Now that Thanksgiving has arrived, this feels like a fair starting point to see how the NFL Award races could shape up. MVP should come down to the wire, as it does just about every year, but the races for Defensive Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year are equally as interesting 11 weeks in. How would I vote if this regular season ended with the Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl rematch? Let's find out.
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year - C.J. Stroud
(Runner-Up - Puka Nacua)
This pick shouldn't surprise anyone. Stroud could sit out the rest of the year and have OROY locked up at this point. We haven't seen a rookie quarterback play at this level since Cam Newton in 2011, both on the eye test and stats. I'd even give Stroud an edge over rookie Justin Herbert, who had a great sample size through his opening 10 games as a starter. Specifically, the fact Stroud beat this interaction of the Pittsburgh defense with an injury-wrecked offensive line and then against Lou Anarumo's Bengals defense (while they still had Joe Burrow) in Cincinnati is legit as legit gets. Never mind that comeback victory against Tampa Bay, either.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year - Jalen Carter
(Runner-Up - Will Anderson)
Had Patriots rookie corner Christain Gonzalez not gone down for the year back in Week 4, this would have been the best award race of the bunch between him, Devon Witherspoon, Anderson, and Carter, but ultimately, the big man out of Georgia would get the nod from me. What he's doing for a rookie at any position is downright absurd, he's practically an All-Pro caliber interior defensive lineman already.
According to ESPN's advanced stats, Carter is tied for the highest pass rush win rate for an interior defender in football with Aaron Donald. Even if he has the second-fewest snaps being double-teamed by those in the top 10, he's still seeing extra attention on nearly 6 out of every 10 snaps. Although he's not been used much or as effective as a run defender yet, What Carter is doing in year one is nothing short of absurd. You could say that about any of the three contenders for DROY really.
NFL Coach of the Year - Kevin O'Connell
(Runner-Up - DeMeco Ryans)
Up until this weekend, I was of the mindset that DeMeco Ryans was the shoo-in favorite for Coach of the Year. But even as they fell short in Denver, I find it increasingly difficult to deny O'Connell. Keeping a team that started 1-4, lost Justin Jefferson in that fifth game to a hamstring injury, which he still hasn't recovered from just yet, then Kirk Cousins for the year just weeks later, only to find his Vikings squad above .500 with Josh Dobbs and with a game to go before their bye week. Simply an insane credit to O'Connell in just his second year as head coach.
NFL Executive of the Year [Unoffical] - Nick Caserio
(Runner-Up - Howie Roseman)
As much as the narrative about the Bill Belichick coaching tree not being good, the executive tree has been looking pretty great recently with Nick Caserio in Houston and Monti Ossenfort in Arizona. Since the new league year opened up, I don't see many wrong steps that the former has made running the Houston Texans. Hiring DeMeco Ryans, and by proxy Bobby Slowick, was a grand slam, and the arriving Sheldon Rankins, Dalton Shultz, Shaq Mason, and Noah Brown have been solid contributors at worst, and we haven't even gotten to Houston's draft yet.
Getting one franchise cornerstone in a draft is big, but Caserio getting three, even at the steep price he paid for doing so, is a game-changer. If you asked every other GM in the league right now if they would do what Caserio did to get Will Anderson and still end up with C.J. Stroud, Tank Dell, and Henry To'oTo'o, you would get unanimous yeses. Howie Roseman is still the creme de la creme, but the longtime Belichick Luitenant is on an absolute heater.
NFL Offensive Player of the Year - Christian McCaffery
(Runner Up - Tyreek Hill)
If you like guys who are a free touchdown every week, then CMC has been your favorite player all year. He's averaging a touchdown per game on the ground alone, but he also has five receiving touchdowns to boot. Pair that up with seven games of at least 100 scrimmage yards and over five yards per touch, six games averaging at least 4.5 yards a carry, and the fact he has nearly 150 yards on the league's No. 2 rusher, Raheem Mostert, the choice for OPOY feels obvious.
NFL Defensive Player of the Year - Dexter Lawrence
(Runner-Up - Fred Warner)
This is by far the most unorthodox pick on the board, but I will try and convince you Dexter Lawrence has every right to win DPOY in 2023. Despite being doubled on 71 percent of his pass-blocking snaps (via ESPN), Lawrence is, by a wide margin, the most elite pass-defending interior man in football. In just 11 games, he's generated 53 pressures, which trails only Nick Bosa, Aidan Hutchinson, Micah Parsons, and Max Crosby for any player in football. Lawrence also sports a pass rush win rate of 19 percent, third best in the NFL among IDL, and he and Crosby are the only two defenders in the sport who account for at least 30 percent of their team's total pressures while also sporting PFF run and pass defense grades of at least 85.
A lot of what Lawrence does is certainly going unnoticed nationally since the Giants are...well...the Giants, but this is someone who, at worst, is a borderline top-10 player in the league. It shows up on the stat sheet just as clearly as it does on the field; Dexter Lawrence is a fully-fledged superstar at the defensive tackle position.
NFL Most Valuable Player - C.J. Stroud
(Runner-Up - Lamar Jackson/Patrick Mahomes)
Some backstory here; going into the 2023 draft, I had C.J. Stroud as my No. 3 ranked quarterback behind Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young. It wasn't that Stroud was far off, far from it. There were simply some smaller issues that popped up enough for him to fall a tad. That was outside of one game, one faithful night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Stroud played the game of his life against Georiga. A game in which he was by far the best player on the field on either side. The point here is since Week 1, Stroud has been far closer to that Georgia performance than anything else he ever put on tape at Ohio State, and he's taken the NFL and America by storm these last three months.
I believe it was Brett Kollman saying something along the lines of waiting until after the Texans-Bengals game to start the Stroud for MVP discourse, simply to see if he can survive whatever Lou Anarumo had cooked up in the lab for him. Well, here we are. He survived Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and something tells me Stroud will be up for the challenge against the Jets and Browns defenses too. You don't even need to look at Stroud's numbers so far this year; although they are wildly impressive, all you have to do is watch him, and you know he's been worth every bit of praise coming his way in 2023.
It isn't by much since Lamar Jackson is having an excellent year, as is Patrick Mahomes with what he's surrounded with, but what Stroud's doing is unprecedented and worthy of Most Valuable Player honors.
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