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Ouhaj: Way too early 2021 NFL award predictions

| Wednesday, September 22, 2021

We are already two weeks into the NFL season, and already a plethora of storylines have happened. Whether it is Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson’s early struggles or Mahomes losing his first ever September game to Lamar Jackson, this season is already shaping up to be one for the memory books. With the season starting, I thought it would be fun to give my way too early award predictions. These players have shown early on why they are deserving of the following awards, but this is a long season, especially with a seventeenth game added this offseason, so take these with a grain of salt. 

MVP: Kyler Murray

Last season, Kyler Murray was my mid-season favorite-to-win offensive player of the year, but unfortunately, he would not stop King Henry or Aaron Rodgers. However, this year is different, and we are already seeing what Murray can do in Kliff Kingsbury’s system a few years later. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year has already thrown for 689 yards and seven touchdowns that may not lead the league.

Still, the Arizona Cardinals are currently sitting at a 2-0 record. Murray has been playing fantastic football and is making Mahomes-esuqe plays on the field, which everyone around the league was hoping to see. The Cardinals have a relatively easy schedule for the rest of the season, though games against the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams could be tough matchups. If Kyler Murray can continue his dominance this season, he will be without a doubt the favorite to take home the MVP. 

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mac Jones

How about the former Crimson Tide quarterback proving why he should not have fallen in the draft? Mac Jones looks impressive through two starts so far and compared to his other rookies, he is looking like maybe he should have gone over Trevor Lawerence. Through two games this season, Jones may only have one touchdown to his name but his playstyle looks like he has been in the league for a few years already.

Josh McDaniels is known for creating an offensive scheme that best suits his quarterback. Despite the skill of other rookies this season, Mac Jones has the best coaching by far. At the same time, we have yet to see Jones sling the ball down the field, with McDaniels opting for shorter passes. I believe as the season continues, Mac Jones will develop into a top-15 Quarterback and become the fourth quarterback in five years to take home the Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons

Micah Parsons was labeled as a concern heading into the 2021 draft. During the draft process, questions about his character off the field and his size on the field plagued him. He was also followed by his decision to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. However, the Dallas Cowboys who are known for taking risks on players are looking like they hit the lottery.

Micah Parsons has been more than just an OLB on an injury-ridden defense. Last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, he made his first start since his high school career at defensive end. That game went better than anyone could’ve expected.

In that game, Parsons finished with a higher rush grade than Joey Bosa, who is considered among the league’s best pass rushers, and to top it off, he proceeded to dominate the Chargers offensive line the entire game. Parsons was the pre-season favorite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year and still is. He has certainly begun to prove that idea to be right.

Comeback Player of the Year: Dak Prescott

Another Cowboy cracks this list, and for a good reason. After a devastating ankle injury during Week 5 of last season, Dak Prescott has picked up right where he left off. After going toe to toe with Tom Brady in a Week 1 loss, Prescott looked like he was ready to take his game even further.

A top-five quarterback when healthy, Dak Prescott is the real deal. The former fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State is everything you want out of a player both on and off the field. When he is out there, the entire team feeds off his energy. I do not need to detail why Prescott has already won the award. But, after seeing everything he’s done since he stepped on the field this season, just know, he is taking home the award come February. 

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry 

Derrick Henry has been the league’s best running back since the 2019 season. After his 237 total yard performance in a comeback win against the Seattle Seahawks, he is looking to be the favorite to repeat as the award winner. Last year Henry rushed for 2027 yards and 17 touchdowns which netted him the Offensive Player of the Year. Though if you ask me, he should have won the MVP over Aaron Rodgers.

Since the Tennessee Titans traded for Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry has benefited the most. Marcus Mariota, who is currently sitting as a backup behind Derek Carr, couldn’t do what Tennessee needed. Tannehill provides an arm that has to be schemed for, allowing Derrick Henry to feast. However, if Henry rushes for 2000 yards again, he could easily replace Kyler Murray as the favorite to win MVP. Offensive Player of the Year is not a lousy award to take home again though if he doesn’t leap Murray. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald

Picking a Defensive Player of the Year this early on is always rough as most teams are still figuring out their defensive identity. However, if I am willing to put money on before they take off, Aaron Donald would be the name. Donald has already won this award three times in his career. A fourth time would be absurd, but there is a strong chance it happens again this season. If it did, he would pass J.J. Watt and Lawrence Taylor for most times winning DPOY. 

Perhaps the most outstanding defensive tackle ever, Aaron Donald is the only player I have witnessed get triple-teamed on almost every single snap. Chandler Jones’s 5 sack game could create some competition with Donald. But ultimately, it is doubtful that Jones will produce at Donald’s level. Think about it like this, Donald had 20.5 sacks in one season during 2018. Additionally, over his eight-year career, he already has 86.5. I would bet that at the seasons’ end, we will see Aarron with his 100 career sacks.

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