With the NFL’s 2022 campaign officially coming to a close, many of the league’s best players and coaches put together a convincing closing argument in their cases for the top individual awards over the final stretch of the season.
Here’s a look at the five best candidates for each major honor:
Coach of the Year
5. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. The Seahawks traded franchise passer Russell Wilson, let go of defensive leader Bobby Wagner, and left the quarterback position up to Geno Smith or Drew Lock. The thought of a postseason berth appeared more delusional than realistic. Yet somehow Carroll gave the NFL a brash reminder of why he’s one of the best in the business after leading Seattle to a wild-card berth with the almost-forgotten Smith leading the charge.
4. Brian Daboll, Giants
The Giants have been excluded from the postseason ever since their infamous boat picture during the 2016 season. However, Daboll has steered the ship back in the right direction by securing a playoff berth in his first season at the helm. While Daboll has arguably not had a star-studded roster at his disposal, he’s managed to extract a career year from Saquon Barkley and, even more impressively, he got Daniel Jones to play like a winning quarterback for the first time in his NFL career.
3. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
Injuries have seemed to be a constant part of the 49ers in recent years. However, 2022 hit them with extra cruelty as they lost not only opening-day starting quarterback Trey Lance, but also his backup and longtime starter Jimmy Garoppolo. While this would be a death sentence for most, Shanahan made it work with seventh-round rookie signal-caller Brock Purdy and the NFL’s stingiest defense. Despite their battle wounds, Shanahan has the 49ers thinking of championship aspirations once again.
2. Doug Pederson, Jaguars
Pederson was brought into Jacksonville to unlock Trevor Lawrence’s potential and gradually turn the Jaguars into a competitor again. Pederson has done both in record time as Lawrence displayed the ability that made him a generational prospect, and the Jaguars snuck into the postseason after winning six of their last seven games. Urban Meyer may have left Jacksonville in shambles, but Pederson led a world-class cleanup effort that’s reversed the club’s fortunes faster than anyone could have expected.
1. Nick Sirianni, Eagles
Sirianni’s body of work for 2022 wasn’t technically perfect, but it was about as close as you can get to perfection. In just his second season in charge, Sirianni has gotten the Eagles home-field advantage in the playoffs after a 14-3 record. That’s not all – he also had Jalen Hurts providing MVP-caliber play before a late-season injury. There have been some exceptional NFL coaching jobs this season, but none can hold a candle to what Sirianni has accomplished in Philly.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
5. Jaquan Brisker, Bears
There haven’t been many bright spots for the Bears this season, but they’ve appeared to find a long-term contributor in their secondary with Brisker. The second-round pick has flashed as a tough, downhill safety in his first year in the big leagues. Despite being a defensive back, Brisker led the Bears in sacks with four while his 104 tackles rank second on the team.
4. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants
The 2022 fifth overall pick ascended into the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation as a late bloomer. Three of Thibodeaux’s four sacks have come over his last five games, plus he’s added six tackles for a loss and one forced fumble in that span. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Giants pass-rusher fighting for some more prestigious NFL defensive awards in the coming years.
3. Tariq Woolen, Seahawks
When it’s all said and done, the Seahawks may have turned a fifth-round pick into one of the league’s most ball-hungry cornerbacks. Exceeding expectations doesn’t do Woolen’s play justice; he’s done victory laps over his 2022 projections. Not only are his six interceptions the most among all first-year players, and a new Seahawks rookie record, but they’re also tied for most in the league.
2. Aidan Hutchinson, Lions
A lot of credit should be passed around for the Lions’ turnaround, and Hutchinson deserves his fair share. The No. 2 overall pick is first among all rookies in sacks with 9.5, but he’s proven to be a magnet for game-changing plays with his three interceptions as well.
1. Ahmad Gardner, Jets
It’s hard to tell that Gardner is still just in his first NFL season when you watch him on the field. That’s what makes him a shoo-in for the top rookie defensive honor. The top-five pick has locked down some of the league’s premier receivers throughout the campaign, racking up two interceptions and a league-leading 20 pass defenses. He’s also PFF’s highest-graded cornerback, finishing ahead of the likes of Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Surtain.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
5. Chris Olave, Saints
The Saints were supposed to feature a three-headed beast at wide receiver with Olave, Michael Thomas, and Jarvis Landry. Instead, it’s been a one-man show with the rookie carrying the workload thanks to injuries to Thomas and Landry. Olave has been a trustworthy security blanket for a New Orleans team that’s struggled to find an offensive identity, as he’s racked up 1,042 yards and three 100-yard games.
4. Kenny Pickett, Steelers
One look at the stat sheet won’t have you walking away thinking Pickett is a credible Rookie of the Year contender, but his poise in do-or-die moments kept the Steelers in the playoff race right until the very end. Since Pittsburgh returned from its bye in Week 10, the Pitt product has orchestrated four game-winning drives, including memorable ones against the Raiders and Ravens.
3. Brock Purdy, 49ers
There’s magic in the air in the Bay Area, and it’s because of a rookie quarterback who’s turning heads each week. Purdy, taken with the last pick of the 2022 draft, has become anything but irrelevant to the 49ers’ title hopes. The signal-caller has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each game since taking over while also becoming the third rookie quarterback to win their first five starts. While the 49ers’ defense is still the team’s strong point, Purdy has been stealing the show as a great secondary act.
2. Garrett Wilson, Jets
If Wilson had better quarterback play this season, there’s a strong possibility he’d take the top spot on our rankings. But even after having to catch passes from the likes of Mike White, Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Chris Streveler, the rookie still managed to put up monster numbers – a testament to his talent. Wilson broke the 1,000-yard barrier with a game to spare before finishing the year with 1,103 yards.
1. Kenneth Walker, Seahawks
Offensive Rookie of the Year has been Walker’s award to lose for the majority of the second half of the season. The Seahawks running back led all rookies in rushing yards (1,050) and touchdowns (9). His consistency is perhaps the biggest trait to admire as he’s averaged over four yards per carry in eight of his 15 contests this season.
Defensive Player of the Year
5. Chris Jones, Chiefs
After a slow start to the season, there wasn’t a better defensive player over the last 12 weeks than Jones. Since Week 6, no one recorded more sacks than Jones’ 13.5 over the final 12 games. He was even more impressive in the final month of play, recording 4.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits over the Chiefs’ last three contests. In total, his 15.5 sacks in 2022 evened a personal best and were tied for fourth most in the NFL.
4. Haason Reddick, Eagles
It’s time for the world to stop ignoring Reddick. Perhaps the best value free-agent signing of the offseason, Reddick’s play has paid dividends for the Eagles. The versatile linebacker has displayed a nose for the football with a league-leading five forced fumbles and 16 sacks, tied for second most in the NFL. In any other season, there’s a good chance that Reddick’s numbers would be enough to take home the DPOY honor.
3. Micah Parsons, Cowboys
The DPOY trophy will likely evade Parsons for another season after he came down to earth during the season’s final stretch. The 23-year-old only mustered 1.5 sacks over his final six games, but he still ended the campaign with a career-high 13.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and a defensive touchdown. While the Cowboys’ defense has earned massive praise around the league, there’s no doubt that Parsons has been the biggest star in Dallas.
2. Myles Garrett, Browns
Garrett was nearly unblockable over the closing stretch of the season, recording six sacks over his final five games. His season total of 16 sacks matched a career high, while no other player on the Browns even reached more than three. While some other candidates on our rankings played on some impressive defenses, Cleveland’s defensive performances were directly tied to Garrett’s production.
1. Nick Bosa, 49ers
Selecting the 2022 DPOY will likely be the easiest decision voters make all year. It’s just impossible to construct an argument that could take the trophy away from Bosa, who’s had a season that outpaces the field. The 49ers pass-rusher led the NFL in sacks with 18.5 despite missing one game. His league-leading 48 quarterback hits are also 13 more than his next closest competitor, while his 19 tackles for a loss are tied for second most in the NFL. If that doesn’t seal the deal, there were only three games this season in which Bosa failed to record a sack and only one contest where he couldn’t register a single quarterback hit.
Most Valuable Player
5. Justin Jefferson, Vikings
If there was any non-quarterback who deserved to be in consideration for the NFL’s most prestigious individual award, Jefferson has to be the pick. While he fell short of the 2,000-yard benchmark after a pedestrian final two weeks of the season, his 1,809-yard campaign and 10 100-yard-plus games still led the NFL. Whether it was the monster games or highlight-reel catches, no non-QB took the league by storm like the Vikings wideout.
4. Josh Allen, Bills
It’s been another season of excellence for the Bills quarterback. With 4,000-plus yards and 35 touchdowns, as well as 762 yards and seven more scores on the ground, Allen initially had the Bills slated for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Boosting his resume for MVP includes a memorable victory against the Chiefs and Mahomes, another candidate for the top individual award. With the Wyoming product under center, the Bills haven’t lost a game since Nov. 13.
3. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
Hurts’ 2022 season is a reminder that life can often be cruel. The Eagles signal-caller appeared to be cruising to his first-ever MVP accolade before a shoulder injury forced him to miss two games late in the season. Despite the lost momentum, Hurts still holds a 14-1 record as a starter in 2022 with career bests in completion percentage (66.5%), passing yards (3,701), passing touchdowns (22), and rushing scores (13). While he may not be in play for MVP anymore, he could make it a forgotten point if he can lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl.
2. Joe Burrow, Bengals
He’s doing it once again. With ice in his veins and natural swagger in his walk, Burrow has led the Bengals back into the mix for another Super Bowl appearance. For that, he’s become a leading MVP candidate. Winners of eight in a row, Cincinnati has been carried by its star quarterback, who has had to do it without Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon for stretches due to injury absences. His play over the eight-game win streak is what’s elevated him near the top of our rankings as he’s thrown 18 touchdowns to just six interceptions while also compiling a 99.6 passer rating.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Perhaps the one objective truth about the 2022 NFL season is that there was no better player in the NFL than Mahomes. Though many have likely become desensitized to the superstar’s ability, it shouldn’t take away from what he’s been able to accomplish in a Chiefs offense that was briefly questioned following the offseason loss of Tyreek Hill. Mahomes’ numbers this season are his best since his first MVP campaign in 2018, and for that reason, there should be no shock when he takes home his second MVP honor later this year. The 27-year-old threw for a whopping 5,250 yards, fourth most in NFL history, and also led the league with 41 touchdown passes.
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