The winners of the 2017 NFL Awards are a little over a week away from being announced. While football is a team game, it is a tradition on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday to honor the spectacular individual performances of the past season. Last week, we broke down the contenders for MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year. Now, with the 2017 NFL Awards just over a week away, let’s take a look at the contenders for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
2017 stats: 52 tackles, 5 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
The case: It’s rare to see a rookie develop into a lockdown corner, and even rarer to see one turn around a defense so dramatically. The Saints went from 31st in scoring defense in 2016 to 10th in 2017. Lattimore is already on a shortlist of the best rookie cornerback’s I’ve ever seen.
2017 stats (11 games): 31 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
The case: Although he plays for the hapless Browns and missed five games, Garrett backed up the hype that surrounded him during the draft process. A rock-solid player against both the run and the pass, Garrett looks like he can be the centerpiece of the Browns defense for the next decade. Now all they have to do is find players to put around him.
2017 stats: 70 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown
The case: When the Bills let Stephon Gilmore walk in free agency and then traded Ronald Darby in August, it was a huge vote of confidence in White, a rookie from LSU. That faith was rewarded, as White flourished in his rookie campaign. He tallied four interceptions, including one of Tom Brady, good for second to Lattimore among rookies.
The Verdict: Lattimore
Lattimore gets the benefit of being a key factor in the Saints’ major defensive turnaround and having the better stat line overall. However, all three of these candidates could develop into All-Pro talents in the coming years.
Offensive Player of the Year
2017 stats: 1,305 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns; 788 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns
The case: No player was better at getting the ball in the end zone in 2017; Gurley paced the NFL with 19 total touchdowns. Oh, and he also led the league in scrimmage yards, with 2,093. Gurley’s monster season was a huge reason why the Rams were able to go from worst to first in scoring offense this season.
2017 stats: 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 102.8 passer rating
The case: Ho, hum. Another 4,500-yard, 30-touchdown, conference championship-winning season for the GOAT. Brady continues to defy logic, history, human physiology, and the dreams of Jets fans everywhere. It was admittedly an unspectacular statistical year for quarterbacks, but the 40 year-old Brady nonetheless emerged as the best.
2017 stats (14 games): 101 receptions, 1,533 yards, 9 touchdowns
The case: Had Brown not been injured in the first half of the Steelers’ Week 15 game against the New England Patriots, he might have set a new career-high in receiving yards. In today’s NFL, the surplus of talented defensive backs allows teams to shut down star wide receivers more successfully. Brown remains an exception to that rule.
The Verdict: Gurley
Anyone who leads the NFL in scrimmage yards and touchdowns is due for some hardware. As the best player on the league’s best offense, Gurley is a deserving winner.
Defensive Player of the Year
2017 stats: 67 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown
The case: After signing a big free agent deal to join Doug Marrone’s new-look defense, Campbell exploded for a career year at the ripe age of 31. His 14.5 sacks led the AFC and contributed to the number two defense of “Sacksonville”.
2017 stats (14 games): 41 tackles, 11 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
The case: Donald will always be one of my favorite players to watch because of his ability to totally disrupt an offense. That’s atypical of a guy who barely tips the scales at 280 pounds and sees double and triple-teams on a weekly basis. Donald’s numbers might not pop like some of the other guys on this list, but his impact on the game is second to none.
2017 stats: 59 tackles, 17 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
The case: I’ll never get over the fact that Bill Belichick traded Jones for a second-round pick that turned into Cyrus Jones. CYRUS FREAKIN’ JONES! That being said, Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick and I am not, so let’s move on. Jones was fantastic in 2017, leading the NFL with 17 sacks and earning his first All-Pro selection in the process. What’s even more remarkable is his consistency: Jones recorded at least one sack in 13 of 16 games.
The Verdict: Donald
If my bias for Donald wasn’t apparent before, it is now. Again, his numbers aren’t as flashy, but the other guys are edge players; Donald does his damage on the interior. In my mind, he’s the best defensive player in the NFL. Isn’t that what this award is about?
Do you agree with my picks? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and, as always, Roll Armchair!