The NFL announced finalists for eight of its major 2022 awards on Wednesday, including MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. But which big names are most likely to take home trophies at the NFL Honors show Feb. 9? And which players deserve more recognition during awards season?
Here’s a full rundown of every major award, our predicted winners, plus notable snubs:
Projected winner: Mahomes
Jefferson cemented his status as the game’s best pass catcher, but he went quiet one too many times for an overachieving team with an early playoff exit. We’d personally vouch for Burrow and Hurts here; the former has been the NFL‘s smoothest clutch quarterback, and Hurts broke out as an unflappable dual threat. But Mahomes already has the MVP resume, he stayed on the field all year, and he made post-Tyreek Hill offense look easy, coasting to NFL-best production at the position.
Snubs: 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey
Yes, Kyle Shanahan gets results from just about anyone in his backfield, but splitting 2022 between two teams, CMC was nothing short of sterling as both a runner and receiver, finishing the regular season with 1,880 scrimmage yards (third-most in the NFL), plus 13 TDs as a safety valve for both Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy under center.
Offensive Player of the Year
Projected winner: Hurts
If Mahomes wins MVP as expected, this one’s bound to honor the next-best thing. And while Jefferson might be the betting favorite thanks to his latest monster campaign (128 catches, 1,809 yards) as the Vikings’ catalyst, we’re focusing on TDs here: Hurts racked up 35 as both a passer and runner in just 15 games, including an NFL-best 13 as a rushing QB.
While inefficient as a passer, Fields was absolutely electric on the ground, leading all QBs with 1,143 yards to make Chicago watchable in 2022. Jacobs and Chubb both topped 1,500 rushing yards on old-school ground-and-pound squads. And Ekeler? We’ve heard too little about the non-QB who led the NFL with 18 TDs. The veteran totaled 1,637 yards (eighth-most in the NFL) while racking up a career-high 107 catches to help L.A. into the postseason.
Defensive Player of the Year
Projected winner: Bosa
Parsons is a freak of nature at the heart of Dallas’ defense, and this award will fall in his lap someday. Jones also remains a force on the interior, matching his career high in sacks (15.5). But Bosa was by far the most dominant off the edge, easily leading the league in both sacks (18.5) and QB hits (49) as the trench warrior for the NFL’s stingiest defense.
Reddick has enjoyed a career year as a stand-up rusher in Philly, nearly matching Bosa in sacks while leading the NFL with five forced fumbles. Crosby was the king of pressure for an otherwise middling Raiders “D,” logging more QB hits than all but Bosa. And Fitzpatrick was a clutch playmaker during the Steelers’ strong finish, tying for the NFL lead with six picks.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Projected winner: Wilson
Purdy’s story is as impressive as any, as evidenced by the fact he’s a finalist despite making just five regular-season starts off the bench. We wouldn’t be stunned if he takes it, because regardless of how talented the 49ers are, his poise to go 5-0 as Garoppolo’s emergency fill-in had a major hand in San Francisco’s run. Still, Wilson has been producing for longer, emerging as a WR1 for a team without a clear answer at QB.
Olave was just as productive as Wilson on a team with similar offensive issues. Allgeier quietly eclipsed 1,000 yards as the emergent featured back for Atlanta. And Pierce was a bulldozer before going down with a late-season injury. Watson was a late bloomer, finishing with just over 600 receiving yards, but was a TD machine for Aaron Rodgers down the stretch.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Projected winner: Gardner
It’s pretty rare that a rookie cornerback — even an elite prospect — can provide shutdown coverage out of the gate, but Gardner truly elevated New York’s secondary, leading the NFL with 20 pass deflections. Woolen was opportunistic with six picks, and Hutchinson had highlight-reel highs for an upstart Detroit “D,” but Sauce had the most consistent impact on his team.
Pitre logged five picks for a Houston “D” that stayed feisty down the stretch. Brisker was a physical starter for a rebuilding Bears team. Houston came on late with eight sacks during the Lions’ playoff push. And the Jones corners injected promise into New England secondary, with Marcus also logging some explosive reps as an offensive utility man.
Comeback Player of the Year
Projected winner: Smith
McCaffrey and Barkley enjoyed true bounce-back campaigns as featured ball-carriers, recovering from injuries to drive San Francisco and New York to their respective playoff runs. But no player had a more prominent underdog emergence than Smith, who had long toiled as a backup, written off after a sloppy start to his career with the Jets. His 2022 finish wasn’t perfect, but for much of the season, the QB’s unexpected growth as a fluid decision-maker kept Seattle afloat.
Snubs: Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Jr.
After missing all of his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury, Etienne exploded as the top back in Jacksonville, where he totaled more than 1,400 yards as a weapon-in-the-making for Trevor Lawrence and Co.
Coach of the Year
- Bills’ Sean McDermott
- Eagles’ Nick Sirianni
- 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan
- Giants’ Brian Daboll
- Jaguars‘ Doug Pederson
Projected winner: Shanahan
The NFL loves them some Shanahan, who won 2019 Coach of the Year honors when he guided a 13-3 finish and Super Bowl bid. This year, the revered schemer should draw even more respect for the way he navigated not one but two season-ending injuries at QB, seamlessly going from Trey Lance to Jimmy Garoppolo to Brock Purdy while remaining the class of the NFC. All the candidates are worthwhile, though: McDermott kept Buffalo in the mix amid the Damar Hamlin incident, Sirianni shepherded Hurts to an MVP campaign, Daboll maximized the Giants’ lineup, and Pederson completely restored the Jaguars’ fight.
Snubs: Lions’ Dan Campbell, Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell
Campbell didn’t get Detroit to the playoffs, but his 8-2 record over the final 10 weeks justified hope for the Lions’ development. O’Connell, meanwhile, couldn’t overcome his club’s porous defense on big stages, but deserves tons of credit for rejuvenating Minnesota’s locker room and unlocking a more contemporary passing attack in a 13-4 debut.
Assistant Coach of the Year
Projected winner: Ryans
Tabbed as a future head coach for years, Ryans has overseen one of the NFL’s top defenses ever since taking over as coordinator in 2021. This year in particular, his unit has stepped up on almost every one of the rare occasions Shanahan’s offense has not. Steichen and Johnson do deserve credit for overseeing some of the league’s most balanced offenses.
Snubs: Giants OC Mike Kafka, Seahawks OC Shane Waldron