Offensive Player of the Year - Adrian Peterson
Potential Usurpers - Jamaal Charles, Dez Bryant, Aaron Rodgers
Peterson rightfully claimed this throne after rushing for a ludicrous 2,097 yards in 2012. I wanted to get a little creative with my choices, but Charles isn't that crazy. He rushed for 1,509 yards last year and in Andy Reid's offense that number (as well as his receiving yards) could jump even higher. A wide receiver hasn't won the award in 20 years, (Jerry Rice, in 1993, who is also the only wideout to ever win the award) but if Bryant picks up in 2013 where he left off he could threaten Calvin Johnson's brand new receiving yards record. Sure, A-Rod isn't exactly a dark horse pick, but the guy has yet to win the award (even in his 2011 MVP campaign) so maybe this will be his year.
Advantage: The field. Peterson is a freak of nature, but the odds are stacked against him to repeat 2,000-plus yards. In these offensive-friendly days of the NFL, Peterson's hold on this throne is tenuous.
Defensive Player of the Year - J.J. Watt
Potential Usurpers - Cameron Wake, Morgan Burnett, Bobby Wagner
Wake is a force and now has rookie Dion Jordan lining up across from him to take up some attention. Side note, if Wake gets to 14 sacks in 2013, he'll join Reggie White as the only two players to have three such seasons in their first five NFL campaigns. Burnett quietly had a standout year at strong safety, posting the most combined tackles for a defensive back. If he adds more turnovers in year four, he could threaten the throne. Bobby Wagner was in the running for DROY, but lost to Luke Kuechly. Wagner is a difference-maker at all levels, and will compete for this crown in the Seahawks' high-flying defense.
Advantage: Watt. There are just too many ways Watt can impact a game for me to not think he has a legitimate shot at being the second back-to-back DPOY winner since Lawrence Taylor did it in 1981-82.
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Robert Griffin III
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Robert Griffin III
Potential Usurpers - Le'Veon Bell, DeAndre Hopkins, Montee Ball
Griffin can't defend this throne, but that doesn't mean I can't forecast the contenders! Bell was drafted into the best situation possible in Pittsburgh. Even though he wasn't the first wide out drafted, Hopkins could be the most successful in year one thanks to the offense he joins and the fact that Andre Johnson lines up across from him. Montee Ball has Peyton Manning handing him the rock, who has already been tutoring Ball in mini-camp.
Advantage: Ball. Unless the Peyton factor works against him when it comes time to vote
Defensive Rookie of the Year - Luke Kuechly
Potential Usurpers - Eric Reid, Sharrif Floyd, Alec Ogletree
Reid joins the fierce 49ers defense and gets to learn under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell. He should hit the ground running. Sharrif Floyd had been projected as a top-five overall pick and fell to No. 23. He'll have a chip on his shoulder and is playing on the same line as Jared Allen. Call it the Jeff Fisher bet, but if he can straighten out Ogletree, the Rams could have a steal with Ogletree joining Jo-Lonn Dunbar and James Laurinaitis as the strong side linebacker to form a stout linebacker corps.
Advantage: Reid. He was an absolute force at LSU, and that should continue thanks to a combination of talent and circumstance. With guys like Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman wreaking havoc ahead of him, big plays should fall into Reid's lap.
Comeback Player of the Year - Peyton Manning
Potential Usurpers - Robert Griffin III, Robert Griffin III, Robert Griffin III
Come on, the guy is holding DAILY press conferences from minicamp and has virtually every journalist eating out of the palm of his hand. Jon Beason could come back from his torn labrum and knee surgery, set the single-season sack record, ascend into heaven, high-five Deacon Jones, come back down to earth and solve world hunger, and the Associated Press would still give the award to RG3. And since Beason sadly won't accomplish any of those things, the award will go to RG3 as expected. I mean, the guy is pretty darn good though.
Advantage: RG3. See above. The only thing that will prevent this is if Darrelle Revis returns to form and picks off RG3 five to six times if the teams meet in the postseason. But even then�
Walter Payton Man of the Year - Jason Witten
Potential Usurpers - Sam Bradford, Andre Johnson, Roman Harper
The Walter Payton Man of the Year award goes to an excellent player on the field, and a better man off the field, who does more than his share of charity work. Sam Bradford helped lead the charge for relief in Oklahoma, Andre Johnson sent underprivileged kids on a shopping spree, and Roman Harper does a massive amount of work through his Harper's Hope 4*1 foundation.
Advantage: The field. NFL players (for the most part) have hearts as big as their biceps. This award is wide open.
Super Bowl champion - Baltimore Ravens
Potential Usurpers - Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans
I'm omitting the 49ers since they lost this "game of thrones" last season. The Seahawks upgraded key positions through free agency, while the Packers drafted two talented running backs and have that guy named Aaron Rodgers. There's a similar fellow in Denver by the name of Manning who also added the best security blanket in the biz in Wes Welker. I opted for Houston over New England because even though Tom Brady will once again do work, his arsenal of weapons isn't what it once was. Plus, Houston might finally have what it takes to get over the hump with DeAndre Hopkins and Ed Reed.
Advantage: Green Bay and Denver. Granted, this was what most people forecasted heading into the playoffs last season, but I'll stake my bet on veteran throne chasers (who've already won one) over the fiery youngsters in Seattle or the rock-solid Texans.
MVP - Adrian Peterson
Potential Usurpers - Arian Foster, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees
I decided it'd be too easy to write in Rodgers, Brady, Manning and call it a day, so I chose three players who have yet to win the award. Foster is the engine that drives the Houston offense, and if they have a strong regular season and he produces as he always does he should get consideration. Ryan made big leaps last year; if he progresses again it'll no longer a debate whether or not he's truly "elite" when that inane conversation resurfaces. As for Brees, who doesn't love a good comeback story? With Sean Payton returning to town, Brees could put up numbers that look unrealistic in Madden.
Advantage: Brees. You know he and his coach will be motivated to show the NFL what they can do now that they're reunited.
More Photo Essays:
- 15 for ’15: College football’s surprise teams
- NFL's top 10 players in 2015
- 15 for ’15: College football’s best teams
- Mind-blowing stats for the Minnesota Vikings
- Mind-blowing stats for the St. Louis Rams
- 15 for '15: College football's most explosive athletes
- Most patriotic college football alt uniform power rankings
- Mind-blowing stats for the Cleveland Browns
- Fantasy Independence