Each year, players and coaches from around the league gather in the Super Bowl host city, during the week leading up to the big game, to celebrate the season’s top performers in a made-for-TV awards presentation called NFL Honors. Typically, there’s very little intrigue as to who will win the awards because after 18 weeks and 272 regular-season games played, the recipients — for the most part — become self-evident.
We wanted a bigger challenge, so we asked our talent at The 33rd Team — eight former players, eight former NFL head coaches and an ex-team general manager — to fill out a ballot and make their predictions for the most noteworthy individual awards that will be handed out at NFL Honors five months from now. Here are the results:
>> Other Predictions: Division Winners | Super Bowl LVII
Most Valuable Player
1. Bills QB Josh Allen (7 votes: Greg Jennings, Dirk Koetter, Chris Long, Chuck Pagano, Robert Smith, Joe Thomas, Dave Wannstedt)
T2. Chargers QB Justin Herbert (3 votes: Matt Cassel, Mike Martz, Mike Tannenbaum)
T2. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (3 votes: Charles Davis, Marty Mornhinweg, Wade Phillips)
4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (2 votes: Rich Gannon, Marvin Lewis)
Others Receiving Votes: Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (1 vote: Ronde Barber), Bengals QB Joe Burrow (1 vote: Mike Zimmer)
Quotable: “(Allen is) going to throw the ball around the field, he’s mobile, and he’s going to get the ball to his receivers on short and long routes. He can scramble. In the red zone, you have to, as a defense, be mindful of him running the ball into the end zone. And he can run it from out of the red zone, too.” — Greg Jennings
Notable: Allen and Hall of Fame QB Steve Young are the only players in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns and 5-plus rushing touchdowns in multiple career seasons (Allen in 2020, 2021; Young in 1994, 1998). In Young’s 1994 season, he won NFL MVP and Super Bowl XXIX MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (6 votes: Barber, Gannon, Pagano, Smith, Thomas, Wannstedt)
2. Bills QB Josh Allen (4 votes: Davis, Koetter, Martz, Zimmer)
Others Receiving Votes: Rams WR Cooper Kupp (1 vote: Cassel), Vikings WR Justin Jefferson (1 vote: Jennings), Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (1 vote: Lewis), Raiders WR Davante Adams (1 vote: Long), Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (1 vote: Mornhinweg), Bengals QB Joe Burrow (1 vote: Phillips), Chargers QB Justin Herbert (1 vote: Tannenbaum)
Quotable: “Taylor has the ability to make cuts at the line of scrimmage and explode through the holes. He has the breakaway speed, the balance, the vision and everything that you want in a running back. Add in his ability to catch out of the backfield, and you get a player I really enjoy watching.” — Eddie George
Notable: In 2021, Taylor had more rushing yards after contact (1,272) than the next-closest player had total rush yards (1,259 by Nick Chubb). Taylor has 32 touchdowns through his first two NFL seasons. Should he maintain that pace, he would break Barry Sanders’ all-time record of 47 scores in a player’s first three seasons.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Rams DT Aaron Donald (5 votes: Barber, Gannon, Martz, Smith, Tannenbaum)
T2. 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa (3 votes: Davis, Jennings, Wannstedt)
T2. Cowboys LB Micah Parsons (3 votes: Cassel, Mornhinweg, Pagano)
T2. Steelers LB T.J. Watt (3 votes: Koetter, Lewis, Phillps)
Others Receiving Votes: Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter (2 votes: Long, Zimmer), Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett (1 vote: Thomas)
Quotable: “$30 million a year is the right number for Aaron Donald, who’s the most important non-quarterback in the league.” — Tannenbaum
Notable: Donald (98.0) needs two sacks to become the 40th player and just the second defensive tackle with 100-plus career sacks.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Saints WR Chris Olave (6 votes: Cassel, Koetter, Pagano, Smith, Tannenbaum, Zimmer)
T2. Steelers WR George Pickens (3 votes: Barber, Davis, Jennings)
T2. Steelers QB Kenny Pickett (3 votes: Mornhinweg, Phillips, Wannstedt)
4. Texans RB Dameon Pierce (2 votes: Long, Thomas)
Others Receiving Votes: Packers WR Christian Watson (1 vote: Gannon), Falcons WR Drake London (1 vote: Lewis), Chiefs WR Skyy Moore (1 vote: Martz)
Quotable: “I really like Olave as a route runner. He has very good feet, balance and body control. He understands how to set up his routes, how to weave and stem defenders. You must be ready for his speed, as he has the burst to pull away from defenders.” — T.J. McCreight
Notable: Olave set Ohio State’s school record with 35 career receiving touchdowns and led the Big Ten with 13 receiving scores in 2021 (T-6th in FBS).
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Lions edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson (10 votes: Cassel, Davis, Gannon, Jennings, Pagano, Phillips, Tannenbaum, Thomas, Wannstedt, Zimmer)
2. Jaguars edge rusher Travon Walker (4 votes: Barber, Lewis, Martz, Smith)
T3. Jets CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (1 vote: Koetter), Ravens S Kyle Hamilton (1 vote: Mornhinweg), Packers LB Quay Walker (1 vote: Long)
Quotable:“He might start a little bit slow when he’s going against the premier talent at left tackle and right tackle, but by mid-season he’s going to showing exactly why I had him as the No. 1 overall player in this last NFL draft.” — Joe Thomas
Notable: Each of the previous three defensive rookies of the year were Big Ten pass pushers: Ohio State’s Nick Bosa (2019) and Chase Young (2020), and Penn State’s Micah Parsons (2021).
Comeback Player of the Year
1. Saints QB Jameis Winston (6 votes: Koetter, Long, Pagano, Smith, Tannenbaum, Wannstedt)
2. Titans RB Derrick Henry (5 votes: Barber, Cassel, Gannon, Phillips, Thomas)
3. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (2 votes: Jennings, Mornhinweg)
Others Receiving Votes: Panthers QB Baker Mayfield (1 vote: Lewis), Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (1 vote: Martz), Saints WR Michael Thomas (1 vote: Wannstedt), Titans WR Robert Woods (1 vote: Davis)
Quotable: “Henry has fewer than 1,500 career carries, so I’m not looking so much at his age or even the injury. I’m looking at the number of carries he has. Given how he takes care of his body, and how the league is not as physical as it once was when I played, I think he still has some great years ahead of him. This could be another huge year for Henry in terms of anywhere from 1,500 yards to 1,800 yards.” — Eddie George
Notable: With Winston as their starter in 2021, the Saints went 5-2 and averaged 25.1 points per game. An ACL tear in Week 8 forced him to miss the rest of a season that saw the Saints go 4-6 and average 18.8 points per game without him. Winston had an 8.7 passing-touchdown percentage last season, which was 1.7 percent higher than Aaron Rodgers (7.0), who ranked second in the category.
Coach of the Year
T1. Raiders coach Josh McDaniels (3 votes: Cassel, Martz, Pagano)
T1. Colts coach Frank Reich (3 votes: Gannon, Wannstedt, Zimmer)
T3. Bills coach Sean McDermott (2 votes: Koetter, Smith)
T3. Chiefs coach Andy Reid (2 votes: Davis, Mornhinweg)
T3. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni (2 votes: Long, Thomas)
Others Receiving Votes: Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles (1 vote: Tannebaum), Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (1 vote: Lewis), Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell (1 vote: Phillips), Jaguars coach Doug Pederson (1 vote: Jennings), 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan (1 vote: Barber)
Quotable: “Reid and McDermott might be the two most detail-oriented people I’ve ever met in my life. They may be the two most driven people and perhaps the two most natural leaders I’ve ever met.” — Banner, who hired both coaches in Philadelphia while he was president of the Eagles.
Notable: As a first-time head coach, McDaniels went 11-17 with the Broncos from 2009-2010. Sixteen of the last 25 Super Bowls (64.0 percent) have been won by a head coach in his second stint as an NFL head coach.