In a year with multiple strong candidates, Rodgers stands out for willing an injured and ineffective Packers team to the playoffs. Looking at his base statistics, he led the league with 44 total touchdowns, threw only 7 interceptions, and even finished second on his team (and third among all QBs) in rushing yards. His 7.3 YPA leaves a lot to be desired on the surface, but it’s very good given his circumstances (Green Bay’s short passing game essentially had to function as their running game for stretches after Eddie Lacy’s injury) and didn’t inhibit him from finishing 4th with 4,428 passing yards. On the other side of the ball, the Packers’ injury-plagued defense finished 28th in yards per play allowed, leaving Rodgers & Co to carry the load on offense. Throw in the fact that he rallied his team to a division title following a 4-6 start, and no player was more valuable to his team in 2016 than Rodgers.
Runner-up: Matt Ryan
Following a sensational year in which he finished third in completion percentage (69.9%) and second in passing touchdowns (38), Ryan is certainly worthy of MVP consideration. His league-leading 9.3 YPA is truly remarkable, especially since he didn’t turn the ball over (only 7 INTS) as he pushed the ball down the field. The Falcons would certainly not have a first round bye without their star QB, and they’ll be a tough out for anyone thanks to the potent offense that Ryan leads.
Offensive Player of the Year
Unquestionably the best player in the NFL this season, Brady is simply defying father time at age 39. In the 12 games following his suspension, he finished fifth in completion percentage (67.4), fourth in yards per game (296.2), and second in yards per attempt (8.2) while compiling a record setting 28:2 TD:INT ratio. Furthermore, he entered week 16 with a PFF grade of 96.4 (1st among all QBs) and had the lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays per dropback in the league (https://www.profootballfocus.com/pro-ranking-all-32-nfl-quarterbacks-this-season/). Needless to say, 2016 has been another banner year for the GOAT.
Runner-up: Matt Ryan
His aforementioned numbers speak for themselves
Defensive Player of the Year
While Mack’s 11 sacks are very good for an edge player, they don’t tell the full story of his remarkable season. He has become a legitimate playmaker for the Raiders, as he compiled 73 combined tackles, five forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and a pick-six: all remarkable for a player of his position. Known to wear opposing offenses out as games progress, his signature late game moment came when he sealed a win over the Panthers on a strip sack of Cam Newton, the league’s reigning MVP. He is simply dominant, and without his game-changing ability the Raiders’ defense would be much worse than 20th in points allowed per game (they’re 32nd in yards per play allowed).
Runner-up: Aaron Donald
Perhaps the most underrated player in the NFL, Donald is a terror for opposing offenses. Despite lining up on the inside at defensive tackle, Donald had 8 sacks and many additional pressures while grading out extremely well against the run. At midseason, he had a PFF grade of 95.6, second only to Tom Brady among all NFL players (https://www.profootballfocus.com/pro-pff-2016-midseason-awards/).
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Stepping into the perfect situation as the #4 pick in the draft, Elliott had high expectations coming into his rookie year and managed to exceed them. At no point did he look like a rookie, as he led the league with 1631 rushing yards (300+ more than the second-best player), and finished third in both rushing touchdowns (15), and YPC (5.1) among starters. While his offensive line unquestionably played a huge role in his success, he still did more than enough work on his own with a strong 2.91 yards after contact per carry. Simply put, Elliott had one of the best rookie seasons ever for a RB and has already asserted himself as one of the five best players at his position.
Runner-up: Dak Prescott
While Prescott has as good of a supporting cast as anyone in the league, his poise as a rookie can’t be ignored. His 3667 yards (8.0 YPA) and 23 TDs are both good for a rookie quarterback, but what really separates him is his lack of turnovers (4 lost fumbles and only 4 interceptions). The sky’s the limit for what he can do next year with a full offseason to prepare as the unquestioned starter.
Other: In any other year, Jordan Howard would be receiving a lot more publicity for his work as a rookie. He finished second in the NFL in rushing yards (1313) despite opening the season buried on the Bears’ depth chart, and also finished second in YPC (5.2), and third in yards after contact per carry (3.0) to go along with 7 total touchdowns.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Bosa certainly had no problem establishing himself after a lengthy contract dispute, tallying a whopping 10.5 sacks in 12 games. Spending time at both outside linebacker and defensive end, Bosa’s versatility and production against both the pass and run have helped fill what was a huge hole in this Chargers defense, and he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations given the fact that he held out into the regular season. With a full offseason to prepare for 2017, the thought of what Bosa could do in the future should scare offensive linemen everywhere.
Runner-up: Jalen Ramsey
While Ramsey didn’t get off to the same type of start as Bosa, by the end he was every bit as good. From weeks 13-16, he intercepted two passes and allowed a passer rating of just 21.4 into his coverage, grading out as the #1 player at his position over that time. He’s going to be a premier defensive back for a very long time.
Comeback Player of the Year
After an extremely disappointing season in Philadelphia in 2015, Murray bounced back in a big way in his first season with the Titans. He finished third in the NFL with 1287 rushing yards, scored 12 total TDs, and averaged an impressive 104 total yards per game. Just as importantly, he played all 16 games, tallying well over 300 touches as a true workhorse. While Derrick Henry’s presence may cloud Murray’s future in Tennessee to some degree, it’s clear that he has regained his Pro Bowl form.
Runner-up: Jimmy Graham
Graham’s 2015 season was a disaster from start to finish, as he failed to get integrated into Seattle’s offense before going down with a torn patellar tendon. However, his recovery went better than anyone expected, and this time around he looked much more in-sync. He finished third among all TEs in yards (923), led all TEs with at least 30 catches in YPC (14.2), and scored 6 touchdowns.
Coach of the Year
With suspect quarterback play and a defense that ranked 29th in YPG allowed, the Dolphins simply had no business being a playoff team this season. However, they persevered and found a way to win close games, with 8 of their 10 wins coming by a touchdown or less. Gase’s best moves included condensing his backfield rotation (and thus unleashing Jay Ajayi) after a 4-man rotation failed to produce early on, and not being afraid to go back to Byron Maxwell after sitting him amidst his early season struggles. His Dolphins are arguably 2016’s biggest overachievers, and he’s unquestionably a big reason why.
Runner-up: Andy Reid
After winning the tough AFC West division and clinching a first round bye, the Chiefs proved they’re legitimate even with Alex Smith at QB. Without two of their top playmakers in Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin for much of the season, Reid improvised and got the most out of players like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to complement top tier defense and special teams units.