At this point last year, nobody thought Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz would be an MVP candidate. The year before, nobody picked Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons for the award.
Wentz had a great chance to win MVP last season had it not been for a torn ACL in December. The season before, Matt Ryan won his first MVP. Before that, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had a career year and earned his first MVP. The NFL changes constantly, and we see big stars — and new MVPs — emerge all the time.
That’s why it’s fun to pick the major awards before the season starts. Anything seems possible. Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor, Charles Robinson and Frank Schwab gave out their picks for the major NFL awards with the regular season about to start:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Paylor: Potentially a generational talent, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley will be running behind a revamped O-line, plus there’s enough talent elsewhere (OBJ, Eli) to make teams pay for loading up the box.
Robinson: Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. Saquon Barkley is going to get fed touches, and he’s going to have strong numbers. Simple as that.
Schwab: While I agree with opportunity being key, I’ll go with New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. He’s starting from Week 1 on, and voters want to vote for quarterbacks. Don’t forget two years ago when Dak Prescott won this award over Ezekiel Elliott, even though Elliott was more deserving. I’ll get in that mindset and find the quarterback who will get the most opportunity.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Paylor: I’ll go with a dark-horse candidate. I could see Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters having a ridiculous year in terms of production behind an elite front while playing for a defensive coordinator he respects (Wade Phillips). What’s more, this is basically a contract year for Peters, so he should bring his “A” game.
Robinson: Jadeveon Clowney is playing for a monster contract extension and is going to be on a Houston Texans defense that will be loaded this season if it remains healthy. He’ll get plenty of attention from blockers, but last season was a step forward in refining his pass rushing technique. He’s primed for a big breakout.
Schwab: Winning DPOY is like the Heisman Trophy in some ways – it doesn’t hurt to have some hype bring you to the forefront of voters’ minds. And Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey comes into the season with a lot of hype. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t get sacks to win the award, but Ramsey is an elite player on a great defense, and after his smack-talking tour he’s a household name.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Paylor: Aaron Rodgers. Now that he’s secured the bag, I’m ready to see him win his third MVP. There’s a built-in storyline, too; with such a young cast of receivers, he’ll get all the credit when he has another successful season.
Robinson: I’ll go with Philip Rivers. I know, it’s an unconventional pick. But the Chargers are going to be better than people realize this year. They have a weak schedule, a weak division, and they should be in a lot of wide-open offensive games this season. Los Angeles’ wide receiving depth is solid and talented, and Melvin Gordon will supplement the loss of Hunter Henry. They’ll win and Rivers will produce.
Schwab: It has become nearly impossible to win the MVP award from a position other than quarterback. It’s a waste to not predict a quarterback for MVP. I think it might be time for Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers to win his first. He has great targets, an offensive coordinator he likes and was very hot to end last season. And considering he’s going to spend at least some of the season carrying the offense as Le’Veon Bell sits, he’ll have the numbers by the end of the year to take the award.
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