If the 2017 NFL season ended today, thank heavens it doesn’t, who would take home the end of season hardware? Awards such as Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year are coveted pieces of NFL history and could be instrumental in landing a players name in The Pro Football Hall of Fame. But what if the awards were presented quarterly? If you stick it out with me for the next few moments, we can catch a glimpse of that very prospect! Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the First Quarter Awards!
Most Valuable Player
As the most prestigious award on our list, the MVP award is given to the player that is a standout among others at his position and as a player in general. While it is an award that could be won by any position, there has been a massive tilt toward the quarterback position lately. Since 2000 only four non-quarterbacks have won the MVP, all of whom were running backs (Faulk-00, Alexander-05, Tomlinson-06, Peterson-12). If you knew me at all, you would know I am an against-the-grain kinda guy so my First Quarter MVP award goes to……Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City. I know, I know, putting Hunt in the company of Adrian Peterson as the only non-QB to win the award in the last ten years is risky, but stay with me as I present my case.
Hunt is currently leading the NFL in rushing yards (609), yards from scrimmage (775), Rushing yards per game (121.8), Total yards per game (155) and sits in second place with total touchdowns (6). Those are just the numbers, but the rookie’s presence on the field has been the most impressive part of his MVP run. The Kansas City offense has become far more dominant this season than in the past. Alex Smith is currently leading the NFL in Passer Rating (125.8) compared to his previous high in 2012 (104.1) is tied for third in passing TDs (11) and second in passing yards (1,391). Smith is playing the best football of his professional career, and that can be attributed to how Kareem Hunt has affected the defensive approach to the Chiefs. The Toledo product forces the defense to respect the run which opens up the passing game, particularly the deep passing game. Smith is a perfect 5/5 on deep middle passes and 8/12 on deep right passes. Outside of even the numbers, we can play the comparison game. Ezekiel Elliot finished in fourth place during the 2016 NFL MVP race, and so far Hunt has far outperformed even that amazing rookie season. So based on the info presented, I rest my case.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
I thought after the first 3 weeks that the offensive rookie of this year was going to be named Cook or Fournette. But shortly after, Dalvin Cook had a season-ending knee injury, completely derailing his shot at the award. Leonard Fournette has had a good enough season for the Jacksonville Jaguars racking up 466 yards on the ground (good for third in the league) and 128 receiving yards. After a 181 yard two TD game it was a virtual lock that Fournette would take the Rookie of the Year award, that is until Sunday night. I said a lot, to say this, my choice for Rookie of the Year goes to Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston. Watson started the year off slowly, notching three TDs and three INT in 2 1/2 games, but since has thrown nine…NINE touchdowns and only one interception! Oh yeah, and he rushed for an additional TD in week 4 pushing his total to ten TDs in two games. That isn’t the only thing the rookie out of Clemson has improved upon, his passer rating and completion percentage have improved each of the first four weeks. Watson is one of only two rookie QBs to throw for eight TDs in any two-game span in NFL history as well (Robert Griffin III). The Houston QB is both explosive and exciting, thus earning him the award of Offensive Rookie of the Year in my eyes.
Alex Smith. You read a lot of my case for an Alex Smith MVP award, but just to add a little tiny bit to it. Tom Brady is right in the mix of the MVP discussions and Alex Smith has matched him almost stride-for-stride. The advantage I see through five weeks comes down to the head-to-head matchup that saw Smith edge out Brady.
Tom Brady. At age 40, Tom Brady has shown that he still has what it takes to be an elite QB in the NFL. He currently leads the league in passing yards (1,702), is second in Passer Rating (112) and is third passing TDs (11). Brady hasn’t shown any signs of decline this year and is a perennial MVP candidate.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Leonard Fournette. Another case of the “you already read this”, but Fournette makes this list by sitting in the top three in virtually every RB statistic, only behind Hunt and Gurley. The decision could easily be made just seeing how much Fournette has improved the Jacksonville offense this season as well.