The trophy every player in the NFL wants to win will be hoisted in Arizona for a week on Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
On the preceding Thursday, a host of players and coaches will receive recognition for their individual efforts at the annual NFL Honors ceremony.
The candidates for the awards are hotly debated each season, although this year the field for each award has been trimmed with the NFL’s list of finalists being released for the first time.
In the case of MVP, the top two candidates are the quarterbacks who face each other in the Super Bowl, with Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts also vying for the game’s most illustrious award.
But who should be the recipients of the awards offered at Phoenix’s Symphony Hall, according to Stats Perform’s advanced data? Here we list our award winners for 2022, including one that isn’t among the finalists and hits the red carpet next week.
MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
While these are regular season accolades, Mahomes’ one-legged exploits in the AFC Championship Game were the perfect illustration of why he is the most valuable player in the league.
Even when physically handicapped by a sprained ankle, Mahomes can produce magical moves through the air and on the ground at his greatest moments, and this season he’s elevated a supporting cast stripped of the downfield menace of Tyreek Hill.
Only Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills averaged more yards than expected in real passing situations than Mahomes’ 1.66 (at least 100 such plays). However, Mahomes had the accuracy advantage, delivering a well-thrown ball on 82.1 percent of his pass attempts, outscoring both Allen (79.7%) and Hurts (81).
Mahomes surpassed 5,000 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns in a single season for the second time in his career to be the top regular season player in the NFL in 2022, and the reality is it wasn’t particularly close.
Offensive Player of the Year: Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders’ acquisition of Adams in a blockbuster trade with the Packers didn’t deliver the team results they wanted in 2022, but individually, his debut season with Las Vegas was one of the best of his career.
Adams’ 14 receiving touchdowns led the NFL, and although his 1,516 receiving yards trailed Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill, his combined man open percentage and zone coverage of 52.18 was superior to both Jefferson and Hill.
With 10 touchdown receptions of 20 yards or more in 2022, Adams was the NFL’s most explosive receiving threat in a season that reaffirmed his status as one of the best route runners of his generation. The Raiders may want to quickly forget this season, but Adams’ campaign was worth remembering.
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
This award will almost certainly go to Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers next week, but there is a strong case for Jones as a more impactful defenseman on a down-to-down basis in 2022.
Indeed, Jones’ 58 percent pass rush victory percentage and his 72.7 percent run defense victory percentage surpassed Bosa’s, who finished a season in which he led the NFL in sacks (18.5) with a pass rush victory percentage of 51.4 percent and 63.6 percent run block win rate.
Like his quarterback, Jones shines when the situation is most pressing, with his ability to create pass rushes by working both inside and outside the perimeter, making him a relentless nightmare for offensive lines. If the Chiefs celebrate under confetti in Arizona next Sunday, Jones will probably have a big reason for it.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
Sample size be damned! Purdy not only kept the 49ers afloat after Jimmy Garoppolo joined Trey Lance as he went to the sidelines with a serious injury, but also helped improve the offense as San Francisco won all five of its regular season starts as part of a 10-game winning streak streak to end the 17 match campaign.
While no doubt aided by the cavalcade of offensive talent available to San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling—Purdy threw for an open goal in 84.7 percent of his attempts—the final pick in the 2022 draft was an offense that was remarkably efficient in anticipated overtaking situations.
Purdy averaged 4 feet higher than expected in true passing situations, fifth among quarterbacks with at least 100 such plays.
Other rookies may have played well for an extended period of time, but in terms of the extent of impact on his team’s performance, no first-year offensive player can match Purdy, who is now sadly on a long recovery after tearing up a elbow strap during the first offensive series of the competition. Niners’ NFC Championship Game loss in Philadelphia.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Sauce Gardner, New York Jets
Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner backed up his flashy moniker by quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s leading defenders and a top-level lockdown corner.
Gardner lost only 19 of his 92 matchups in man marking and 24 of his 92 in zone. His combined 18.8 allowed open percentage was surpassed by only four defensemen in the entire NFL.
In addition to his remarkably impressive reporting skills, Gardner showed a knack for finding the football in the air, recording a league-leading 20 pass breakups.
If he can improve his interception tally of two, Gardner will be in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion for years to come.
Comeback Player of the Year: Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
From the forgotten man whose hopes of becoming a starter in the NFL seemed to be over, to the most accurate quarterback in pro football.
Smith led all quarterbacks in at least 100 tries with an 87.1 percent fair-thrown percentage, improbably leading a Seahawks team that looked set to rebuild to a playoff berth.
The former New York Jet also had the best passer score (125.8) on throws of at least 21 air yards among all signalmen with at least 10 such attempts. Smith threw for 13 touchdowns and one interception on his 52 attempts from that distance.
Smith unexpectedly emerged as the answer at quarterback for the Seahawks in the wake of the Russell Wilson trade. With a better ecosystem around him in 2023, he could be the leading man for a true contender.
Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Brian Daboll and Doug Pederson deserve a lot of credit for transforming also-rans into playoff teams in a short amount of time, while Nick Sirianni’s case is extremely convincing after making the Eagles the favorite to win the Super Bowl next week.
But for a combination of overcoming adversity and leading a Super Bowl contending team, no coach can compete with Shanahan.
Shanahan calmly navigated his team through the stormy waters of losing not one for two starting quarterbacks during the regular season, enabling Purdy to succeed, with the rookie’s willingness and the support he received from the best defense of the NFL, a testament to the 49er head coach’s ability to assemble a top-level staff.
Winning 13 games, 15 when counting the pair of playoff wins, in the conditions faced by the 49ers on offense is a remarkable achievement. San Francisco finished the season first overall Efficiency Versus Expected, after being forced to turn to Purdy, is an achievement worthy of Coach of the Year recognition.