We’re roughly a quarter of the way through the 2022 season, so it’s a perfect time to give out some NFL awards. Who’s in line to win MVP, Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year after four weeks? Here are our early picks for the 2022 NFL honors.
2022 NFL Awards
Some years, NFL awards are driven just as much by narrative as they are by on-field results. But with only four games in the books, it’s actually a little easier to parse out the best players based strictly on production.
Most Valuable Player | Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The NFL has been lucky enough to have a fresh crop of quarterbacks emerge as game-changers, but through four weeks, Mahomes is playing the best football of the group.
He’s lapping the field in expected points added per play, and he’s No. 1 in QBR, too. Mahomes is second in touchdown percentage, third in adjusted net yards per attempt and sack percentage, and sixth in interception rate.
Sure, Mahomes benefits from playing under Andy Reid, and he’s protected by one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. But he also lost Tyreek Hill, his top playmaker, over the offseason. Mahomes is getting the most out of his supporting cast, and the Chiefs have the league’s most efficient offense in 2022.
Mahomes is still capable of making plays that boggle the mind. On Sunday night, he calmly extended a drop back near the goal line, spun to evade a defender, then flipped a touchdown pass to Clyde Edwards-Helaire like he was tossing a tissue in a trash can.
Mahomes can do everything. He’s a master of manipulating the pocket and executing the Kansas City offense, but he’s a wizard when he goes off script. It’s a joy to watch him week in and week out.
Honorable mention: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles; Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens; Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Offensive Player of the Year | Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
After years of injury-riddled performances, Barkley finally appears to be back to the player he was at Penn State and in his rookie season. With health on his side, Barkley is the focal point of the Giants’ offense, and he’s been the league’s best non-quarterback offensive player through four weeks.
On a volume level, Barkley is outshining the rest of the NFL’s running backs. He’s first in both rushing yards and yards from scrimmage, and he’s on pace for an astounding 2,423 total yards.
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Barkley doesn’t have a good offensive line in front of him, but he’s gotten yardage on his own. He’s accumulated more yards after contact (209) than any other RB, and he’s fifth in rushing yards over expectation per attempt.
After both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor suffered injuries against the Bears on Sunday, Barkley even lined up at quarterback, taking carries in the Wildcat formation. Given how New York’s signal-callers have played, putting the 25-year-old RB in at QB might not be the worst plan.
Honorable mention: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns; Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player of the Year | Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
Team defensive performance isn’t very sticky from year to year, and there was thought that the Cowboys could regress in 2022. But they really haven’t thus far. They ranked second last season with a -15.2% DVOA, and they’re fifth this year at -15.4%.
Parsons has been absolutely critical to that effort, and he’s the best defensive player in the game right now. He’s posted four sacks, and his 22 pressures lead the NFL, per PFF. Parsons is second in the league in pass-rush win rate, and there aren’t many defenders being double-teamed more frequently.
The 12th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Parsons earned the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, came in second in DPOY voting, and received a first-team All-Pro nod in his first NFL campaign. That’s the beginning of a Hall of Fame trajectory, so it’s not surprising that he’s continued his dominant reign into 2022.
Parsons has feasted on injured or lackluster offensive lines through four games, and he’ll get another substandard unit when the Cowboys face the Rams in Week 5. But he’ll go up against the Eagles and Lions in Weeks 6 and 7, respectively, both of whom could offer stiffer tests.
Honorable mention: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers; Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Rookie of the Year | Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
Thirteen receivers were selected in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, tied with the 2020 draft for the most in league history. Add in three Round 2 running backs and a second-round tight end, and there were plenty of convincing Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates heading into the season.
Through four games, Olave has been the best of the bunch. He leads all rookies in receptions (21), yards (335), and team target share. He’s No. 1 in the entire league in air yards, and only DeVante Parker has averaged a higher depth of target.
Olave has posted 2.46 yards per route run, 13th-best in the NFL and tops among rookies. Last season, the only rookie that posted comparable yards per route run was Ja’Marr Chase (2.44), who went on to win the OROY award.
Olave would probably have even better numbers if the Saints had gotten better quarterback play from Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton over the first four weeks of the season. But the Ohio State product has done more than enough with his chances to secure the Rookie of the Year trophy.
Honorable mention: Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
Defensive Rookie of the Year | Devin Lloyd, Jacksonville Jaguars
On paper, Aidan Hutchinson might look like the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, and his three sacks are the most among rookies. But much of his production has come on clean-up efforts, and he only won 10% of his pass rushes in Week 4.
Lloyd is actually the current betting favorite for DROY, and he’s our choice here. Chosen at the tail end of the first round, Lloyd has been a man on a mission. He’s played nearly every defensive snap for the Jaguars, and he’s filled up the stat sheet with 38 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass deflections.
The Utah alum has been outstanding in coverage, allowing just 4.3 yards per target and a 28.5 passer rating against. Lloyd’s 15 stops — defensive plays that result in an offensive failure — are No. 1 among rookies, per PFF. He’s lined up in the slot, he’s rushed the passer…he’s done everything.
Honorable mention: Hutchinson; Ahmad Gardner, New York Jets
Comeback Player of the Year | Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
In recent years, the Comeback Player of the Year award has gone to an NFL player who returned from an injury-plagued season to post excellent results the following year. But that hasn’t always been the case.
Philip Rivers won the award in 2013 following a down campaign in 2012. Chad Pennington took home the trophy in 2008 after getting benched for Kellen Clemens the year prior. Tommy Maddox, Jon Kitna, and Drew Brees were honored with CPOY awards in consecutive seasons, and none of them suffered an injury the season before.
With that in mind, the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year has to be Smith, who has risen from the depths of obscurity to play at a near MVP level. A second-round pick in 2013, Smith hadn’t been a regular starter since his second season in the NFL. He bounced around from team to team before joining the Seahawks in 2020.
Smith posted five touchdowns and just one interception in relief of Russell Wilson last season, but no one could have predicted his 2022 performance. He’s leading the NFL in EPA + CPOE composite. He’s completing 77.3% of his passes, also tops in the league. And Smith just helped the Seahawks put up 48 points against the Lions in Week 4, the highest total of any team this season.
How long can this last? We don’t know, but it really doesn’t matter. Right now, it’s #GenoSZN.
Honorable mention: Barkley; Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Coach of the Year | Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles
Think of how far Sirianni and the Eagles have come in the last two years.
It was only 21 months ago that Doug Pederson’s Philadelphia team was accused of tanking their final regular-season game to land a better draft position. Four weeks later, Sirianni’s introductory news conference was derided as something between a Michael Scott impersonation and the History Channel “Aliens” meme.
Sirianni and Jalen Hurts (a de facto rookie in 2021) led the Eagles to the playoffs in their first season together, and now they’re heading the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFL. The 41-year-old Sirianni, a longtime Frank Reich disciple, has helped instill a culture of accountability in Philadelphia’s locker room.
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The Eagles are third in offensive DVOA and fourth in defensive DVOA through four weeks. There’s a lot of credit to go around, from general manager Howie Roseman to coordinators Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon.
But Sirianni is at the top of the coaching staff’s organizational chart, and he’s the one who brought in Steichen and Gannon and let them do their jobs. The Eagles are the best team in football right now, and given the ease of Philadelphia’s schedule, Sirianni could lock up the Coach of the Year award by midseason.
Honorable mention: Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins; Pederson
Coordinator of the Year | Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions
Before the season began, I looked at 25 NFL assistants who could ascend to head coaching jobs with solid results in 2022. I didn’t include Johnson because he had never called plays before (and it wasn’t even apparent if Dan Campbell was going to let him do so).
But the 38-year-old has firmly planted himself on prospective head coach lists thanks to Detroit’s offensive production through the first month of the season. The Lions lead the league in points (140) and yards (1,747), and they’re eighth in offensive EPA/play. They’ve scored at least 35 points in three of their four games.
Even without D’Andre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and DJ Chark in Week 4, Detroit still managed to put up 45 points against the Seahawks. Johnson’s run game deploys nearly every concept known to man, and he’s got Jared Goff playing his best football since his Pro Bowl seasons with the Rams.
Johnson was on the Dolphins’ staff from 2012-2018 before joining Matt Patricia and the Lions in 2019. Campbell held onto Johnson after taking over in 2021 and subsequently promoted him to offensive coordinator prior to this season. The fact that Johnson has made it through multiple coaching staffs is a plus, and he should be in contention for a head coaching job next year.
Honorable mention: DeMeco Ryans, San Francisco 49ers; Leslie Frazier, Buffalo Bills
Play of the Year | George Pickens’ Week 3 catch
Pickens’ one-handed, over-the-shoulder catch on Thursday Night Football in Week 3 reportedly had a catch probability of 33.7%, but I’m not sure if I’m buying those numbers. Do we really think that ball is hauled in a third of the time?
Pickens was essentially parallel with the ground on his reception, and his one-handed grab conjured images of Odell Beckham Jr. But Pickens doesn’t even place that incredible catch among his top-five best.
Honorable mention: Kyler Murray’s Week 2 two-point conversion