The Runner Sports

2017 TRS NFL Awards

Before the New England Patriots can take on the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday, there are a bunch of accolades and recognition for the 2016-17 season we must dish out. The NFL Honors take place Saturday, February 4 at 8 PM ET and can be caught on FOX.

While the Associated Press will decide the official winners tomorrow, the NFL staff writers of The Runner Sports, as always, look to throw our own awards out into the wind. This year we have a six-person voting panel that will decide the 2017 TRS NFL Awards.

Each writer is given three votes; a first place vote being worth 5 points, a second place vote worth 3, and third place vote worth 1. The recipient with the most voting point totals will win the award. Should there have been a numerical tie, the award would go to the recipient with the most first place votes. If again there were a stalemate, a vote-off of the two candidates would have taken place. While we had plenty of tight races, no award this season required a tie-breaker. The full voting results can be found at the bottom of the article.

 

Coach of the Year

Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys

Other notable votes: Dan Quinn, Bill Belichick

In the narrowest voting margin of the NFL Award season, Jason Garrett squeaks by Super Bowl-bound Dan Quinn by a mere point. Garrett led the Cowboys to team-tying record 13-3 season and their second NFC East title in three years. What perhaps made Garrett’s run most impressive was the manner in which they got there.

The Cowboys have spent the better half of this decade beefing up their offensive line to one of the NFL’s best. Providing all the opportunity in the world, the offense was supposed to sail into the promised land behind the arm of Tony Romo. Instead, Romo saw just seven snaps all year after yet another career-derailing back injury suffered in preseason. The Cowboys wouldn’t miss a beat behind a pair of sensational rookies, however. It’s one thing to have gone into the year knowing Dak Prescott would be his quarterback, a completely other to have just a full preseason week to turn Dak from disciple to starter.

Coach of the year awards are typically hotly contested, and I am eager to see the reaction on the voting for this particular award.

 

Comeback Player of the Year

Jordy Nelson – WR – Green Bay Packers

16 games, 97 receptions, 1257 yards, 14 TDs

Other notable votes: Melvin Gordon, Jimmy Graham

Jordy Nelson missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL suffered in the opening drive of a preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Packers offense suffered mightily due to it. Nelson was the Packers’ leading receiver in three of the four seasons leading up to 2015. And without Nelson in the lineup, the Packers offense dipped from one the league’s most lethal, to one of the worst. From 2014 to 2015 the Packers went from the top scoring offense to the 15th, and from posting the 6th most yards to 23rd. A versatile target, the Packers quickly found out their complementary pieces were not quite capable of shouldering a defensive secondary’s attention without Nelson.

Returned from the knee injury, even despite some early struggle, the Packers stormed through the second half of the season to finish a more normal 4th in points scored and 8th in total yards in 2016. Nelson’s presence without a doubt playing a big role.

ACL injuries aren’t quite the career-jeopardizing injuries they once were, but there’s still no telling how a skill position player will bounce back. NFL wide receivers rely heavily on deceptive cuts and blistering speed to create separation, and without a viable knee, there’s just none of that.

Nelson more than made a return, re-assuming his role as WR1 and the Packers offense was more than thankful for that.

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Joey Bosa – DE – San Diego Chargers

29 tackles, 10.5 sacks

Other notable votes: Jalen Ramsey, Eli Apple

San Diego Chargers fans can revel in their final swan song for the franchise as they know it, watching Joey Bosa run away with this award. The former Buckeye was hardly challenged in this voting, and will give San Diego fans a teary-eyed final goodbye to a franchise they’ve called their own for 56 years. What’s perhaps most painful about this award is knowing that this team could build a respectable defense around some young promising players and it won’t be their franchise any longer. The Chargers had two Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie representatives from their defense, and a third via TE Hunter Henry.

After a near Eli Manning holdout, Joey Bosa quickly flipped a fan base that was weary of him after extended negotiating, notching two sacks in his debut. Bosa would go on to lead all rookies in sacks (10.5) despite appearing in just 12 games.

 

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ezekiel Elliott – RB – Dallas Cowboys

322 rush attempts, 1631 yards, 15 TDs, 32 receptions, 363 yards, 1 TD

Other notable votes: Dak Prescott, Tyreek Hill

It’s special enough to have a draft pick break out the NFL at any point in their professional career, let alone in their first campaign. It’s something entirely unheard of to have your team led by a duo of rookies at the two most vital offensive positions. But that’s exactly what the Dallas Cowboys had fall into their lap in 2016.

In a league where dominating running backs are a truly dying breed, paving way for a back-by-committees, Ezekiel Elliott took off running and never looked back. He paced his way to a near NFL rookie record 1631 yards rushing, trailing only Eric Dickerson’s mark of 1808. Be mindful that with playoff fate all but wrapped up, Elliott saw light work in Week 16, and entirely sat out of Week 17.

Elliott has plenty to thanks owed to the stellar offensive line that opened up giant chasms of space for him to operate in and around. But that’s not to entirely discredit the workload he put in. Elliott had 938 yards after contact according to Pro Football Focus. A powerful back with a burst of speed, Elliott also flashed his versatility, pulling down 32 receptions on 39 targets.

I do have to admit, that Elliott does not take this award unanimously here, and that’s via my own voting. I feel I should provide that explanation before you see the full votes below.

I voted Dak Prescott first for the simple reason that he had a full week to prep to take on this full offense. Elliott had the benefit of coming into camp likely knowing that shy of falling on his face, the starting job was his. Dak was set to ride the bench and provide a solid depth behind an injury-riddled Romo while he learned to become an NFL starter. That plan was tossed out the window. The role of an NFL quarterback is both the most demanding and most daunting in professional sports. The entirety of the offense rests in their arm and decision-making. It took five-plus games for Dak to make his first NFL mistake, and made a seamless transition for this offense.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Vic Beasley – LB – Atlanta Falcons

32 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 1 fumble return TD

Other notable votes: Landon Collins, Von Miller

This was a peculiar voting process. Despite taking half of the first place votes, Vic Beasley narrowly wins DPOY by a single point. Omitted entirely on the remaining three ballots, Landon Collins’ mad run on second place voting nearly caught Beasley. The Atlanta Falcons had a ton of names dashed throughout the NFL Awards voting thus far, but all have come up short.

In his second season, Beasley was healthy and right in the middle of one of the more improved defenses in football. The Falcons feature a vicious front-seven, if not in sheer talent, then in persistence. Led by defensive aficionado Dan Quinn, the Falcons weren’t afraid to throw caution to the wind and send the defense at QBs in full force. Beasley took full advantage of this operating at outside linebacker. And despite a secondary that’s been torched at times, the gamble has paid off for the Falcons for the most part.

Beasley turned 97% of his QB pressures into sacks, and not a single other player did so more than 75% of the time. And while that number without context is impressive, it also means that Beasley was a relatively boom or bust pass rusher. Totaling just 16 knockdowns, Beasley was far from the most disruptive rusher this season. But with that sack conversion rate and knowing when Beasley made it behind the O-line the boomstick was coming played heavily into his 5th best QB hurries.

Outside of just the TRS voting, this will likely be the most contested of the NFL Awards. Did we get it right, or should somebody else have topped the list?

 

Offensive Player of the Year

Matt Ryan – QB – Atlanta Falcons

69.9% completion rate, 4944 yards, 38 TDs,

Other notable votes: David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott

While there were plenty of names to garner a vote here, Matt Ryan ultimately, and comfortably, takes this award. Leading the NFL’s best offense this season, Ryan paced the entire league in a number of statistical categories. Long leaving many wondering if we’d ever see another level of Matty Ice, Ryan finally tapped into that final gear in 2016.

Featuring a duo of impressive split backs in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, as well as the always threatening Julio Jones, the Falcons led the league with 540 points this season. The only team to top them in any category, the New Orleans Saints, really failing to take that offensive firepower and make something of it, whereas the Falcons cashed in at nearly every opportunity.

 

Most Valuable Player

Matt Ryan – QB – Atlanta Falcons

69.9% completion rate, 4944 yards, 38 TDs,

Other notable votes: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers

I didn’t want to drum on too much above knowing that Ryan would immediately need another section having won the league’s most coveted personal award. The conductor to the sweet symphony, Ryan was always going to be the difference maker for the Falcons. And that’s where the controversy of most MVP debates boil down to. Is it the league’s best player, or most valuable in being most important to their team’s success? Perhaps next year we’ll outright abandon the MVP and title this something else, but for now, Ryan certainly makes this a relatively controversy-free year.

Other than posting statistically superior figures to his closest competition, Tom Brady –even after converting Brady’s season to a 16-game average–, Matt Ryan also has that “most valuable advantage.” The Patriots went 3-1 with a second and third stringer behind center while Brady served out his four-game “Deflategate” suspension. There’s little doubt that Tom Brady will go down as the NFL’s greatest QB in the game, but certainly for this season, behind the league’s top defense, the Patriots operated well in his absence. Could the same have been said had Ryan missed four games? Probably not.

Related: Why Tom Brady should not win the MVP

Ryan, as mentioned above, was the facilitator to the well-oiled offensive machine the Falcons ran this season. The Falcons gave up 24 or more points 10 times this season. Without that offensive leadership, there’s no saying what the Falcons might have looked like. They certainly wouldn’t be preparing for the Super Bowl.

Ryan’s 117.1 QBR was the fifth-best QBR in NFL history. He had at least a 7.91 YPA in all 16 games this season, crushing a previous best of 6.87 by Kurt Warner in 2001. Having a deep threat like Julio Jones allows you to open the field, but you gotta get the ball there, and Ryan also had the second-highest accuracy percentage on balls 20 yards or more downfield according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, the deeper the ball the better Ryan seems to be. He had a 136.1  passer rating on passes of 20+ yards, and was the only QB not to throw an interception on attempts of 20+ yards. In an era of dink-and-dunk offenses, that has to stand out.

There is a little bit of concern for taking home this award, however. No NFL MVP has gone on to win the Super Bowl since 2000.

 

The Falcons could end up with an abundance of hardware on Saturday night, but I’m sure they’re much more concerned about the Lombardi Trophy being handed out the following evening.

Were the results as you expected, or do you believe there was some serious snubbing going on here today? Let’s hear your votes in the comments.

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the founder and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I've been an avid sports fan since I was a child and have turned that love into a profession. I will watch, comment, and break down anything I can get my hands on, from football to white water rafting in the Olympics. Your visit means a lot to me, so thank you for your readership.
Tyler Arnold

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