The NFL Honors are not until just before the Super Bowl, but I wanted to release my 2023 award picks before the postseason begins. It was certainly an unorthodox year around the NFL, but these are my selections for MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, and more.
MVP: Josh Allen, Bills
This won’t be as big of a travesty as 2021 when I felt Tom Brady clearly should have won MVP after accounting for 78.2% of his team’s offensive yardage and leading the NFL in total touchdowns (45) by three. But in this very odd season for an MVP race, I feel that—despite the turnover issues—Josh Allen should get the nod after topping the NFL with 44 total touchdowns (the next closest was six behind him with 38) and 4,830 total yards while leading the Bills to an 11-6 record, AFC East title, and the No. 2 seed in the AFC amidst a change in offensive coordinator during the year.
People will point to Allen’s 22 turnovers and say there is no precedent for someone that turns the ball over like that winning MVP. However, we don’t need to go further than Brett Favre’s 20 turnovers (compared to 36 total touchdowns) in his third consecutive MVP campaign in 1997 and Kurt Warner throwing 22 interceptions alone (36 touchdown passes) as the MVP in 2001. And furthermore, as stated, this was an odd season for Most Valuable Player, with no one clearly separating themselves from the pack. The rocket-armed dual threat gives some Favre vibes and is asked to do so much for Buffalo on offense. It won’t happen (Lamar Jackson, who I am as big of a fan of as anyone and have been since his time at Louisville, will win), but Allen should be the 2023 NFL MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, 49ers
I think Christian McCaffrey could have been the one to assert himself as the league MVP in what should have been considered a wide-open race, but a somewhat down final game by his standards before leaving with a calf issue that held him out of Week 18 for precautionary reasons made it a more challenging case for the superstar runner. Still, CMC paced the league with 339 total touches, 2,023 yards from scrimmage, and 21 combined touchdowns rushing and receiving—getting the slight edge over other candidates like CeeDee Lamb and Tyreek Hill. McCaffrey led the NFL in rushing with 1,459 yards and was a total machine in Kyle Shanahan’s offense while helping the 49ers get the top seed in the NFC.
Defensive Player of the Year: DaRon Bland, Cowboys
There are a ton of Defensive Player of the Year options in my opinion, but this came down to Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt and Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland. With nine interceptions and a single-season record five pick-sixes—a record triumphantly broken on Thanksgiving—the gamebreaking nature of Bland’s play makes him a very worthy selection. Bland racked up 209 return yards on his nine picks, and he also recorded 69 tackles in Dan Quinn’s defense.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: C.J. Stroud, Texans
I want to give a top-flight honorable mention to Rams receiver Puka Nacua in this spot after he set rookie records for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,486), but it’s so tough to pick against C.J. Stroud after he helped lead the Texans to an AFC South title in Year 1. Stroud threw for 273.9 yards per game (third in the NFL, and tops among players that have played more than eight games) along with 23 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions, and that was with the receiving group banged up throughout the year. The highlight for Stroud was a 470-yard, five-touchdown victory over the Bucs to kick off a stretch of four consecutive games with 300+ passing yards in November.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Porter Jr., Steelers
My preseason pick Jalen Carter is the heavy favorite to win this award, but I disagree if that turns out to be the case. Yes, there have been some penalties called against Joey Porter Jr., but he’s otherwise basically been a lockdown corner in his first year in the league—and the second-round pick out of Penn State has done it while often shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers. I think Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon should also be getting more love, but Porter put in a definite Defensive Rookie of the Year type of season.
Comeback Player of the Year: Damar Hamlin, Bills
Many people are negative and will take the stance that Damar Hamlin didn’t play a ton this season and should not be Comeback Player of the Year. I don’t think anyone other than Hamlin should get it for the comeback he made from a near-death experience suffered on the field last season. To come back and play after that is simply remarkable.
Coach of the Year: Kevin Stefanski, Browns
Dan Campbell was my preseason pick for Coach of the Year and should get strong consideration after leading the Lions to 12 wins. I’ll give the slight edge to Kevin Stefanski for the way he navigated injuries to Nick Chubb and others—along with a depleted quarterback room that picked up and integrated former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco seamlessly en route to a comfortable playoff berth in the AFC.