Episode III: Return of the Sports Stack Awards Debacle

“Oh, that’s right, you were a part of that Ryan Smith debacle”

The boys are back, making preseason predictions about which NFL players will win which awards at the NFL Honors after the 2022-2023 NFL season. Spoiler Alert- Nobody picked Nathan Peterman for CBPOTY, OPOTY, MVP, and WWE WFT moment of the year. Stop reading now if that upsets you.

Episode III: Return of the Sports Stack Awards Debacle

Defensive Rookie of the Year

William Frost: Travon Walker, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars

Some questions about whether he is ready or not for the NFL should have been quickly put to bed through Walker’s preseason snaps. It might not be the prettiest production you will see this year but the former Bulldog’s sheer size and athleticism will push him towards league honour level numbers.
Michael Larson: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Detroit Lions

Michael Larson thinks Tim Duncan is short and bad at baseball.
Martin McConnell: Aiden Hutchinson, Edge, Detroit Lions

HBO’s Hard Knocks has shown me that Aidan Hutchinson probably missed his true calling as
the sixth member of the Backstreet Boys, but he’s a pretty good football player too. The
argument for Hutchinson over any other edge rusher in the draft was that he was the most
pro-ready of the group, and I think you’ll see that come to fruition in his rookie season.
Hutchinson plays a very translatable brand of defensive football, and under Dan Campbell in
Detroit, I can see him racking up sacks this season. That’s really all that matters to the award
voters, so I see Hutchinson as a shoe-in for this award. Even if, as I’ll say until I’m “Big Blue” in
the face, I think the Giants will have the better player in Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Ryan Seiple: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, New York Jets

When you have a nickname like ‘Sauce’ your play better back that up. For Gardner, so far, it has. After not giving up a single touchdown through three seasons of college football, the Jets decided they liked his game enough to take him with the fourth overall pick. With his combination of size, speed, and athleticism, Sauce has the physical tools to become an elite corner. He also brings some much needed swagger to the Jets defense that will boost the performance of the entire unit. According to his Jets teammates, Ahmad Gardner has to earn his ‘Sauce’ nickname. He earns it this year by being the 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and I’ll even go a step further and say I think he’ll be an All-Pro in his rookie year. 

Ryan Smith: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, New York Jets

I’m going to be completely honest, I was not a fan of this draft class. There were very few, if any, players that made me giddy watching film. It felt like the entire class had a second round grade and teams just had to pick players where they could. Maybe that’s because there wasn’t a stud quarterback, maybe it’s because we’re in between big name classes, but I just wasn’t in love with it. However, I do think Sauce Gardner can be a really good corner on the next level, and I’m hoping he has a hilariously freaky game where he picks off Mac Jones like 6 times.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

William Frost: Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

This crop of quarterbacks does not look like it’s ready to win any awards whatsoever. Enter Breece Hall. The rookie runner is potentially my favourite prospect from this year’s draft. In terms of pure running and the ability to turn 4-5 yard gains into 20-30 yard game changers, Hall will quickly establish himself as one of the NFL’s best.
Michael Larson: George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, Michael Larson still works here.
Martin McConnell: Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans

I would like to be able to write this, and say that I’m the only one picking Dameon Pierce for this
award. I’d like to say that I’m so smart and different, and that everyone should realize how smart
and different I am. But I can’t, because my fellow writers and I are all very smart and different,
and we all absolutely adore Texans running back Dameon Pierce. The Texans possess very
little in the way of true playmakers, and I think Pierce can be one. Considering Houston’s
quarterback is Davis Mills, they’ll be relying heavily on Pierce. He’s a fresh back considering he
just… wasn’t used very often at Florida, for whatever reason. With that combination of
ingredients, what else is Houston going to do? Not use him? I rest my case.

Ryan Seiple: George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

George Pickens has been turning heads in Steelers camp. At this point, it’s pretty well-known how successful the Steelers have been at drafting receivers over the years. Pickens is already looking like the next great one. I was asking the fellow Narcissistic Penguin writers what they thought, and our own William Frost pointed out that if George Pickens looks anything like the Offensive Rookie of the Year, then the award is going to Kenny Pickett. While that is a valid point, if reports coming out of Steelers camp are true, then it looks like Pickett won’t be the QB1 to start the year. I believe with the combination of his skill, and the defensive attention that Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and Chase Claypool are going to get, Pickens will hit the ground running as the best offensive rookie of 2022.

Ryan Smith: Skyy Moore, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone keeps saying the sky is falling in Kansas City because Tyreek Hill is gone, but I think the Skyy has just started to light up. After assembling the most “they’re good in Madden” receiving corps I’ve ever seen, the Chiefs pulled off this absolute heist. If the trend of rookie receivers breaking out continues, I fear that the Chiefs may have found a truly dynamic weapon that will keep Kansas City in the conversation in the west.

Comeback Player of the Year

William Frost: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

As always, the Tennessee Titans offense will live and die with Derrick Henry. After his Jones fracture in Week 8 next season Henry will have the opportunity to reassert himself as the league’s dominant running back.
Michael Larson: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Michael Larson thinks that Han shot second.
Martin McConnell: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

One of two possibilities exists for Derrick Henry. He is either going to completely fall off a cliff as
a running back coming back from a serious foot injury nearing the wrong side of 30 years old,
and who has a lot of tread on the tires. Or, and this is much more fun and what I’m predicting
here, it’s like nothing ever happened to his foot in the first place. I’m not 100% convinced that
Henry is “fine” by any means, but if there is any running back who could come back like that, as
an iron man, it’s someone with the genetic cheat codes and talents of Derrick Henry. This one is
simple.

Ryan Seiple: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Last year the Baltimore Ravens were decimated by injury last year on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side, they lost their top three running backs in training camp, rookie receiver Rashod Bateman missed some time dealing with injury, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley wasn’t himself coming back from a major injury suffered during the 2020 season, and starting guard Tyre Phillips was lost early in the season. Lamar was also hobbled at points last season suffering a back injury in September, missed a game in November against Chicago due to a non-COVID-19 illness, and missed the last four games of the season with an ankle injury. After bulking up in the off-season, getting key offensive starters back, and making quality additions on the offensive line via free agency and the draft, Lamar Jackson is poised to bounce back in a big way and lead the Ravens to contention in the ever-combative AFC North.
Ryan Smith: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

C’mon. I’ve been critical of Lamar in the past, but he’s eligible, and even if the team didn’t really address the WR situation and he hasn’t really developed as a passer, Lamar is still going to Lamar. In my opinion, only injuries or a crazy contract situation prevent #8 from bringing home the hardware.

Defensive Player of the Year

William Frost: Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys

Without using even an ounce of hyperbole. Micah Parsons has the potential, athletic profile and versatility to become one of the best Swiss Army knife’s in NFL history on either side of the ball. If Dallas come close to winning the division this year and Parsons can lead the cowboys in sacks for a second straight year – having got 13 in his rookie season, then there should be 0 debate about who
Michael Larson: Maxx Crosby, Edge, Las Vegas Raiders

Michael Larson is actually just three kids, standing on each other’s shoulders, in a trench coat.
Martin McConnell: Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys

I’m tired of picking Myles Garrett for these things and always being wrong, so as much as it
pains me, a Browns fan, to say it, I’m not doing that anymore. The Cowboys’ Micah Parsons
emerged as a force of nature last season, garnering Defensive Player of the Year votes as a
rookie, enough to come in second place behind eventual winner T.J. Watt. Dallas went out,
improved their defensive unit for a second straight offseason, putting Parsons at the forefront of
their scheme and surrounding him with playmakers like Anthony Barr and one of my favorite
third-day draft picks, John Ridgeway. I expect Parsons to dominate national talk about NFL
defenses all season, and take home the award he so narrowly missed out on as a rookie.
Ryan Seiple: Myles Garrett, Edge, Cleveland Browns

There’s been a back and forth about who the best pass rusher in the league is, and two common names discussed are T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett. Watt won the award last year, and I believe that Garrett will match that by winning the award this year. The Browns are coming off of an off-season filled with change, have you seen their defense now?  After some quality additions to the defensive line, and the retention of Jadeveon Clowney, opposing offensive lines won’t be able to afford to double-team Garrett as much and he will take advantage of that. It’s hard to bet against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year who has led the league in sacks for two straight years, but the Browns have stacked that defense with talent that will elevate Myles Garrett’s game enough where he will be crowned the best defensive player in 2022.

Ryan Smith: Maxx Crosby, Edge, Las Vegas Raiders

This is where I’ll let my bias breathe a little bit. I think Maxx Crosby is primed for a monster season. He was absolutely dominant last year with adequate help and a decent scheme. With Graham’s versatile defenses and a partner in crime like Chandler Jones, not to mention a vastly improved secondary, I think Crosby surpasses 13 sacks easily and brings home some hardware.

Offensive Player of the Year

William Frost: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

Everything is in place for Justin Herbert to have an absolutely monster season. The offense has retained everyone of note, whilst adding big time interior lineman Zion Johnson in the draft. If the Chargers get a little more luck with their situational play calls then Herbert will be in with more than a look at offensive player of the year.
Michael Larson: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Michael Larson watches Baseball with the lights off.
Martin McConnell: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor’s breakout season last year came with a massive caveat. Its name was Carson
Wentz. The Colts generally bumbled around under Wentz, floating through the cold void of NFL
meh-ness before fumbling away a playoff spot to the lowly Jaguars. Their season, outside of
Taylor, was thus rightfully viewed as a disappointment. Trading for Matt Ryan was a step in the
right direction as, while “Matty Ice” might be melting due to old age, he still has a little bit left in
the tank. Or, I suppose in this case, the freezer. Taylor’s running abilities are sure to get a boost
from that, as defenses actually fear Ryan’s passing ability, even if just a little bit. I think this is
the year Taylor cements himself as the league’s top bellcow back, and he’ll have an Offensive
Player of the Year award to go with it.

Ryan Seiple: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson has taken the league by storm the last two years. His rookie year saw him get 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, and his second year saw him improve on those numbers with over 1,600 yards and ten touchdowns in year two. Both of those years were under Mike Zimmer. Exit Zimmer, enter Kevin O’Connell. Last year, while he was the offensive coordinator, the Rams had the fifth-ranked passing offense, and saw Cooper Kupp show out with one of the best receiving seasons ever. Even in 2020 with a “mid”, as the youths would say it, quarterback in Jared Goff under center, the Rams still ranked in the top half of the league in terms of passing yardage. Justin Jefferson was good his rookie year, got even better in his second year, and now with an offensive-minded head coach is going to make the leap from good to great in year three. Don’t be surprised if he is the best receiver in the league soon.

Ryan Smith: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

I think Ja’Marr Chase’s time as the best receiver in football is closer than any of us anticipated a year ago when he couldn’t catch a cold. He went on a freakish streak during the season and made Jalen Ramsey look like Jalen Newnam. That second Jalen is a friend of mine, and he couldn’t cover a straw with a top hat. Everyone is sleeping on the Bengals this year, and I think Chase is about to put his phenomenal rookie season to shame.

Coach of the Year

William Frost: Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers

Yeah, you’re all laughing. But the fourth down calls are going to start paying off I promise. The Chargers went all in during the off-season trading for Khalil Mack and signing JC Jackson. The Chargers are in with a real shout of winning the hardest division in football, if they are able to host a playoff game (or games) in the new year then Staley will be ready for a league honour.
Michael Larson: Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Michael Larson has never seen the original Space Jam.
Martin McConnell: Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota Vikings

I’ve picked a lot of chalk so far in these predictions and I’m getting a little antsy right now. A little
chalk-sick. If I don’t do something rash right now, I’m going to burst into flames. You want to get
nuts? Let’s get nuts. The Minnesota Vikings, if a lot of things break their way, have a chance to
actually win this division. Let me paint this picture for you. Kirk Cousins takes a deep breath and
starts actually winning some important games for Minnesota. Dalvin Cook stays healthy. Justin
Jefferson stays the course as an elite receiver. The offensive line holds up behind the
emergence of Christian Darrisaw. The defense comes together under new management in Ed
Donatell. And in Week 17, on New Year’s Day 2023, Aaron Rodgers is too busy ingesting horse
medicine to notice that, as quick as a wink, the NFC North has been stolen from him by some
dudes wearing purple and gold. Not to mention, voters love the Sean McVay coaching tree. It’s
a recipe for success.

Ryan Seiple: Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Kevin O’Connell is inheriting an offense with: Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen. For some reason, Mike Zimmer wasn’t able to coach the team to a winning record. Kevin O’Connell is going to be able to unlock the potential of this offense. Combine the offense that is oozing with potential, with the defense that is headed by defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who coached the Broncos to a top-10 defense in 2019 and 2021 with less talent, the Vikings will be able to pry the division title away from the rival Packers, thanks in no small part to their new Head Coach.

Ryan Smith: Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

Coach of the year is always funny because it rarely goes to the best coach in football. Bill Belichick has only won the award three times and Andy Reid has only won it once. As long as those two have been coaching, with all the success they’ve had, don’t you think they probably should’ve won it more? So I’m going for a team that will presumably finish with one of the better records in the AFC, the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott. They’re still phonies, but they’ll be phonies that have a good regular season.

Most Valuable Player

William Frost: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

Okay, I know it’s the cop out answer. I don’t like it any more than you do (unless you’re from actual New York). But it feels like it’s Josh Allen’s time to get some major recognition from the league. The offense will be more or less the same despite the departure of Brian Daboll and the Bills will most likely be the first team with a guaranteed playoff spot because they share a division with the Dolphins and the Jets.
Michael Larson: Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

Michael Larson has a 13-26 record in Madden.
Martin McConnell: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

In the immortal words of MMA announcer Bruce Buffer, “it’s time.” I was extremely skeptical of
Josh Allen coming out of the 2018 NFL Draft, and I may or may not have a personal vendetta
against the Buffalo Bills, but the fact of the matter remains the same. The Bills were the perfect
situation for a raw prospect like Allen, who has since blossomed into one of the game’s most
electrifying players. I think this is the year Allen gets it done. Will the Bills win the Super Bowl?
I’m not sure. But I believe Allen is primed for an even bigger year than he had in 2020 or 2021.

Ryan Seiple: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen came into the league raw, extremely raw. He was looking like a bust after his first two seasons. Then it clicked for him in year three, and he continued that momentum in year four. Buffalo may have lost Cole Beasley, but they gained reliable veteran target Jamison Crowder, as well as adding James Cook who has potential to be a pretty good dump off target out of the backfield. Pair those additions with the guys they already have: Top-10 receiver Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis whom I believe will build off of his playoff performance from last postseason, Isaiah McKenzie, and Dawson Knox. Josh Allen has a multitude of weapons, to pair with his elite athleticism and cannon of an arm. Allen is going to prove that he’s not just the product of Brian Daboll’s offensive system, but the elite quarterback that the Bills selected him to be with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft. He puts together his best season yet, taking home the hardware for the best player in the league.

Ryan Smith: Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

I am all in on the Cincinnati Bengals as the most fun team to watch in the AFC (outside of the AFC West) this season. I think the Josh Allen hype might take a hit without Daboll and I think Herbert’s hype has a farther reach than his arm, which is really saying something. People forget that Burrow was a stud behind a miserably bad offensive line, and that the Bengals likely would’ve won the Super Bowl if he could’ve had another second in the pocket. With a revamped offensive line, I think Joe establishes himself as the best young quarterback in the NFL (Mahomes is 26, he’s not young anymore).

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