We’re roughly halfway through the 2023 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 nine weeks? Here are the Pro Football Network early midseason picks for the 2023 NFL honors.
2023 NFL Midseason Awards from Pro Football Network
Narratives will change over the second half of the 2023 NFL campaign. But with nine weeks under our belts, we can begin to make arguments about who should win this year’s awards.
Most Valuable Player | Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
With all due respect to other positions in the NFL, the league has collectively decided that the Most Valuable Player award should be given to a quarterback. While some skill position players and defenders have put up performances that will be highlighted via other awards, they’re not realistic candidates for MVP.
But narrowing the MVP race to signal-callers doesn’t offer much of a reprieve. There’s no clear-cut winner at the halfway mark, but it looks like a four-way race.
Josh Allen leads the league in QBR and ranks second in EPA per play, but he’s also tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions. He’s gotten a bit unlucky — Allen has the league’s seventh-best turnover-worthy play rate, per PFF. Still, the Buffalo Bills’ recent struggles have pushed Allen down the MVP leaderboard for now.
While the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts might have taken a slight step back compared to his 2022 performance, he’s still playing like one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Hurts leads the league with a 6.9% completion rate over expectation, suggesting he’s hitting throws that other passers could not. He also ranks first in rushing first downs (39) and rushing success rate (61.4%) — thank you, Tush Push.
And then there’s the reigning MVP, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. Although he hasn’t taken the league by storm like in previous years, Mahomes hasn’t gotten much help from his underwhelming wide receiving corps. But he’s still third in QBR and EPA per play and boasts an NFL-low 3.5% sack rate.
But it’s hard to give the MVP award to anyone but Lamar Jackson, who’s helped turn the Baltimore Ravens into the best team in the AFC and, potentially, the NFL. Four years removed from his first MVP, Lamar ranks first in the NFL in completion rate (71.5%), second in interception rate (1.2%), and fifth in adjusted net yards per attempt (6.88).
And we haven’t mentioned Jackson’s contributions on the ground, where he leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards. Among QBs, only Hurts has more rushing first downs or a higher rushing success rate. Jackson may not be the MVP at the end of the season, but he’s in the driver’s seat right now.
Honorable mention: Mahomes; Hurts; Allen
Offensive Player of the Year | Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
Tyreek Hill looked like the favorite for Offensive Player of the Year at the midway point of the 2022 campaign, but the Minnesota Vikings’ Justin Jefferson swooped in to steal the award over the second half of last year.
Hill is still facing stiff competition this year, but he’d be the OPOY winner if the season ended today. He’s on pace to become the first pass catcher in NFL history to top 2,000 receiving yards. Hill also leads the league with 3.95 yards per route run, which would shatter the modern record.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ A.J. Brown — also on pace to clear 2,000 receiving yards — is right behind Hill in the OPOY race. He was quiet in the first two games of the season, so his counting stats aren’t quite at Hill’s level. But Brown is a devastating weapon and the most crucial piece of the Eagles’ passing attack, ranking second league-wide in first-read rate.
Honorable mention: Brown; Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Defensive Player of the Year | Myles Garrett, EDGE, Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett’s argument for Defensive Player of the Year can be summed up through two contradictions.
Garrett is tied for 11th in pressures this season. But he ranks just 66th in pass-rushing opportunities. He’s harassing quarterbacks nearly as much as any defender in the league, even though he hasn’t received the same number of chances.
Garrett also ranks second in pass-rush win rate despite getting double-teamed more than any edge rusher in the NFL. That shouldn’t be possible.
The Cleveland Browns arguably have the league’s best defense, and Garrett is their best player. He’s already posted 9.5 sacks this season, putting him on track to set a career-high. In his seventh NFL season, Garrett should claim his first DPOY award.
Honorable mention: T.J. Watt, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers; Micah Parsons, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys; Maxx Crosby, EDGE, Las Vegas Raiders
Offensive Rookie of the Year | C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams WR Puka Nacua looked like the runaway favorite for OROY earlier this season. Through four games, the fifth-rounder from BYU led the NFL in targets (52) and receptions (39) and ranked second in yards (501).
Nacua is still top-four league-wide in those three receiving categories, but his numbers have taken a hit for a few reasons. Cooper Kupp returned from injured reserve in Week 5, stealing some of Nacua’s targets. Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford has missed the past 1.5 games, during which backup Brett Rypien struggled to get the ball to Nacua or any Rams pass catcher.
Nacua is now a distant second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race — because Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud is running away with this award.
The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft put an exclamation point on his season in Week 9, setting a rookie passing record with 470 yards and five touchdowns while calmly leading a game-winning, 75-yard TD drive in just 40 seconds.
But Stroud had emerged as this year’s OPOY favorite even before Sunday’s fireworks show. He’s still thrown just one interception, showing an ability to take care of the ball that few rookies display. Stroud ranks third in the league in adjusted net yards per attempt, seventh in EPA per play, and eighth in touchdown rate. He might be in the MVP conversation by the end of the year.
Honorable mention: Nacua
Defensive Rookie of the Year | Jalen Carter, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
Just like the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, the DPOY battle is a two-man competition through nine weeks.
Seattle Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon certainly has an argument. While he missed Week 1 with an injury, the No. 5 overall pick has been on the field for all but two snaps since. Splitting his time between the boundary and the slot, Witherspoon has allowed just 46.2% of the targets in his coverage area to be caught, the second-best rate in the league.
We’d have no qualms about giving Witherspoon the hardware. But Philadelphia Eagles DT Jalen Carter is our choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Carter’s snap rate is about half of Witherspoon’s, but defensive tackles never see as much on-field action as cornerbacks. The ninth overall selection in this year’s draft, Carter has been dominant when given the chance.
Like Witherspoon, Carter also missed a game due to injury. But he ranks first in pass-rush win rate among defensive tackles — not just rookie DTs, all interior defenders. Carter is winning line battles at a higher clip than luminaries like Dexter Lawrence, Aaron Donald, and Javon Hargrave.
Honorable mention: Witherspoon; Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Houston Texans; Byron Young, EDGE, Los Angeles Rams
Comeback Player of the Year | Damar Hamlin, S, Buffalo Bills
Damar Hamlin has only played 18 snaps this season (all on special teams), but a lone snap would have been enough to give the Bills safety the NFL’s 2023 Comeback Player of the Year award.
Hamlin, of course, suffered cardiac arrest during Week 17 of the 2022 campaign and required Buffalo’s training and medical staff to save his life on the field. Miraculously, the 25-year-old has fully recovered and has returned to the field.
While he’s only been active for one week this season, Hamlin has been an inspiration and more than deserves this award.
Honorable mention: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins; Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach of the Year | Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions
NFL history is littered with teams that received plenty of offseason hype before failing to deliver. Dan Campbell’s 2023 Detroit Lions are not that club.
After nearly sneaking into the playoffs last season, the Lions are practically assured of a postseason berth this year. The Vikings are still hanging around in the NFC North, but the NY Times’ projection model gives 6-2 Detroit an 88% chance of winning the division and a 99% chance to enter the dance.
Campbell is revered in the Lions’ locker room. He’s helped work in rookie contributors like RB Jahmyr Gibbs, TE Sam LaPorta, LB Jack Campbell, and DB Brian Branch while working around injuries to RB David Montgomery, DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and multiple offensive linemen.
Detroit has one of the more balanced rosters and approaches in the NFL. They’re solid on both sides of the ball, where OC Ben Johnson and DC Aaron Glenn will be on 2024 head coaching shortlists. Campbell has a hand in everything the Lions do, and he’s earned Coach of the Year.
Honorable mention: John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens; Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers; DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans
Coordinator of the Year | Mike Macdonald, DC, Baltimore Ravens
Mike Macdonald’s Ravens defense ranks first in yards per play and points allowed, but the unit is second to the Browns’ defense in EPA per play and DVOA. So why are we giving McDonald the Coordinator of the Year Award over Cleveland DC Jim Schwartz?
Look at the talent disparity between the Ravens and Browns’ defense. Cleveland has Garrett, our pick for Defensive Player of the Year, plus complementary pass rushers such as Z’Darius Smith and Ogbo Okoronkwo. They’ve got DT Dalvin Tomlinson in the middle of their line and Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, Grant Delpit, and Juan Thornhill in the back end.
Meanwhile, Baltimore leads the NFL in sacks (35), with Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy as their primary edge rushers. That would have been an unbelievable sentence eight weeks ago.
Macdonald has helped LB Roquan Smith take his game to the next level. He’s assisted defensive back Geno Stone, who’s gone from a backup to an All-Pro candidate while pacing the league with seven interceptions. And Macdonald has had to work around injuries to valuable contributors like CB Marlon Humphery, S Marcus Williams, and pass rushers Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo, and Tyus Bowser.
Macdonald, 36, should be able to write his own ticket during the 2024 head coaching cycle.
Honorable mention: Steve Spagnuolo, DC, Kansas City Chiefs; Schwartz; Ben Johnson, OC, Detroit Lions; Mike Caldwell, DC, Jacksonville Jaguars