As we come to the climax of what was a tumultuous 2020 season, it is time to hand out some awards to commemorate the years that a select few players and coaches had.
Some of the Anchor Sports Network staff came together to give you our picks for the end of season awards that go out at the NFL Honors.
Here they are:
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Ben Dainis – Justin Jefferson (WR, MIN)
There are three people most suited to win this award. Justin Jefferson, Justin Herbert, and James Robinson. Robinson’s team finished 1-15, so that damages his case somewhat. Between Herbert and Jefferson, it’s practically a toss-up. I’m giving the edge to Jefferson because while both players broke a record, it feels like the rookie record for passing touchdowns is broken every year at this point
Adam Bernstein – Justin Jefferson (WR, MIN)
The National Football League (NFL) tends to reward quarterbacks with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, however, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson has made an impressive impact on the league this season. Jefferson totaled seven 100-yard reception games and seven touchdowns. He even broke Randy Moss’s rookie receiving yards for the Vikings and that same record but for the entire league later in the season.
Paul Vozzella – Justin Jefferson (WR, MIN)
Jefferson broke the rookie receiving yards record this year with 1,400. To go along with this, he also finished with 88 catches and 7 TDs. While Herbert had a spectacular season, he was working with a great receiving unit. Jefferson put up better numbers than his pro-bowl caliber counterpart, Adam Thielen
Brandon Chapman – Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)
Despite LA’s struggles Herbert showed he was the steal of the draft. He was selected one spot after Tua Tagovailoa and ran circles around him. The offense was consistently looking to him to make plays and he delivered throwing for 31 touchdowns and 4,300 yards.
Cam Ellinwood – Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)
Herbert was thrown into the fire at the beginning of the season, and he has not disappointed. The rookie from Oregon broke the record for passing touchdowns by a rookie with 31 and he was good in every way. Justin Jefferson was also unbelievable, but I think Herbert gets the edge.
Mason Smoller – Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)
Any other year, chances are this award would go to Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson, who posted the most receiving yards ever for a rookie. Except this year, Justin Herbert broke multiple benchmarks including passing touchdowns for a rookie, and he didn’t even start the entire season. This is Herbert’s award to lose.
Charlie White – Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)
I’m not here to argue who the better player is, because it’s pretty obvious to me that Justin Jefferson is better at playing wide receiver than Justin Herbert is at playing quarterback, but that’s not what’s important. While they both put up mind-boggling seasons as rookies breaking records left and right, the quarterback is the engine that powers an offense. If there was a trade straight up Justin Herbert for Justin Jefferson, Chargers fans would be irate and Vikings fans would rejoice. That’s what it all comes down to for me.
Consensus – Justin Herbert (QB,LAC)
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Ben Dainis – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
It is very rare for a defensive player to have to be game-planned for in year one. Chase Young was a problem all season and is a large reason why Washington’s pass rush has the reputation it has. No other rookie had as much of an impact as Young did.
Adam Bernstein – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
Washington was thrilled to get the talented Ohio State product with the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Young has been massively valuable on his pass-rushing as he had 44 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles on the season. Young has made a statement in his first season that he will be one of the best defensive players in the league for a while.
Paul Vozzella – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
While there are other great rookies on the defensive side of the ball, I believe Young should win this award with ease. Young was tied for 3rd in the league in forced fumbles, and has shown great ability to get in the backfield with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Brandon Chapman – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
Without a doubt, Washington doesn’t make the playoffs without this kid stepping up and being the perennial pass rusher we knew him to be at the latter half of the year. Finishing with 7.5 sacks on the year, he will only get better.
Cam Ellinwood – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
There really isn’t any disputing this one. Chase Young has been a terror for opposing quarterbacks all season. The rookie from Ohio State had 7.5 sacks, more than any other rookie, and has been a massive piece in propelling the Washington Football Team into a surprise playoff appearance.
Mason Smoller – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
So many players have a case for this award, from Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. to Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn. However, if it was not for Chase Young, Washington would not have gone on to win the NFC East. Young was the impact player any team would love to take second overall, totaling four forced fumbles, 7.5 sacks, and 44 total tackles.
Charlie White – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
While there were a plethora of young studs that deserve some love for this award, none quite paralleled the impact Chase Young had on his team. If you asked me who was the defensive rookie of the year in October, it might have provoked a different answer but Young found his groove in the latter half of the season and is undeniably a massive ingredient to Washington’s recipe for success on the defensive side of the ball.
Consensus – Chase Young (EDGE, WAS)
Comeback Player of the Year
Ben Dainis – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
No-brainer here. Smith suffered an injury that could have ended his career, and at one point was considered life-threatening. To be able to come back and play at even an average level, not to mention winning a division, Smith deserves this award, hands-down.
Adam Bernstein – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
After suffering a compound leg fracture on Nov. 18, 2018, Washington Football Team’s Quarterback Alex Smith was facing a life or death battle. Fast forward to Nov. 15th, Smith threw 38/55 and 390 yards against the Detroit Lions. Smith took over as starter when Washington was struggling, and even prevailed enough wins to clinch a playoff spot.
Paul Vozzella – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
Did Alex Smith have as good of a year as Ben Roethlisberger or Rob Gronkowski? No, not at all. But the mere fact that Smith was able to come back from his gruesome injury is enough to win the award in itself. Smith not only managed to make the WFT’s roster, but became the eventual starter for them. Smith had mediocre stats at best, but the bottom line is that they went 5-1 in games he started in.
Brandon Chapman – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
Easy pick. May never walk again, may even be dead right now but instead he is playing meaningful football in January and lead his team to a division championship
Cam Ellinwood – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
Nobody thought Alex Smith would play another snap in the NFL after he suffered a horrendous leg injury in 2018. After 17 surgeries, he somehow made a comeback into the league and led the Washington Football Team to a 5-1 record as a starter. This has been one of the best comeback stories in a long time, and he is an easy pick for this award.
Mason Smoller – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
The man is closing in on 37-years-old and just before the season, he was never thought to play again. After all, that’s what happens when one gets 17 surgeries on their leg. Yet somehow, Alex Smith led Washington to the playoffs, going 5-1 as a starter in 2020. Smith is on a tier of his own in the history of this award, period.
Charlie White – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
The real question here isn’t who will win comeback player of the year, it is when are they going to rename it to, “The Alex Smith Comeback Player of the Year Award”. Smith went from being told he was going to die, to losing his leg completely, to never being able to walk again, to never being able to play football again and is now leading his team to the playoffs less than two years later (at 37 years old!). The minute he stepped foot on the field in a game situation he won this award, but leading the Football Team to a 5-1 record when starting and the NFC East crown? Go debate a wall.
Consensus – Alex Smith (QB, WAS)
Coach of the Year
Ben Dainis – Andy Reid (KC)
In my opinion, the coach of the year award should go to the coach who finishes with the best record. It’s why Bill Belichick should have way more coach of the year awards than he does. The Chiefs were the best team in the league by a mile this year, so Reid deserves this award.
Adam Bernstein – Brian Flores (MIA)
Some people may believe that the Coach of the Year belongs to Ron Rivera or Kevin Stefanski, however, I think Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins deserves it. Flores led the Dolphins to an 8-5 record while making major strides in his second season as head coach. A sign of good coaching is player improvement, and we saw plenty of that this season, with players like Emmaunel Ogbah, Eric Rowe, and Mike Gesicki.
Paul Vozzella – Kevin Stefanski (CLE)
Stefanski led the Browns to the playoffs. The argument can really stop there. The Browns finished 11-5- their best record since 1994. This is the first time since 2002 that the Browns will play a game after week 17. Along with this, Baker Mayfield has shown great improvement in play under Stefanski’s simpler offensive scheme.
Brandon Chapman – Ron Rivera (WAS)
Rivera had cancer, kicked its butt and is now leading his team of so-called cancers to the playoffs. I predicted Washington to finish last in the division and they won it at 7-9 which isn’t anything to be proud of but the growth this team has shown is a Cinderella story by itself.
Cam Ellinwood – Kevin Stefanski (CLE)
It only took one year for Kevin Stefanski to bring the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. The offense has improved, with a number three rushing attack. Baker Mayfield also improved under Stefanski.
Mason Smoller – Kevin Stefanski (CLE)
This is the most debatable award of the season and could go to virtually any of the top candidates. But the way that Kevin Stefanski stepped into a talented, though underwhelming Browns team to date and turned them into a contender was amazing. Not to mention he helped quarterback Baker Mayfield have his best year yet without star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. all year as well as pro-bowl running back Nick Chubb for weeks on end.
Charlie White – Ron Rivera (WAS)
This award is really up for anyone to grab but I think Rivera is the most deserving. That Washington team was a brutal 3-13 last season and in desperate need of a culture change. It took Rivera one (1!) season to come in and completely turn that lack-luster roster into a playoff team (albeit in the NFC East). He reinvented a defense that was 27th in points against in 2019 and turned them into a juggernaut, finishing 4th in points against in 2020. Oh yeah, and he was doing all of this during a COVID infested season WHILE KICKING CANCERS TEETH IN. Kevin Stefanski is the easy choice with the storyline of bringing the Browns to the playoffs, but what Rivera has done is far more impressive.
Consensus – None
Offensive Player of the Year
Ben Dainis – Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)
Davante Adams has a case, but this award belongs to the baddest man in the NFL. Only eight players in NFL history have run for 2,000 yards, and all of them are either hall of farmers or guaranteed hall of Famers. Derrick Henry added his name to that list this year. And doing it in a league that has become so pass-oriented over the years only makes this accomplishment more impressive.
Adam Bernstein – Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)
Few running backs have been as dominant as Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry across the past two seasons. Henry surpassed 2,000 rushing yards on the season. Henry finished the season leading NFL running backs in yards, attempts, and rushing touchdowns. He also had a 250-yard performance against the Houston Texans in week 17 to cement his spot in the 2K club.
Paul Vozzella – Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)
Henry finished first in the league with 2,027 rushing yards on 378 rushes, good for a crazy 5.4 yards per attempt. This goes along with his 17 TDs, also enough for first in the league. Henry is his team’s MVP, and being only the eighth RB to ever surpass the 2,000 yard mark makes him more than deserving of this award.
Brandon Chapman – Josh Allen (QB, BUF)
Rodgers is front runner for MVP and I believe Allen had a better year than Mahomes so why not give it to the man who led a Buffalo squad that was supposed to be all defense to a 13-3 record and 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Cam Ellinwood – Derrick Henry (RB, BUF)
Derrick Henry became the 8th running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. He led the league in rushing yards, touchdowns, and carries for the second straight season. King Henry has consistently put the Tennessee Titans on his back and carried them over the finish line.
Mason Smoller – Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)
He averaged over 126 yards rushing per game, totaled 17 touchdowns, and had over 2,000 yards rushing on the season. The league’s leading rusher a year ago repeats and somehow improved on his monster 2019 campaign. Henry was the most dominant force in the league on offense in 2020 and has earned the award for offensive player of the year.
Charlie White – Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)
I REALLY, really wanted to give this award to Davante Adams (and it was neck-and-neck for a while) but Henry’s 250 yard week 17 explosion to put him over 2000 rush yards on the season didn’t give me much of a choice. No skill player touched the ball more than Henry this year and no one was quite as dominant either. He led the league in rushes, rush yards, rushing touchdowns and averaged a measly 126.7 rush yards per game in 2020. That Titans offense is nowhere near as explosive as they are without the threat of Derrick Henry in the backfield.
Consensus – Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)
Defensive Player of the Year
Ben Dainis – Aaron Donald (DT, LAR)
If you watched the Rams at any point this season, you’d see just how often teams have a double team on Aaron Donald. That’s because if you let him one-on-one with any lineman in the league, that is a matchup he will most likely win. To be able to put up the numbers that he does while drawing a double team as consistently as he does, Donald deserves this award.
Adam Bernstein – T.J. Watt (EDGE, PIT)
Although many people believe that Aaron Donald should be the Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt has impressed in nearly every defensive category. Watt currently leads the NFL in sacks (15.0), tackles for a loss (23), and quarterback hits (41). Recently, Watt was voted as the Steelers MVP for this season.
Paul Vozzella – T.J. Watt (EDGE, PIT)
Watt has been dominant all season long, and is the anchor of what many believe is the best defense in the NFL. He has shown the ability to be an elite rusher, as well as a player who can efficiently drop back into coverage. TJ Watt led the league with 15 sacks to along with his 2 forced fumbles.
Brandon Chapman – T.J. Watt (EDGE, PIT)
For the first first 11 weeks of the season, that Steelers defense was a force to be reckoned with. After that, they faltered but Watt led the way the whole time as he kept being a thorn in the side of every offensive coordinator he was playing against as he led the league in sacks with 15.
Cam Ellinwood – T.J. Watt (EDGE, PIT)
T.J. Watt has been sensational this season, leading the league in sacks with 15. The youngest of the Watt brothers also had one interception and two forced fumbles. T.J. just gets the edge over Aaron Donald and Xavien Howard.
Mason Smoller – T.J. Watt (EDGE, PIT)
Behind coach of the year, this was the toughest decision. Both Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt have strong cases to win the award. In the end, it goes to Watt. He was an absolute force all season, having two or more quarterback hits in 14 games on his way to 15 sacks on the year. He also added seven deflections, a pick, two forced fumbles, and 23 tackles for a loss.
Charlie White – Aaron Donald (DT, LAR)
Yes, T.J. Watt had an incredible season for Blitzburgh but I am of the belief that the defensive player of the year trophy is the Aaron Donald trophy until he hangs up his cleats for good. No one in the league demands as much attention as Donald on a snap-to-snap basis, and he STILL dominates. He finished with 13.5 sacks on the year but what is more impressive is how he creates matchups for his teammates. Leonard Floyd averaged 3.5 sacks per season over the last two years with the Bears (playing on a stacked defensive line) but managed to accrue 10.5 sacks this year, and that is mainly due to the attention Donald garners. Watt had better stats, but Donald is the better player and it’s not even that close for me.
Consensus – T.J. Watt (EDGE, PIT)
Most Valuable Player
Ben Dainis – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
Late in the season, this was a two-horse race between Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes’ play began to slip a little late in the year, and he didn’t play in his team’s last game, due to the Chiefs having already clinched the #1 seed in the AFC. Rodgers meanwhile, completed a high percentage of his passes, was near the top of the league in both yards and touchdowns, and did it all while rarely turning the ball over. Rodgers gets to add one to his already hall of fame worthy legacy this year.
Adam Bernstein – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers finished another incredible season at 13-3 with the No. 1 overall seed in the 2021 NFL Playoff picture. Rodgers finished with a total of 4,299 passing yards, 48 passing touchdowns, and just five interceptions. Rodgers’ 48 passing touchdowns are more than either of his two previous MVP years.
Paul Vozzella – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
Through the first half of the season, Rodgers was barely getting any MVP buzz if any at all. With consistent play throughout the whole season, Rodgers has built his season’s resumé to win the award. With the Packers helping Rodgers in no way drafting in the prior offseason, he finished first in the NFL in TD passes(48), INTs thrown(5), and QBR(84.4). He has also led his team to a 13-3 record and the first seed in the NFC.
Brandon Chapman – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
This man was on a mission this season as last year was a disappointment to him. He utilized all the talent he had and delivered one of the best seasons of all time for a quarterback, as he threw for 48 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions and posted a rating of 121.5. Just sick.
Honorable mention: MVP: The fans: They actually got to witness a season and the NFL never cancelled games or shut down the season. They knew how to move forward with every protocol given to them and they made sure they were in compliance with all guidelines. Also, big thank you to the frontline workers who made this season possible for all the testing that was provided and despite all the turmoil that accumulated in 2020, it was put aside for a few months for some football.
Cam Ellinwood – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
Aaron Rodgers had one of the best years of his career, and while it is close between him and Patrick Mahomes, Rodgers gets the edge. Rodgers led the league with 48 touchdown passes while only throwing five interceptions. He has done more with less than Mahomes and has led the Green Bay Packers to a 13-3 record and the number one seed in the NFC.
Mason Smoller – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
After throwing ONLY 26 touchdowns to six interceptions last season, some thought Rodgers was on the decline. Instead, he decided to have one of the best seasons from a quarterback in recent memory to beat out Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes for the award. He hurled 48 touchdowns, only five interceptions, and had a career-high 70.7 completion percentage over the course of the season on his way to leading the Packers to the number one seed in the NFC. Oh, and the future Hall of Famer had his best quarterback rating (121.5) since winning MVP back in 2011… when he was 28.
Charlie White – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
I called this a couple weeks ago when the consensus was Mahomes for MVP at the time, but Rodgers has been the most efficient quarterback in the NFL this season by a landslide. Throwing 48 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions with three of those being tip-drills from your receivers is just mind-boggling in today’s pass-happy NFL. Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur found the perfect recipe for offensive success with a rather average set of weapons (outside of Davante Adams of course). Leading the league in touchdowns, interception percentage, completion percentage and quarterback rating this year, he should win his third MVP trophy of his illustrious career. It’s not the boldest take, but it’s certainly the right one.
Consensus – Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)