GF2’s NFL Award Predictions 2016

The NFL season is here, so some of the writers at GoingFor2 decided to predict major award winners for the season. We’ll either look like geniuses or eat some crow but either way, it’ll be fun. Let’s get started.

Comeback Player of the Year

Matthew Garrett (@mattgarrett41) — Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers went to the Super Bowl last year without their number one receiver ever touching the field. Cam’s trademark smile will be on full display whenever he looks and sees Benjamin lined up on the outside. Benjamin is going to be the main beneficiary of Newton’s development.

Eric Frosbutter (@butters5185) — Robert Griffin III, Cleveland Browns

Yes, I know there are a hundred reasons to choose someone else but I have a good feeling about the resurgence of RG3 this coming season. He gets a fresh start in Cleveland that he desperately needs and was officially named the starter earlier this week to start 2016. The Browns won’t be making the playoffs anytime soon so it gives RG3 the chance to make a comeback without the added pressure. Griffin also doesn’t have a bad group of guys to throw to either. In week 5, he’ll get his chance to throw to his former Baylor teammate, Josh Gordon, and the Browns also drafted Corey Coleman in this year’s draft. With other options like Gary Barnidge, Duke Johnson Jr., and Andrew Hawkins to throw at, RG3 could be in line to revitalize his career in Cleveland.

Chris Savold (@chrissavold59) — Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

Like Matthew said, the Panthers’ offense excelled without their number one WR last year. Their success means Benjamin won’t be forced to carry an offense like Jamaal Charles will in Kansas City. With an average Cam Newton during the 2014 season, Benjamin had 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Since then, both players have only gotten stronger and better, so it should not come as a surprise when Benjamin posts career highs this year.

Geoff Lambert (@geofflambert77) — Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Luck was the 1b to Aaron Rodgers 1a in 2014 as the top fantasy QB in the NFL. After an injury-riddled season, people have seemingly forgotten how good he was. The Colts defense isn’t very good which will force Luck to throw a ton and that is something he strives at. I’m expecting 40-plus TDs from him this year and a Comeback Player of the Year award to go with them.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Matthew G — Robert Nkemdiche, Arizona Cardinals

This is a bit of a dark horse. The 2016 draft was loaded with defensive talents like Jalen Ramsey and Joey Bosa but once upon a time Nkemdiche was considered the best player in the draft. A few off the field issues caused him to slide to Arizona. With a lot of attention going to Chandler Jones we’ll see just why Robert was so coveted.

Eric F — Robert Nkemdiche, Arizona Cardinals

I really wanted to take Joey Bosa here but because the top overall defensive player still hasn’t signed with the San Diego Chargers and is missing valuable practice time, I’m going with Nkemdiche to turn heads in Arizona and emerge as this year’s DROY. Nkemdiche could’ve easily been a top 10 selection this season but his off the field issues in college caused his draft stock to plummet. Truthfully, Nkemdiche couldn’t have asked for a better place to go than Arizona under head coach Bruce Arians. Arians will teach Nkemdiche the fundamentals and discipline that he needs in order to be successful at this level. He’s been a standout so far in minicamp and training camp. So much so, that Arians actually had to tell Nkemdiche to slow down at one point during a walk-through. Walk-through or not, I’m sure you could count on one hand how many times Arians has had to tell somebody to slow down and still have fingers left over.

Chirs S — Dante Fowler Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

Dante Fowler Jr. was my highest graded defender to come out of college in the past two years. I was extremely excited last year to see him in Jacksonville, but he went down in the first week of training camp with a torn ACL.

Geoff L — Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers

I’m taking Bosa as my darkhorse contender. Having recently just signed his rookie contract after a lengthy holdout, he steps onto a team that needs a lot of help defensively, but he is the type of player that can bring an immediate impact. All eyes will be on him after that ugly contract dispute and that will only bring added attention to his play on the field.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Matthew G — Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

Zeke is going to put up massive numbers behind that offensive line. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he breaks Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record by Week 15.

Eric F — Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

When the Cowboys reached on Elliott with the 4th overall pick, it wasn’t so that he could learn from the sidelines. All signs point to the Cowboys using Elliott similar to how they used DeMarco Murray in their offense two seasons ago. So far, the coaching staff has raved about Elliott during training camp, claiming to be exactly the player they were looking for and then some. The Cowboys still have Darren McFadden and signed Alfred Morris this off-season, but rumors state that the Cowboys are looking to shop McFadden. There’s no way they do that if they didn’t think Elliott was ready. Elliott did pull his hamstring early in the preseason and doesn’t appear to have torn anything but the Cowboys are taking precaution and leaving him out of practice for the time being. He’s expected back well before week 1 and should thrive this season in a division that is not normally a fan of playing defense.

Chris S — Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Picking Elliott to win Offensive Rookie of the Year is the most obvious and popular choice among awards. The Ohio State alum is the only offensive skill position player drafted in the first two rounds to be #1 on the depth chart for their respective position. The Cowboys also have the NFL’s best offensive line according to Pro Football Focus, with Tyron Smith leading the group. If he can stay healthy, Elliott could not only be the best rookie, but also the best running back.

Geoff L — Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

Nothing else to say here, move along.

Coach of the Year

Matthew G — Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Bruce will pick up his third Coach of the Year award on his way to the Super Bowl. If it weren’t for Carolina’s historic season Arians would be going for three in a row. He leads a Cardinals team that’s loaded with depth and talent.

Eric F — Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

Adam Gase is entering his first season as a head coach but he’s well-known throughout the NFL ranks. Gase has been labeled “The Quarterback Whisperer” since his success with quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Jay Cutler, and even Peyton Manning. Yes, Manning was an All-Pro QB way before Gase entered the picture, but his best numbers came when he and Gase were in Denver. When Gase left Denver to become Chicago’s offensive coordinator, Manning had the worst season of his career despite the Broncos winning the Super Bowl. Manning has been spotted at Miami’s practices recently. When Manning was a free agent and the Dolphins were begging to sign him, they couldn’t even get him in for a visit. Just his presence alone shows that he believes in what Gase is selling. Under Gase, the Dolphins will surprise many with an 11–5 record and their first playoff berth since 2008.

Chris S — Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Though widely considered as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Bill Belichick has not received the NFL Coach of the Year award since 2010. This is due to Belichick having one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history to work with. Because of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, Belichick now has the chance to prove again he can work without Brady. If he can get at least three wins with Jimmy Garappolo at the helm, the award is his.

Geoff L — Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

No Le’Veon Bell for three weeks, no Martavis Bryant for the year, likely no Ladarius Green for an extended period of time, no problem. Tomlin will have his players ready to play, and Big Ben and Antonio Brown will do their thing to secure the division and a playoff birth.

Offensive Player of the Year

Matthew G — Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Big Ben is going to lead one of the scariest offenses in the league. Martavis Bryant is serving a yearlong suspension and Le’Veon Bell is facing a four-game suspension but the Steelers are still a juggernaut. Big Ben has at least one more great season left in him. This is the year we see it.

Eric F — Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Number one on your fantasy boards and number one in your hearts, Antonio Brown is in line to have another standout season. The former 6th round pick has shown us that he is Big Ben’s favorite target and if Ben can stay healthy, Brown could have a career season. Which is scary considering Brown has recorded well over 100 receptions in each of the last three seasons and averaged nearly 1,700 yards. Last season alone, he was targeted an insane 195 times en route to 136 receptions and 1,800+ yards, and that was with Big Ben battling injuries. There’s a good chance that Brown reaches the 2,000-yard mark this year and becomes the first NFL wide receiver to ever do so.

Chris S — Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

Before his freak injury against the Ravens last year, Keenan Allen had 67 receptions, 695 yards, and three touchdowns in seven games at full health. Had he continued this level of production the entire season, he would have finished with 141 receptions (1st in the NFL), 1588 yards (3rd), and seven touchdowns (26th).

The lack of touchdown production is due to quarterback Phillip Rivers reliance of tight ends and other veterans who he has built a strong on-field chemistry with. Malcom Floyd, who played with Rivers for 12 years retired during the offseason had three touchdowns. Antonio Gates, who will see his role diminish yet again in 2016, had five touchdowns. Lastly, Ladarius Green left San Diego and his four touchdowns. If Allen absorbs just five of these twelve touchdowns in the upcoming season, he would have had 12 touchdowns (6th). These numbers across the board are extremely impressive, and seeing numbers even better than those would not surprise me as a fan.

Geoff L — DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

I picked Hopkins to be the №1 WR in fantasy football this year, and I’m going to stand by that call for this non-fantasy piece. Without getting too technical, Hopkins had the lowest catch rate (ratio: Targets to Receptions) of any top ten WR last year at 57 percent. Antonio Brown was at 73 percent for comparison. The Texans have improved their offense with additions of Lamar Miller, Brock Osweiler, and a pair of rookie WRs. This improvement will keep defenses from keying on Hopkins and should help bring that catch rate up. If Hopkins’ catch rate was 65 percent or better last year, at his TD rate and average yards per catch, he would have had more yards and TDs than Antonio Brown.

Defensive Player of the Year

Matthew G — Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams.

If you’ve been watching Hard Knocks then you probably know who this guy is. Donald is entering his third season and he’s already the best defensive tackle in the NFL. J.J. Watt has to shake some rust off from his back injury but even if at full strength I’m still taking Donald.

Eric F — Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Kuechly had a down year according to his standards in 2015. Again, according to his standards because any other linebacker in the league would’ve taken his numbers in a heartbeat. Kuechly has been a phenom since he entered the league in 2012, winning DROY, and then winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Many have pointed to former Panther Josh Norman as the leader of Carolina’s defense but, in reality, it’s been Kuechly all along. Kuechly had surgery back in February to repair a torn labrum that he played with throughout the postseason. You would have never noticed, however, that he was playing hurt from his back-to-back “pick sixes” in the NFC Divisional Playoff round against Seattle, and then again, against Arizona in the NFC Championship game. Kuechly is back at training camp and ready to be the true leader of the defense with Norman now in Washington. Carolina will again have their sights on the Super Bowl and while all eyes will be on Cam Newton, Kuechly will continue to rack up numbers and help keep Carolina’s defense atop the very best.

Chris S — Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

For the first time in since 2013, a player not named JJ Watt will be the best defensive player in the League. Mack had steadily improved since being drafted two years ago.

Pro Football Focus graded Mack as the best edge defender in the NFL (95.8) and also better than reigning DPOY JJ Watt. The third-year defensive end/linebacking hybrid will outperform Watt due to his versatility, and lack of potential injury. According to, Mack finished with 34 hurries (3rd), 15 sacks (2nd), 23 TFL (2nd), and 77 tackles (1st amongst DEs). He posted all these statistics as a 25-year-old and still has not hit his prime as a football player.

Geoff L — Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

I’m just going to echo what Chris said. PFF graded him as the top edge defender and this guy is just entering his prime. The Raiders will be a good team this year and should get some national recognition, which seems to help with awards like this.


Matthew G — Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings.

The last time a running back won MVP was in 2012 by, you guessed it, Peterson. With Bridgewater going down with a devastating knee injury the Vikings are going to need Adrian more than ever. Sam Bradford will be okay as a replacement but if the Vikings want to cash in on their Super Bowl dreams then AP is going to have to deliver nightmares to opposing defenses. The question is, at 31, does he have enough in the tank to carry this team?

Eric F — Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

The Packers as a team did not have their best season last year and never quite looked to be in sync. Despite that, they were still just an overtime away from facing off against Carolina in the NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers lost his number one receiver, Jordy Nelson, for the year prior to the start of the season due to a torn ACL. Nelson is back for Green Bay and will be ready for the start of the season even though he experienced some soreness in his opposite knee. Randall Cobb can go back to his natural position in the slot and Eddie Lacy has trimmed down from his chunkiness last season. Rodgers looked flustered a lot last season but he still showed that he’s one of the best, if not the best, in the league at what he does. Rodgers completed two Hail Mary passes last season that won them a regular season game in Detroit, and then again, against Arizona in the NFC Divisional Playoff round to cause overtime. The Packers are still the top dogs of the NFC North and, once again, will contend for the Super Bowl. I predict that Rodgers will easily surpass 4,000 yards passing this coming season and that the Packers will represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI, paving the way for Rodger’s 3rd career NFL MVP trophy.

Chris S — Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

In the past ten years, four different players have won the MVP award. Peyton Manning received three of them, and he in now retired. Tom Brady has gotten two, and he is suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season. Adrian Peterson won the 2012 MVP, but at 31 and being a running back it is unlikely he puts up similar numbers as he did three years ago. That leaves two players, Aaron Rodgers, and Cam Newton.

I expect Cam Newton to repeat as the League’s most valuable player. Last year he posted career highs in Passing Touchdowns, QBR, and also took the least sacks of his career. He did all this while lacking his #1 receiver, Kelvin Benjamin. Newton threw 24 TDs and 0 INTs without the 6'5 third-year receiver, and should build upon those stats this season.

Geoff L — Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

MVP should be renamed to “Best QB” because it is rarely won by any other position. Everyone is down on the Colts this year, but I think they can be “good enough” to put Luck in the MVP race. The Colts defense doesn’t figure to be very good, leaving Luck to throw a ton this year. If he can keep his interceptions down and repeat his TD total from 2014, he should be in the conversation for MVP.

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