After four weeks, several candidates stand out as the leaders in the 2015 NFL Awards races, but if the league handed out the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year right now it’s of little secret just who would win.
Here are our early picks for MVP, DPOY, and the rookie awards through the first four weeks of the season.
Most Valuable Player
Primary Candidates: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots; Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers; Julio Jones, WR, Falcons; Cam Newton, QB, Panthers; Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals; Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
Brady burst out of the “Deflategate” scandal with 1,112 passing yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions, while hitting 72.2 percent of his passes for a 119.6 passer rating, third-best in the league. The Patriots are undefeated and if they wind up with the best or second-best record in the league the MVP will go to Tom Terrific. Rodgers has been equally outstanding with the league’s best passer rating of 125.9 and 11 touchdowns without a single pick, but Brady’s the cooler pick after his response to the wild offseason. Jones has become the NFL’s best receiver and routinely requires double coverage, but no wide out has ever won the award, and it would almost be a slight on Jerry Rice if Jones got it. Newton, Dalton, and Palmer need to improve their stellar production if they hope to stay in the running.
If the vote was held today: Brady barely gets the nod over Rodgers
Defensive Player Of The Year
Primary Candidates: DeMarcus Ware, DE, Broncos, Aqib Talib, CB, Broncos; Tyran Mathieu, FS, Cardinals; Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets
One very conspicuous absence is Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Houston’s 1-3 and Watt is second in the league to Ware with 4.0 sacks, but his dominance hasn’t translated into wins for the Texans. Instead, Ware and Talib are in the running for the Broncos incredible defense ranking first in yards allowed per game (275.5), second in points (17.3), first in sacks (18), and third in opposing passer rating (67.9). Ware’s 4.5 sacks lead the way and Talib’s tied for second in the league with two picks. Revis, Talib, and Mathieu could all be the first defensive back to win the award since 2010, with Revis ahead of that pack after guiding the Jets with a league-best 13.8 points allowed. Last season the Jets coughed up 25.1 ppg.
If the vote was held today: Hard to go against Ware with the way the Broncos defense has played
Offensive Rookie Of The Year
Primary Candidates: Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders; Karlos Williams, RB, Bills; T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars; Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans; Tyler Lockett, WR, Returner, Seahawks
Rams running back Todd Gurley is absent because he’s posted only one astounding game, but he should rise later in the season. For now, Cooper leads all rookies in receptions (24) and receiving yards (339), and he’s helped the Raiders post a 2-2 record. Williams has played very well with LeSean McCoy going down and is tied for third among rookies with four touchdowns, and his 226 rushing yards are second only to Yeldon’s 259. However, Mariota’s eight touchdown passes have him in the lead, especially if he can guide Tennessee through a dreadful AFC South schedule. Lockett’s provided the most highlights with his league-best 270 kickoff return yards and two special teams touchdowns.
If the vote was held today: A quarterback hasn't won in two years, but Mariota has the inside track
Defensive Rookie Of The Year
Primary Candidates: Hau’Oli Kikaha, OLB, Saints; Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs; Ronald Darby, CB, Bills
A very thin group, but Kikaha stands above the rest. He’s second among all rookies with 26 total tackles, and first in sacks (3.0) and forced fumbles (2), and his case only improves when you consider most of New Orleans defense has been limited by injuries this season. The same could said for Peters who has two interceptions while filling the hole left by Sean Smith’s three-game suspension. However, Darby’s leading the Bills secondary with 11 passes defensed and two picks.
If the vote was held today: Kikaha has the slight edge on Darby