It’s that time of year again. Where we can all pretend to being doing work while actually setting our fantasy football lineups. The NFL season is about to kickoff.
This time of year also means it is time for me to (probably incorrectly) predict the 2016 NFL award winners. Prepare for a couple of dark horse candidates.
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Dallas
Let’s start with an easier one. Put the best running back from the 2016 draft class behind arguably the best offensive line in the league and he is bound to be successful. Tony Romo’s injury probably helps Ezekiel Elliott’s chances even more as he will likely be leaned on more than if Romo was on the field. This kid might end up with 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, as a rookie.
Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Xavien Howard, Cornerback, Miami
This might be a bit of a headscratcher for some, but Xavien Howard is in the best position to make his presence felt early and often. Starting alongside Byron Maxwell, Howard likely won’t draw the top receiver on each team, but he will be on the field to make plays. Joey Bosa would have been a likely candidate here, but well, I’m sure you know by now…
Offensive Player of the Year:
Todd Gurley, Running Back, Los Angeles
Le’Veon Bell continues to miss out on this award with his suspensions, which opens the door for the second year bruiser, Todd Gurley. He won’t be a huge asset in the passing game, but he will likely carry the Rams offense for most of the 2016 season. Case Kennum, Sean Mannion and Jared Goff probably won’t be lighting up the score board, so expect Gurley to have a monster season.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Khalil Mack, Defensive End, Oakland
J.J. Watt will likely start the season for Houston, but he is not going to be at full strength coming off surgery. That means Khalil Mack gets his shot at taking the award. Mack had 15 sacks and 77 tackles in just his second year as a pro in 2015. He has become a disruptive force in the NFL and moves fluidly between the defensive line and linebacking core. Oakland has also added some other pieces around Mack in the form of Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin, which means he will have even more opportunities to make explosive plays. If Mack manages to take another step forward in his development, he could be threatening some records this year.
Comeback Player of the Year:
Jamaal Charles, Running Back, Kansas City
This is definitely a risky pick. Jamaal Charles will turn 30 in December and he is coming off his second major knee injury of his career. However, Charles has never more than 285 carries in a season and is not a volume touch player. He is very effective when he gets the ball, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in his career. Look for Charles to hit the 1,000 yard rushing mark and score at least 10 total touchdowns in 2016.
Coach of the Year:
Andy Reid, Kansas City
Another member of the Chiefs’ organization taking an award. Kansas City has been a solid team for the last few years, but this year, Andy Reid has his team set to win the division and possibly earn a buy into the divisional round of the playoffs. A strong defense and a reliable running game is how Reid has built this team, and it will carry them to a division title and another playoff appearance.
Most Valuable Player:
Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle
Saving the best for last. At this point, the MVP award just goes to a quarterback. Adrian Peterson is the only non-quarterback in the past 10 years to win the award and he rushed for over 2,000 yards that season. In Seattle, the ground game is as uncertain as it has maybe ever been and Russell Wilson just continues to grow as a passer. In 2015, he tossed 34 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions and threw for over 4,000 yards. That doesn’t include anything he did with his legs either. Wilson accomplished all of that with a porous offensive line that got better this offseason. Look for the former third round pick to snag his first MVP award this year.