2022 NFL award predictions: MVP, Rookies of the Year, and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Summer is winding down, which means one thing: football season is finally back.
The 2022 NFL regular season kicks off this week with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams set to host the Buffalo Bills, this year's preseason favorite to win the Lombardi Trophy. Other matchups that highlight Week 1 include Packers-Vikings, Chiefs-Cardinals, Buccaneers-Cowboys and Chargers-Raiders.
With 18 straight weeks of NFL action set to begin this Thursday, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux, Matt Weyrich and Mike DePrisco make their predictions for each of the NFL's annual awards.
Without further ado...
2022 NFL season award predictions
Most Valuable Player
Notes: Tom Brady's retirement lasted just 40 days, which to me proves he feels that there's still plenty left in the tank. Brady, who led the NFL in passing yards and TD passes in 2021, adds one more MVP trophy to his mantle at age 45.
Weyrich: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (+1500)
Notes: It doesn't look like Lamar Jackson's contract situation is going to see a resolution any time soon, which means the pressure will be on the 2019 MVP to go out and do it again. He's going to put this Ravens offense on his back.
Notes: Justin Herbert is bound to put up monster numbers in the Chargers' offense after a 5,000-yard, 38-TD campaign in 2021. It also feels like voters are dying to give Herbert an MVP anyway, so if the Chargers make the playoffs you can lock this pick in.
Offensive Player of the Year
Notes: When healthy, there's no running back in football more dynamic than Christian McCaffrey. If CMC is able to play a full season, he has a legit chance at notching both 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards, a feat he accomplished in 2019. Adding Baker Mayfield at QB should only help, too. At +2500 odds, McCaffrey's value is too good to pass up.
Notes: The oddsmakers aren't showing much love to Travis Kelce, despite the fact that he's about to dominate the target share in one of the NFL's most prolific offenses. No tight end has ever won this award, but Kelce may be in for his best year yet. If anyone at the position is capable of winning it, it's him.
Notes: Justin Jefferson tore it up in a run-first scheme throughout the first two years of his NFL career, so now that he's the No. 1 option in head coach Kevin O'Connell's pass-first attack, we could see the former Offensive Rookie of the Year turn in a historic 2022 season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Cadeaux: T.J. Watt, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers (+800)
Notes: T.J. Watt won this award a season ago and there are no signs of him slowing down. The Steelers' star pass rusher has the chance to win DPOY in back-to-back seasons, something only Aaron Donald, Lawrence Taylor and T.J.'s brother, J.J. Watt, have done
Notes: Nick Bosa is now two years removed from tearing his ACL, and studies show that's the year when players return to their previous level of success. That's a scary thought for a player who's coming off a season in which he had 15 and a half sacks.
Notes: This might be a boring pick, but it's Myles Garrett's turn to win Defensive Player of the Year. He's a prolific pass rusher (16 sacks in 2021) and leads a defense that will need to perform while Jacoby Brissett commands the offense for 11 weeks. If the Browns are still in the playoff hunt by their bye week, Garrett's DPOY buzz might be too great to ignore.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Notes: The Offensive Rookie of the Year award is wide open to begin the season, especially with Steelers QB Kenny Pickett starting the year on the bench. Jahan Dotson has turned in an impressive training camp and figures to have a major role in Washington's offense as the No. 2 wide receiver. No, he's not going to put up 2020 Justin Jefferson or 2021 Ja'Marr Chase numbers, but a 70-catch, 1,000-yard season seems doable, which should easily keep him in the OROY conversation.
Weyrich: Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints (+1000)
Notes: The Saints showed just how much they loved Chris Olave when they traded up five spots in order to select him 11th overall last spring. He's immediately slotting opposite Michael Thomas and should be a big-play machine with Jameis Winston chucking up deep balls. No rookie wide receiver is in a better position to make an immediate impact than Olave.
DePrisco: Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints (+1000)
Notes: I'm with Matt on this one. Olave is a great scheme fit with Jameis Winston and without a premier rookie quarterback in the mix right now, Olave feels like a safe pick given his skill set and position on the Saints' depth chart.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Cadeaux: Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets (+1000)
Notes: While I wanted to pick Aidan Hutchinson here, Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner has all the makings of being an early star, too. The No. 4 overall pick wasn't targeted once during the preseason. Gardner is a future Pro Bowler that will be tested early on. If he can hold his own, Sauce has a real chance at taking home Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Weyrich: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Detroit Lions (+350)
Notes: It felt like a mistake when the Jaguars passed on Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 1 overall pick in April and that's not a mistake bettors should make here. Hutchinson is a downright beast and he's going to make an immediate presence on a Lions defense that desperately needs it.
DePrisco: Kyle Hamilton, S, Baltimore Ravens (+1200)
Notes: Hutchinson might run away with this award, but before any games are played I'm going with Hamilton. He enters a loaded Ravens secondary and won't be asked to do anything he isn't already great at. If Baltimore's defense returns to elite status in 2022, Hamilton's versatility in the scheme might give him an edge over a pass-rusher like Hutchinson.
Comeback Player of the Year
Cadeaux: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (+900)
Notes: I picked McCaffrey to win Offensive Player of the Year. If that were to happen, he'd almost certainly win Comeback Player of the Year as well. So, I'm banking on a bounce-back season from CMC, who's played in just 10 games over the past two years.
Weyrich: Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (+3000)
Notes: The Comeback Player of the Year award is all about storylines, so how about the Jaguars' offense taking a step forward? Trevor Lawrence might get a lot of the credit, but his relationship with Travis Etienne dating back to their Clemson days will be a big reason why Jacksonville is putting up points. With Etienne coming off a Lisfranc injury that cost him his rookie year, the story will write itself.
DePrisco: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (+900)
Notes: The key for McCaffrey is health. If he's on the field, he's one of the most dangerous players in the game and his stats alone might win him this award if not some of the honors we've already covered.
Coach of the Year
Cadeaux: Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings (+1400)
Notes: There's no team I'm more bullish on entering the season than the Minnesota Vikings. New coach Kevin O'Connell seems like an excellent fit for Minnesota's offense and should get even more out of Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and the rest of that group than Mike Zimmer was able to. The Vikings will win 10+ games in 2022. Book it.
Weyrich: Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings (+1400)
Notes: This Vikings team looks exciting heading into 2022. They've hovered around .500 for years, so any success they have this year will be attributed to new head coach Kevin O'Connell rather than Kirk Cousins and Co. Not to mention, Green Bay looks like it took a step back after losing Davante Adams and replacing him with Sammy Watkins and a couple of rookies.
DePrisco: Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles (+1400)
Notes: The Eagles have an easy schedule, a deep offensive line that should help Jalen Hurts continue to thrive in the running game as well as develop into a better passer, and Philly's defensive personnel is much better suited to execute Jonathan Gannon's scheme. The Eagles look like they're going to win a lot of games in the regular season and Sirianni is in line to reap some of the spotlight.