NFLMocks’ Midseason NFL Award Ceremony: Patrick Mahomes Wins MVP, Sauce Gardner Earns DROY, and Much More!

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass during the third quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo.Nfl Tennessee Titans At Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass during the third quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo.Nfl Tennessee Titans At Kansas City Chiefs /

The 2022 season has been full of surprises, leading to several unexpected contenders for awards at the midway point. Where is Patrick Mahomes in MVP voting? Does Sauce Gardner have DROY locked up already? NFLMocks’ Midseason NFL Award Ceremony is here to answer those questions and more!

Coach of the Year Award:
1. Nick Sirianni (Eagles)
2. Kevin O’Connell (Vikings)
3. Brian Daboll (Giants)
4. Robert Saleh (Jets)
5. Pete Carroll (Seahawks)

The Philadelphia Eagles are the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFL. Nick Sirianni went 9-8 and led his team to the playoffs in 2021, his first year as the head coach in Philly. In 2022, the group sits at 8-0, almost surpassing their 2021 total already.

When the Eagles hired Nick Sirianni from the Indianapolis Colts, where he served as the offensive coordinator under Frank Reich, the move brought many questions. Most notably, people around the league wondered aloud how much responsibility Sirianni had during his time with the Colts.

Considering Frank Reich was fired earlier this week, and Nick Sirianni is in the top spot for Coach of the Year, it feels safe to say the Eagles made a great decision. Sirianni established a run-first approach and has played a key role in developing Jalen Hurts as a passer at quarterback.

Kevin O’Connell deserves praise for getting his team to 7-1 at the midway point of the season. Their only loss came to the Eagles, as the Vikings look like one of the best teams in the NFL right now. As the two teams jockey for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, these two head coaches will do the same with the Coach of the Year award.

Two more head coaches — both from New York — need their flowers, too. Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh and Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll each have more wins in 2022 than their team did in 2021. Saleh, in year two, has transformed the Jets’ defense. Daboll, in year one, has been able to do the same with the Giants’ offense. Do not rule these two out from making a run for the award.

The final name is the polar opposite of the first four on this list. Pete Carroll is a CFB National Champion and a Super Bowl Champion. He led the USC Trojans and the Seattle Seahawks to the Promised Land, becoming one of the most accomplished head coaches in the history of the sport.

Carroll and Co. were *supposed* to endure a rebuilding year in 2022, but new starting quarterback Geno Smith, and their stacked 2022 NFL Draft class, had other things in mind. Under the tutelage of a Hall of Fame coach, the Seahawks have overachieved and sit alone in first place in the NFC West at 6-3, the only winning record in the division.

NFL Comeback Player of the Year:
1. Geno Smith (Seahawks)
2. Saquon Barkley (Giants)
3. Derrick Henry (Titans)
4. Christian McCaffrey (Niners)
5. Travis Etienne (Jaguars)

Speaking of Geno Smith, he would win Comeback Player of the Year if the season ended today. Smith stepped in to fill the shoes of Russell Wilson, following the latter’s trade to the Denver Broncos during the offseason. Admittedly, I did not expect much from the journeyman quarterback, but Smith has proven that he should have been starting all along.

The remainder of this list consists of four running backs. Veterans Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey missed a majority of 2021, but have bounced back to their normal selves this year. Henry has scored every offensive touchdown for the Titans dating back to week six. McCaffrey, now a Niner, took very little time showing the fans in San Fran what he is capable of when healthy. CMC isn’t going to win the league MVP award, but he has a chance to be fantasy football golf the rest of the way.

Youngsters like Saquon Barkley and Travis Etienne are showcasing their elite potential after they both dealt with lower extremity injuries in 2021. Barkley, like Henry, is the centerpiece of a surprisingly effective Giants offense. It is scary to think where they would be without him. Etienne is proving why he was taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The former Clemson running back took over the top spot following James Robinson’s trade to the Jets, and he has been one of the best backs in the league since.

NFL MVP Award:
1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
2. Jalen Hurts (Eagles)
3. Josh Allen (Bills)
4. Tyreek Hill (Dolphins)
5. Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins)

As amazing as Patrick Mahomes has been in his 4.5 seasons as the starter in KC, the superstar signal-caller has not won an MVP award since his first campaign behind center. This year, Mahomes is at the peak of his game. The trade of Tyreek Hill led many to believe a step back could occur in 2022, but Mahomes put all that chatter to rest. He is the most valuable player if the season ended today.

Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, two former Alabama quarterbacks and teammates, each has their respective team positioned to challenge for a conference title. Hurts is leading the way for the best team in the NFL and doing so with his arm, not just his legs. In 2021, Hurts was undoubtedly a run-first QB, but he has improved his completion percentage by 7 points this season, which helped take the offense to new heights. No one expected Hurts to be an MVP in 2022, but he continues to prove doubters wrong.

Tagovailoa, on the other hand, has always been praised for his pinpoint accuracy. Thanks to new head coach Mike McDaniel (and the addition of Tyreek Hill), Tagovailoa has flexed his precision in a scheme that requires it. Tua consistently gets the ball to his playmakers and lets them do the work. He will never be confused as a strong-armed QB, but the lefty is as good as any within the 10-25 yard range. It remains to be seen how he holds up in a playoff setting, but the MVP is a regular-season award, and Tagovailoa is firmly in the conversation.

Josh Allen, along with Mahomes, was the betting favorite to win MVP on every Sportsbook entering the season. He is living up to that hype with 23 total touchdowns in eight games thus far. An elbow injury could put Allen on the shelf for a week or two, but that should not take him out of the running for MVP. The Bills are one of the best teams in football, and Josh Allen is the biggest reason why.

Finally, we arrive at a player that has been name-dropped a few times already. Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill traded in his Chiefs apparel for the Teal & Orange. Immediately after “Reek” was traded, people around the league began to wonder how he would perform outside the Andy Reid scheme. The answer? Even better than he performed in the Andy Reid scheme. Wide receivers do not win the MVP award, as we were reminded last season with Cooper Kupp, but Hill is carrying even more of the weight and is on pace to set records. He deserves some votes.

Offensive Player of the Year:
1. Tyreek Hill (Dolphins)
2. Nick Chubb (Browns)
3. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
4. Jalen Hurts (Eagles)
5. Stefon Diggs (Bills)

I am not done hyping Tyreek Hill yet. Through nine games, even without Patrick Mahomes behind center, Hill snagged 76 catches for 1,104 yards and three touchdowns. The TD number is underwhelming, but his reception and yardage pace are on a record-breaking trajectory. Yes, there are 17 games now, but this does not detract from the phenomenal season Tyreek Hill is having. After making the MVP list, Hill is my pick for Offensive Player of the Year at the midway point.

Browns running back Nick Chubb is right on Hill’s heels. Chubb has solidified his place as the best pure runner in the NFL, aside from maybe Derrick Henry. Without Chubb, the Browns would likely have the worst offense in the league. In the team’s three wins this season, Chubb combined for 355 rushing yards and three touchdowns. If MVP truly went to the most valuable player to their respective team, Chubb would be in the running for that award too.

Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will battle for the MVP trophy, but that is not the only one. Each quarterback has a claim to the Offensive Player of the Year award as well. Ironically enough, Mahomes was the last quarterback to win the award, back in 2018. Hurts might have the edge between the two due to his rushing prowess.

A slew of players have an argument for the final spot on this list, but my pick is Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs. He has recorded *at least* 62 yards in every game so far, including five games with 100+ yards AND a touchdown. Tyreek Hill deserves the praise for finding success without Mahomes, and Cooper Kupp deserved it in 2021, but Stefon Diggs is the best all-around receiver in the NFL. He deserves credit for his consistent productivity.

Defensive Player of the Year:
1. Micah Parsons (Cowboys)
2. Nick Bosa (Niners)
3. Aaron Donald (Rams)
4. Myles Garrett (Browns)
5. Matthew Judon (Patriots)

Matthew Judon leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5 and has three games with multiple sacks this season, including his dominant three-sack performance against the Indianapolis Colts. No one else in the NFL owns more than 8.5 sacks, showcasing Judon’s proficiency at tracking down opposing quarterbacks. It is likely Judon suffers the same fate that former Bears pass rusher Robert Quinn faced in 2021. The lofty sack totals will not be enough to claim the award on their own.

Myles Garrett and Aaron Donald are fixtures in Defensive Player of the Year talks and have been since they both entered the league. Garrett finished third with 16 sacks in 2021, logging only the second full season of his career. He is performing very well in 2022, earning the highest PFF grade (92.9) for any player thus far, regardless of position. As good as Garrett has been in his career, he has never been better than he is right now.

Aaron Donald, a three-time DPOY, knows what it takes to win the award. The problem with that is, Donald is not competing against the rest of the NFL, he’s competing against himself each year. It is not enough to be the best defensive player in the league; for Donald, he has to play like an MVP to secure votes. This is why I have him behind a couple of others.

Nick Bosa is No. 2 on this list because, to put it plainly, he is unblockable. Bosa faces constant double teams and still has the best win rate in the NFL. Any time he is left on an island by himself with an offensive tackle, he makes that tackle look like a baby giraffe. Bosa has struggled with injuries in his career, but I have never seen him look as good as he does in 2022.

At the midway point of the season, the Defensive Player of the Year award is Micah Parson’s to lose. After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2021, and being the runner-up for DPOY, Parsons entered his second season in the NFL with a hunger to build on his rookie success. Parsons has four games with multiple sacks, five games with multiple QB hits, and even returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown in week eight vs. Chicago. He is doing it all for the Cowboys’ defense, helping elevate the group to a 6-2 record, even with Dak Prescott missing a month.

Offensive Rookie of the Year:
1. Kenneth Walker III (Seahawks)
2. Dameon Pierce (Texans)
3. Chris Olave (Saints)
4. Garrett Wilson (Jets)
5. George Pickens (Steelers)

For the first month and a half, it looked as though this would be a two-man race between Texans running back Dameon Pierce and Saints wide receiver Chris Olave. Both guys are still firmly in contention, but a few more names have added themselves to the conversation.

George Pickens and Garrett Wilson are surging as the season progresses. Pickens put up a stinker vs. the Eagles, but the Steelers failed to reach 200 passing yards as a team, so we will look past it. Pickens is set to be a true No. 1 option for Pittsburgh going forward, and with Chase Claypool being traded, more opportunities should open for the former Georgia Bulldog.

Garrett Wilson started hot the first couple of games but then disappeared for a month or so. Similar to Pickens, the lack of production is more indicative of poor quarterback play than it is an indictment of their play. The former Buckeye is heating up, though. Over the past two weeks, Wilson has taken over the WR1 mantle on the roster with 14 receptions for 207 yards. Both guys are on the outside looking in, but Wilson specifically is trending towards making a run at OROY.

Back to Dameon Pierce and Chris Olave. Pierce won the starting gig in Houston before the regular season began. He garnered tons of hype in both real-life and fantasy football and has lived up to it with 678 rushing yards (6th in NFL). Olave also entered his rookie season with sky-high expectations. The Saints’ first-round pick instantly became a top route runner in the league and has put up at least 50 yards in every game since week two.

My pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year is Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III. As great as the other players on this list have performed, KW3 is the focal point of a winning team’s offense. Walker has displayed his impeccable vision and patience between the tackles and is proving that concerns regarding his athleticism were flat-out wrong. In a stacked Seahawks rookie class, Walker is standing above the rest on offense.

Defensive Rookie of the Year:
1. Sauce Gardner (Jets)
2. Tariq Woolen (Seahawks)
3. Jack Jones (Patriots)
4. Devin Lloyd (Jaguars)
5. Aidan Hutchinson (Lions)

Aidan Hutchinson dominated college football last season and parlayed the success into a Heisman invite and a No. 2 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Hutchinson remained in Michigan, donning the Honolulu blue of the Detroit Lions. It has been an up-and-down season for the rookie pass rusher, but the positives are enough to place him in the backend of DROY convos.

The Jaguars’ “other” first-round pick, Devin Lloyd, is making more of an immediate impact for the defensive unit than No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. Not to say Walker hasn’t impressed, he has, but Lloyd is manning the middle of the defense and looks like a veteran already. Having played nearly every snap this season, Lloyd’s stat line consists of 69 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. The sheer volume should be enough for a top-five finish.

The Defensive Rookie of the Year winner is almost always a pass rusher or an off-ball linebacker. In fact, 20 of the last 22 winners fit into that category, with only two cornerbacks (Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Peters) taking home the award. Another name will be added to Lattimore and Peters in 2022; it is just a matter of *which* one.

Patriots fourth-rounder Jack Jones is the first of a trio that deserves consideration at cornerback. Jones, like the next two on the list, immediately filled the role of CB1 on the teams’ depth chart. Jones is an elite player in both man and zone coverage as a rookie. He is the ONLY cornerback in the NFL with an 80+ grade in both coverages (via PFF). Jones has two interceptions and has only allowed 229 yards in 199 coverage snaps.

Next on the list is an even bigger steal from the 2022 NFL Draft, Seahawks’ Tariq Woolen. A first-round player on my Final Big Board, it was stunning to see Woolen fall to No. 153 in the draft. The Seattle Seahawks scooped him up in the fifth round; the rest is history. In 362 coverage snaps, Woolen has allowed only 282 yards. He has four interceptions, tied for second-most in the NFL, and is allowing a 54.2 passer rating to pair with his two fumble recoveries. Tariq Woolen is 1b on my DROY rankings.

The final name is arguably the most deserving of the award. The New York Jets selected Sauce Gardner at No. 4 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft; Gardner has proven to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL since his debut, even playing at a near MVP level. You already know that a man who calls himself Sauce is a confident human being, and the shutdown corner has every right to be. Gardner leads the NFL with 14 passes defended, including two interceptions. Nobody in the league grades higher than Sauce does in man coverage, cementing himself as one of the best players in the NFL and the front-runner for DROY.