hopkins. D.A. is great but late in the season, when Houston was having some issues down the stretch, with multiple WRs hurt and Lamar Miller banged up – Watson just took over by running the ball more. He made an effort to change his game and get the Texans through, only he would have the power to do that – so, here’s to Deshaun.
Indy = Andrew Luck for sure. Great season. The O-Line (and the schedule) deserve a lot of credit as well, but that O-Line with Jacoby Brissett is ‘no, thanks’.
Tennessee = It has to be Marcus Mariota. 7-4 in games he played the whole way, the team was 2-3 when Gabbert played and/or started. Mariota was their only hope to keep the offense together.
Jacksonville = Wow. Is ‘none’ an option? Honestly, I’d just be forcing someone here, so I will go with ‘none’. If forced to pick one you’d have to say Leonard Fournette because they were only plausible on offense when he was being a Mack truck.
WINNER: Deshaun Watson. Had a worse O-Line than Luck, and when they team needed a spark it was Watson purposefully running the ball to get them over. Indy/Luck was great, but Watson/Houston stayed one-step ahead all season. Watson it is for me out of the AFC South.
NFC SOUTH Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
New Orleans = Drew Brees has to be the MVP of the Saints. Alvin Kamara started hot then kinda fizzled. Michael Thomas is nice, but it’s Brees that’s more important in that equation.
Carolina = Christian McCaffrey was the end-all for Carolina all year, he has to be rewarded as the team's MVP.
Tampa Bay = No doubt…Ryan Fitzpatrick. He was so good, and winning, early that Dirk Koetter COULDN’T WAIT TO BENCH HIM! Jameis Winston came in and drove the team off a cliff. Fitzpatrick re-entered mid-season and almost jump started them but the first sign of trouble…benched for Winston to flip some more. Hope it was worth it, Dirk! Oh, you got fired…that’s right.
Atlanta = Matt Ryan wins in this down year for ATL. Ryan really had a nice season…not in terms of wins, but in terms of stats.
WINNER: I’m going with Christian McCaffrey…he was the Saquon Barkley of the Panthers – meaning, the entire offense, running and receiving. He was the game plan and had a huge season and set a record for most catches by an RB in a season without really playing Week 17.
NFC NORTH Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
Chicago = Trubisky or Cohen? I’m going to say Cohen…because he really changed their offense when they started using him heavy. He was the best player they had. Trubisky ran hot and cold. Cohen ran from heavily used (midseason) and then quasi-ignored. This offense found itself, found a spark when they went heavy Tarik. It died when it went heavy Jordan Howard.
Minnesota = Stefon Diggs has a minor case to be made, but it has to Adam Thielen…just because of the record-setting start to his 2018. He died off at the end, when the new O-C took over, but before that he was great…best in class among WRs for a while.
Green Bay = You just retire this award for Aaron Rodgers to get every year. Davante Adams doesn’t have that kind of season anywhere else. Rodgers didn’t have his best year, but he is EVERYTHING for Green Bay…and did it on one leg for part of the season.
Detroit = Stunning but true…it’s Kenny Golladay! He deserves it. He went from random #2-3 option to a #1 guy by year’s end. A star in the making…forced into stardom by a Marvin Jones injury. Unreal.
WINNER: Boy, this is tough. Everyone here has a big ‘pro’ and a big ‘con’. I’m going to go with Adam Thielen for the epic start he had to the season. Anytime ‘historic’ happened in your output…that warrants extra consideration!
AFC NORTH Offensive Player of the Year candidates…
Baltimore = Has to be Lamar Jackson, no? He completely changed the offense and the direction of the team…we forget the Ravens were on a losing streak and John Harbaugh was going to be replaced at year’s end/been there too long! Then LJax hits and they win the AFC North, and everything is beautiful!!
Pittsburgh = Big Ben, no doubt. Pack your Antonio Brown talk along with your khakis and depart from me with AB talk this year. Big Ben is the fuel in this engine.
Cleveland = Do you even have to ask? Baker Mayfield in a LANDSLIDE. The real question is…how highly will I try to push Mayfield in this contest? Best in the AFC North? To the Final 4? Why not best in the NFL? We shall see…
Cincinnati = Joe Mixon really carried this team in spots. A bad O-Line, a minor knee thing early…and Mixon ran for 4.9 yards per carry. The only thing holding him back was Marvin Lewis…and, now, that’s gone.
WINNER: What Baker Mayfield did was more remarkable to me than what Lamar Jackson did, but no disrespect to LJax, but Mayfield was a Messiah. Had Jackson and Mayfield started the season Week 1, Mayfield would have been hands-down Rookie of the Year and possible league MVP…and the Browns would have won the AFC North. All that dealing with that awful franchise. Stunning.
ELITE EIGHT ===============
EAST v. EAST: Saquon Barkley v. James White
James White was a key to victory, sneaky good+ player. Barkley had to carry much of the offense with a huge target on his back. Saquon moves on.
WEST v. WEST: Russell Wilson v. Patrick Mahomes
Russell Wilson so carried the Seahawks, but Mahomes was a weapon of mass destruction. I really respect what Wilson did/does, but what St. Patrick accomplished this year was surreal – STP to the Final Four.
SOUTH v. SOUTH: Christian McCaffrey v. Deshaun Watson
Purely looking at offensive production, I have to give the nod to Christian McCaffrey. Stellar year – 14 TDs, 107 catches, nearly 2,000 total yards (would have got 2,000+ if he played Week 17 full). Watson was clutch late in the season…but McCaffrey had a season to remember. You won’t remember Watson’s season. CMC moves on.
NORTH v. NORTH: Adam Thielen v. Baker Mayfield
If we did this award at the halfway point of the season, Thielen might win it all. However, he really tailed off as the season went on and Mayfield put a whole franchise on his back working with a rag tag bunch of weapons. I love me some Baker.
EAST v. WEST: Saquon Barkley v. Patrick Mahomes
The NFL is very complicated, and it takes years for young players to acclimate – and that’s why two rookies and two 2nd-year players make up the Final Four best Offensive players of 2018 season.
Excellent rookie season for Barkley…but Patrick Mahomes’ season was an all-time great…greater than Barkley’s. Barkley had a lot of ‘volume’ and Mahomes has a lot of ‘results’ (wins, records, etc.)
NORTH v. SOUTH: Christian McCaffrey v. Baker Mayfield
I love Baker, but McCaffrey’s season was too good to try to push Baker’s solid season in the worst of circumstances vs. McCaffrey just being record-setting and never hurt. Baker had a bad game or two, I don’t think McCaffrey ever had a ‘bad’ game – he either beat them running or passing or both. Baker got this far somewhat on the luck of the matchups to get here in my tournament style set up.
Patrick Mahomes v. Christian McCaffrey
Of course, it’s Mahomes. You knew it. The world knows it. My only question on McCaffery…was he better than Saquon Barkley? Were McCaffrey or Barkley better than Tyreek Hill, who didn’t make it out of the 1st-round because of Mahomes?
I would cast my votes: #1 Mahomes, #2 Tyreek, #3 McCaffrey in that race.
For fun, I posed the O-POY debate to our Handicapping Group...and, well, as it does, which I love, the conversation went all over the place...
*Forgive typos, just a transcript of the chat as typed.
RC: I'm doing a series for the post-season awards, and I wanted to get this football-educated group's thoughts/picks/votes for the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. I suspect there will be a lot of Patrick Mahomes voting, but I'd like to see your top 1-2-3 players (or more) considered and see if we have any dissension and debate as to who it should or shouldn't be and why. Start however you wish, but what names come to mind to even enter the debate to knock off Mahomes for this award? No quarterback can claim a better season than St. Patrick, I'm guessing, but can a non-QB enter the discussion? Tyreek? Justin Tucker? Brees? McCaffrey? Luck? C.J. Anderson?
Rabbitt: I'm glad you called it Offensive player of the year, not MVP because I disagree the MVP is Mahomes. It's Donald, and I don't think it's close.
Anyway... my votes go to Zeke and Hill. Hill because he is the most dangerous weapon in the NFL. Zeke because he may do more than any other player for his team. I know you don't like him RC, and I was with you right away, but the more I watch him grind down other teams the more I buy in. He is one of those classic "gets stronger with every carry" guys. It's not sexy all the time to bash the ball for 4 yards, but man is he good at it.
Katz: Well how do you define MVP? Because based upon the way the NFL awards it, the MVP can never be anyone other than a QB. Donald is certainly the defensive player of the year, but if Donald wasn't on the Rams this year, they still win the division. If Jared Goff wasn't on the Rams this year and they started Sean Mannion, they go 5-11.
Rabbitt: I guess I sabotaged the thread already. I think the QB thing is a bit overstated. I mean we had some pretty bad QB's go to the playoffs recently. Take a look at Case Keenum last year, Jackson this year. I also am pretty sure without Donald the Rams lose yesterday. I'm not sure that is the case with Goff- assuming they had a replacement level QB which I don't think Mannion is.
RC: Can I add to the hijack...if Ezekiel Elliott is an MVP candidate for grinding teams down running the ball, then I'm casting a vote for C.J. Anderson. 'Runs a lot' is not getting my vote, but I know what you're saying. Can I vote for David Johnson...entire defenses lined up to stop him every telegraphed play?
My point on EE early on was two fold: (1) Problems-off-the-field alert. (2) He's good-not-great, but he went to Ohio State and to Dallas, so football people will build shrines to him and make him an 'A'+' when he is an A-/B+. Leonard Fournette is a more impressive physical runner and better receiver, but he played at LSU and then Jacksonville, so no one really cares.
If I was voting for a RB for MVP, my vote would be for Christian McCaffrey hand's down this year. Solid running the ball and often unstoppable receiving. Nearly 2,000 yards combined...more total yards, more (NFL record) catches, more rushing TDs, and more total TDs. Why do we all look past McCaffrey as one of the gods of the backfield in the NFL? McCaffrey is arguably better than David Johnson for PPR/FF, no? Not in terms of raw talent but workload he shoulders and output achieved?
I think back to all the 1st-2nd round picks in late-August where I had to 'reach' for McCaffrey-Tyreek out of the gates...
Rabbitt: I saw a ton of stacked boxes for Zeke this year as well. Many times it just didnt matter with him.
If you want two games of success as a margin for mvp why dont we find someone better than cja?
Mccaffery is fine. But if we are buying guys on losing teams isn't Barkley pretty much the same thing?
RC: McCaffrey and Barkley are up there together. C.J. Anderson has saved a season and gotten a team to a Super Bowl, and is better on the same team as the reigning MVP, so don't sell him short for 'MVP', not OPOY. Would anyone argue CMC or Saquon as the best RB candidates for Off. Player of the Year? I think Zeke is a name in the conversation but McCaffrey gets my edge because his passing game greatness is like him playing WR, where as Barkley gets 7,000 dump passes...with everyone knowing its coming they still got it to Saquon, and yet Tyreek...one whole catch Sunday.
McCaffrey also had a passer rating of 158.3 if that matters...
Rabbitt: am i the only person on the planet who is not impressed with an overweight cj Anderson mashing himself through giant holes for several yards and falling down? I am missing how that is impressive but Zeke running over and around tons of dudes zeroed in on stopping him isn't a thing.
Mccaffery was impressive. However how many of his yards came against soft defenses just letting them run out time to lose? Same question with barkley. I am of the opinion that the best players force their teams into the playoffs.
RC: *Frantically checks CJA vs. EE stats in their playoff game...smiles satisfyingly*
Rabbitt: come on rc... are we really going to compare one game of stats? Not to mention the best offensive line I have seen in a long time vs what Dallas has left? How many runs vs 5 DBS did Cj see vs Ee? How many 8+ man boxes did we? How many games did Zeke carry the cowboys offense?
Skol: Houston isn’t in the playoffs without Hopkins. I’ll vote for him.
RC: You asked about being impressed by CJA. I am submitting to you that running all over the #5 run defense in the league when no one thought they could...it's something, no? What about sending the reigning, defending, undisputed MVP Todd Gurley to the bench?
I would also then submit that McCaffrey HAS to be the RB MVP because he kept CJA on the bench and eventually got him cut.
Skol: I’m neutral in this debate but if the #5 run defense is the Cowboys, that means nothing. All void because McVay cracked the code on the Cowboys stunts based on their alignment. If that’s not it then I retract this comment and leave you guys as you were.
RC: Is Nick Foles in this debate at all? You know...because Carson Wentz is a jerk and everyone hates him, apparently...after none of that ever being mentioned before by anyone in the NFL.
ROSS: I’m not saying CJ Anderson is mvp or anything but he has been quite impressive and it wasn’t just McVay. There were some good holes no doubt, but I saw several runs were he stutter stepped and juked around someone before bursting through the hole and then finished it by running over two guys. Honestly I’ve never been an Anderson fan, his broncos days were quite overrated, but he looked like a beast at times for the Rams.
Mahomes is obviously the runaway favorite for every award, but behind him there’s lots of good candidates. What’s the criteria for OPOY? I think how you define that matters a lot. For example I agree with Katz that the MVP as defined by the nfl has to be a qb even if you think QBs are overrated, which I do. It’s still the single most valuable position. The offensive line as a whole is comparable in importance, but that’s a unit of 5 guys and no one lineman makes a good group, although one bad one can break it...coughConnorWilliamscough...
Zeke is a good player and near impossible to bring down for less than 4 yards, but how many games did the cowboys win BECAUSE of him? For me RBs need to be all-world and hurting defenses in the passing game more to be that high up. That’s why I favor McCaffrey a bit more this year although he’s still not in the discussion for me. Saquon is literally exactly how we scouted him, big Barry Sanders. That’s not an insult at all. He’s better than I thought he would be, but again it didn’t really help the Giants much and I’d argue that jamming him touches may have actually hurt them. McCaffrey as well. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Panthers record went to crap the more touches they got him. RB touches do not help you score points, in general.
So WR’s. Hopkins is impressive as ever. Julio racked up his usual big, empty numbers, as did Juju and Evans. For me there’s only one guy that can rival Mahomes somewhat for his impact on the game, and that is the man Mahomes completed 87 passes to. Tyreek Hill is the single most dangerous skill position player in the NFL and it’s not close. I don’t think Mahomes throws for 50 TDs and 5000 yards and wins 12 games without Tyreek. Hill’s speed and agility change the playing field for defenses. They have to account for him at all times and it opens things up massively for Mahomes. All that and you still can’t stop him. The only person that stopped Hill this year was Andy Reid. There’s no telling what the limit is with Hill because he isn’t seeing enough touches to find out. The closest historical comps I can think of for Hill are Lance Alworth and Bob Hayes back in the 60s. Go check up on him if you aren’t familiar. They were just faster than everyone else and completely unstoppable and played in an era when you could mug the receiver. It wasn’t until Gronk that anyone broke Alworth’s TD records to start a career. The point being that they were so fast and unstoppable that defenses had to invent new ways to cover them and it changed the game. Hill has that kind of effect and for me is the clear top non-QB.
Rabbitt: I went back and watched every CJA run back to week 17. I'm really not seeing what the rest of you guys are seeing. Maybe my he was awful as a bronco glasses are on, but I don't think I'm wrong. He is running through massive holes (as was Gurley) against a ton of nickle defenses (as was gurley). I do think that Gurley isn't "right". You don't do all of the stuff he was doing on the sideline of the game last night if you are healthy.
To Ross's point, It's not sexy but I would argue Zeke won a ton of games for the cowboys this year.
Hill is better for me, just because of how potent a weapon he can be. I don't think I have ever watched a guy split double teams as consistently as that dude. He is just so fast that it doesn't matter how you cover him.
I thought we were going non QB? I know you love Foles and I am really hoping he is the QB in denver next year, but can we really consider him ahead of Brees, Brady, Mahomes, Goff?
RC: I didn't mean for you to go back and watch C.J. Anderson tape back to his 2014 breakout...I was only kidding!! Damien Williams on the other hand...
Savage: I'll take Mahomes for MVP and OPOY and I don't think its particularly close. I'm all for a good MVP debate, but I don't think this is the year for it.
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