NFL Mid-Season Awards Revisited

Back on November 10th we released our Mid-Season Awards and Predictions column where each SportsIntel editor handed out some individual and team awards after seeing at least eight games from each squad. Today we’re walking back down that road to let you know whether we feel differently now that the entire regular season is behind us. Brace yourselves for our final awards for Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP!

Rookie of the Year

Brad’s Mid-Season Pick: Marshon Lattimore, DB New Orleans Saints

Brad’s Full Season Pick: Alvin Kamara, RB New Orleans Saints

It’s hard to overlook Kareem Hunt winning the rushing title, especially when giving the award to a different rookie RB, but Kamara’s value to the Saints was virtually incalculable. The 3rd round draft pick from Tennessee finished second in rushing yards AND in passing yards for the NFL’s second highest gaining offense. His eye-popping stats—1,554 yards from scrimmage, 14 TDs (including a 106 yard kickoff return), 6.1 YPA rushing, 81 receptions on 100 targets—only begin to tell the story of one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL (not just among rookies!). Kamara was a tremendous find and was rightfully selected to the Pro Bowl.

Danny’s Mid-Season Pick: Kareem Hunt, RB Kansas City Chiefs

Danny’s Full Season Pick: Kareem Hunt, RB Kansas City Chiefs

There are a lot of good options here and I know that a lot of people are going to be touting Alvin Kamara’s impressive season in New Orleans, but I’m sticking with Kareem Hunt. Not only did Hunt lead the league in rushing he caught 53 passes for 455 yds and scored 11 TDs on an offense that needed him to succeed. He faded a bit in the middle of the season but he regained some of his early season form late. While Alvin Kamara’s numbers were impressive, he never had to be the work horse for the Saints. I would also argue that Kamara is surrounded by more talent in New Orleans than Hunt is in Kansas City, but that is subjective. Kareem Hunt’s numbers speak for themselves. Nearly 1,800 yds from scrimmage, 11 TDs, and 4.9 yds per carry.

Chris’s Mid-Season Pick: Ryan Ramczyk, OL New Orleans Saints

Chris’s Full Season Pick: Ryan Ramczyk, OL New Orleans Saints

Brevity isn’t my strong suit. My ROTY candidate remains unchanged. Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Marshon Lattimore, Tre’Davious White all made cases for why they deserved recognition but I’m giving love to an unspoken hero.

The Saints are one of the surprise contenders this year having gone 11-5 for the season. The success of Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore are without a doubt contributing factors but there’s another rookie that has excelled on the field every single Thursday, Sunday, or Monday of the season.

My pick at mid-season: Ryan Ramcyzk. The 8th best rated tackle in the league.

Ramcyzk lined up at left tackle three times this season, including the season opener against the Vikings, and battled with Everson Griffin, Linval Joseph, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Kawann Short, Shaq Thompson, Cameron Wake, Jordan Phillips, and Lawrence Timmons to name a few. A rookie hasn’t started a season at left tackle since Jim Dombrowski in 1986, according to Joel Erickson of The Advocate.

Later he settled in at right tackle, arguably more difficult in today’s NFL, and battled the likes of Akiem Hicks, Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn, Vic Beasley Jr., Clay Matthews, Gerald McCoy, Andre Branch, Kiko Alonso, Ndamukong Suh, etc.

He was exemplary in pass protection with a 96.6 pass-blocking efficiency, the 11th best rating among tackles this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Drew Brees was “pressured on just 22.6 percent of his dropbacks this year” and Ramcyzk was a “huge reason” why he was so comfortable. He also excelled in the run game posting grades of at least 80.0 as both a run-blocker and pass-protector, a feat only 7 tackles in the league can claim for the season.

His reliability and durability were second-to-none as “he finished 13 games with a grade of at least 70.0” and didn’t miss a single snap this season. That’s correct, he played all 1037 snaps of the regular season for a 100% completion rate. Drew Brees played 1032. Alvin Kamara 465. Marshon Lattimore 751.

It’s difficult to grade the overall impact of an offensive lineman, but it’s easy to see how a guy like this made Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Drew Brees better each and every single week. Each and every single snap.

Defensive Player of the Year

Brad’s Mid-Season Pick: Calais Campbell, DE Jacksonville Jaguars

Brad’s Full Season Pick: Calais Campbell, DE Jacksonville Jaguars

I am sticking with the mountain of a man I selected two months ago as my DPOY. He finished the year second in the league 14.5 sacks meaning that his production in that department slowed after the mid-point of the season, but that can largely be attributed to recalculations by opposing offenses. As Campbell ate up blockers, three of his teammates (Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, and Dante Fowler) piled up the highest sack totals of their respective careers. I said it in November and I still believe it to be true: Calais Campbell completely transformed that defense in 2017.

Danny’s Mid-season Pick: Luke Kuechly, LB Carolina Panthers

Danny’s Full Season Pick: Bobby Wagner, LB Seattle Seahawks

This award often goes to the league sack leader or someone who puts up tremendous numbers. This type of thinking is problematic because defensive players don’t have to put up a bunch of numbers to be dominant and disruptive (interior defensive linemen are proof of this). Bobby Wagner’s number in any one category are not that impressive however, taken in totality, they show how versatile he was this season. He collected 133 tackles including 13 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 TD. Wagner’s numbers would have likely been even better had it not been for a strained hamstring that caused him to miss practice for most of the last month of the season and miss the second halves of both the Rams and Jaguars games.

Chris’s Mid-Season Pick: Joey Bosa, DE Los Angeles Chargers

Chris’s Full Season Pick: Aaron Donald, DL Los Angeles Rams

At mid-season I was a fan of Joey Bosa, but I simply cannot ignore the best defensive player in the National Football League. Pro Football Focus has graded Donald out at 98.4 his third 98.0 or higher mark in three seasons. That’s astonishing. He does it by generating pressure on the quarterback from the interior. According to PFF, Donald had 91 QB pressures on 483 pass-rush snaps and he only played 14 games. To provide some perspective, breaking 90 pressures on the QB is generally only accomplished by edge rushers. His presence simply makes the Los Angeles Rams a better defense, a better team, and a Super Bowl contender.

Most Valuable Player

Brad’s Mid-Season Pick: Alex Smith, QB Kansas City Chiefs

Brad’s Full Season Pick: Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots

As much as it pains me to say it, Tom Terrific is about to lock up his third NFL MVP award. He finished first in yards, third in passer rating and TDs, and quarterbacked the NFL’s most prolific offense. He did this with Brandin Cooks registering his worst full season as a pro, with Gronk, Amendola, and Hogan all missing time, and without a great running game. Tom’s on field performance was so strong that the Pats moved on from the franchise QB in waiting as he showed no signs of slowing down. Did I mention that it pains me to say it?

Danny’s Mid-season Pick: Russell Wilson, QB Seattle Seahawks

Danny’s Full Season Pick: Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams

The Rams came out of no where this season and established themselves as one of the better teams in the NFC and they did it on the back of Todd Gurley. Sean McVay has been able to use Gurley’s versatility to torture defenses across the league. Gurley led the NFL with 19 total TDs, finished second in rushing by just 22 yds despite sitting the season finale, and led the league in all purpose yards by nearly 150. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 12 yards a catch while be the focal point of one of the league’s most explosive offenses.

Chris’s Mid-Season Pick: Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams

Chris’s Full Season Pick: Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams

I picked Todd Gurley at the mid-season mark because it was obvious to me, that he was the one player on the field largely responsible for the success of the Los Angeles Rams offense. I’m a firm believer that Coach Sean McVay is the secret sauce for this squad, his influence in turning around the franchise after last year’s train wreck of season is unmistakable, but I don’t know that this team sees the same success without Gurley at running back. Jared Goff has improved dramatically from his rookie season, but I think Sean McVay coaxes a similar level of play from several guys around the league, and I think Goff’s success has largely come from Gurley’s production. He’s a young quarterback who’s been allowed to grow on the back of a strong running game and that’s invaluable.

Oh, and Gurley proved to be an exceptional receiver this year as well. He scored a combined 19 touchdowns in the regular season, more than some starting quarterbacks, and tallied 1305 yards on the ground with another 788 coming through the air.

A note about the 40-year-old in Boston, Tom Brady. His season is an amazing accomplishment and he’s played fantastic. Yet, he’s been human this season, especially in the last few games, and he’s far from a lock to win the Super Bowl this year. With Jimmy G’s success in San Francisco, I can’t help but return to the old “how important is Bill Belichick to Brady’s success?” question and I wonder if Jimmy would have been just as successful this season in his stead. In my mind the MVP should be awarded to a guy that is simply irreplaceable for his team throughout the course of the year, and I think Gurley epitomizes that for the Los Angeles Rams. More so, than Brady.