Quarter-season MVPs: Rodgers, Donald lead race


With the first quarter of the season out of the way, we've been getting reflective on Around The NFL this week. We broke out our Power Poll, looked at the season's biggest disappointments, named our quarter season All Pro team and ranked all the quarterbacks this season.

Now it's time to take a very early look at the races for the season's biggest hardware.


1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady
3. Rob Gronkowski
4. Julio Jones
5. Antonio Brown

There's a huge gap between the top two quarterbacks in the league and everyone else. While Rodgers is compiling an epic year-end highlight reel, Brady will be a strong candidate for the award if the Patriots' offense comes close to keeping up this offensive pace. ... Gronk deserves special consideration because he's so much better than the next best tight end. He does something dominant each and every week. ... Jones and Brown highlight this golden era for receivers we are living in.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Aaron Donald
2. J.J. Watt
3. Josh Norman
4. DeMarcus Ware
5. Geno Atkins

It's hard to say that any defensive player is better than Watt, but we'd give Donald the slight edge thus far. His first two games were insane and he backed that up with two more solid efforts. He pushes the pocket so consistently and stuffs the run. Watt will probably pass him over the course of the season, but it would be nice to have a race. ... Voters might pick Norman through four weeks. It's hard for a cornerback to make a bigger impact than Norman has in the first month. ... Both Ware and Von Miller have been getting it done. Miller is better against the run, but Ware's pass rushing is too good to ignore. ... Atkins could be a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, as well, after this down season.

Comeback Player of the Year

1-3. Chris Johnson, Carson Palmer, and Tyrann Mathieu: Johnson is coming back the furthest. He hasn't been an above average starter for years and his career looked potentially over after being shot in the offseason. His rise has been more surprising than Palmer or Mathieu, who have both looked better than ever coming off their respective torn ACL surgeries.

NaVorro Bowman, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin are three other names to watch here.

Coach of the Year

1. Dan Quinn
2. Bill Belichick
3. Marvin Lewis
4. Todd Bowles
5. Ron Rivera

It feels a little silly to rank this award so early. Gary Kubiak is undefeated and not on the list because the Broncos' 4-0 record has more to do with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. You could give the award to Belichick most years, but he rarely gets considered. Voters like new, shiny coaches generally. That gives Quinn and Bowles an edge.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Chris Wesseling does such a good job breaking down this race each week in his weekly column, that I'll simply point you in his direction. I can't disagree with his list. Marcus Mariota is the favorite on offense, while defense typically looks wide open with Ronald Darby, Henry Anderson, and Leonard Williams all in the early mix.