With nine weeks in the past and the same quantity in the future, the midpoint of the NFL regular season has arrived. This time of year provides both fans and franchises an opportunity to reflect on what’s transpired thus far and expectations for the future. There may be some who look back on the first nine weeks with disgust, but there are also those who experienced a sublime start to the season. For the latter, it’s fair to speculate whether or not they may add some new hardware to their trophy case in a handful of months. There may be no better time to begin that speculation than exactly halfway through the regular season. With that being said, it’s time to hand out some midseason awards.
Most Valuable Player: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Does leading the league in passing yards matter? I’d say so, but what about passing touchdowns? Seems like some easy questions to me. If you agree, you’d likely see the logic behind Patrick Mahomes being recognized as the midpoint NFL MVP. It’s not to say that there’s no argument for other players, but Mahomes’ resume outweighs his counterparts for now. Many doubted whether or not the Chiefs could withstand the departure of Tyreek Hill and the AFC West’s increase in talent over the offseason. Not to be premature, but the volume of those doubters has surely softened. With an impressive record and consistent jaw-dropping showings, Mahomes has edged his spot at the top for now. That doesn’t disregard the players on his heels. Unlike other awards mentioned below, this race is tight. However, somebody has to be named. There simply isn’t enough of a reason to not hand it to the league’s most talented player at the sport’s most important position.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins
A quick glance at the stat sheet sheds some light on what Tyreek Hill has accomplished in his first year as a Miami Dolphin. Football’s scariest deep-threat has racked up a league-leading 1,104 receiving yards on 76 receptions. That equates to just over 14.5 yards per reception. It’s even more impressive when considering that Hill leads the NFL in receptions of 20-plus yards. Whether you go off the numbers or the game day impact of a player, Hill is the clear leader in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year race. There may be no other weapon who changes the way defensive coordinators formulate their game plan than Hill. You can’t teach speed, it’s hard to stop it, too.
Defensive Player of the Year: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
With multiple sacks in four of the first nine games of the season, Micah Parsons has quickly blossomed into not only a star, but one of the league’s premier defensive players. As it’s only Parsons’ second NFL season, it’s remarkable how quickly he’s progressed. Whether it’s due to his athleticism, versatility, or another one of his elite attributes, there’s no question that NFL offensive linemen must account for him on each play. As long as Parsons continues striking fear into opposing sidelines, tallying impressive numbers, and leading one of the NFL’s best defenses, he will be deserving of serious honors. In this case, he takes home the midseason award for Defensive Player of the Year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
It’s challenging to find an adequate word to describe the way Kenneth Walker plays the game of football. For the purpose of this article, the cliché of “electric” will have to do. Pete Carroll-led football teams prioritize the rushing attack, making the rookie’s transition from Michigan State to Seattle ideal. That second round draft pick seems to be glowing with value as Walker slipped through the cracks of the NFL Draft. It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you finish. Walker is great evidence of that statement through the first half of the season. Does 26 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns in a road game against a divisional foe sound impressive? How about 570 rushing yards in eight weeks where he only received double-digit carries in half of those games? Walker is, pardon my pun, running away with this award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, New York Jets
Since 2000, only two cornerbacks have gone on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Those winners came in 2015 and 2017 with Marcus Peters and Marshon Lattimore being the recipients. There’s more than enough evidence to suggest that “Sauce” Gardner is qualified to join that class. The rookie has been thrust into a key role on a Jets defense that has propelled the team to a 6-3 record through the first half of the season. In his latest outing, Gardner picked off one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, Josh Allen, and tallied seven total tackles in an upset victory over the Buffalo Bills. Big moments such as that surely help build momentum towards various awards. The hype surrounding Gardner on draft day seems to have been valid. It’s hard to argue there’s been a more impactful rookie on the defensive side of the ball thus far in the season.
Comeback Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
After being selected second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the sky seemed to be the limit for the former Penn State running back. Saquon Barkley went on to win the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year award in a season where he was also selected to the Pro Bowl. However, much has changed since then. Most of that change originates from the medical side of football, with Barkley suffering injuries that left him off the field. Barkley hasn’t played 16 games in a season since his stellar rookie year, but his play in 2022 indicates that he is back to being the full force he once was. With nearly 800 yards already, Barkley has been the centerpiece of New York’s offense. Barkley deserves a serious chunk of credit for the Giants’ hot start to the season. To win this award, it takes two elements, a great story combined with fantastic numbers. No NFL player has fit that mold more than Barkley has through nine games.
Coach of the Year: Brian Daboll, New York Giants
The Giants have a 6-2 record. It still feels weird to type that sentence. To say it simply, New York had many doubters and little expectations entering the season. Brian Daboll has shattered those groups over the first half of the season. The energy around the franchise seems to finally be headed in the right direction. Not to mention, Daboll has been marvelous on his side of the ball. Quarterback Daniel Jones, who was practically written off before the season, has made improvements, while running back Saquon Barkley is back to playing at an elite level. It was clear that few people thought Daboll was inheriting a great situation this past offseason. That must be considered when evaluating what he’s done for the franchise in his first season at the helm. There’s a long way to go, but the league’s most impressive turnaround deserves its credit at this point in the season.