The NFL season is only halfway over, but we don’t do anything halfway here at ESPN.com. We’re here to give out midseason awards, and lots of them.
Who’s the Most Valuable Player of the league so far? Who has been the best defensive player? Who’s doing the best coaching job? With full acknowledgement that any or all of this could change over the season’s second half, we’re going to tell you who we think would take home the big NFL awards if the season ended right now.
We start with the big one.
Most Valuable Player
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs. Fairly easy call, even as brilliant as the next couple of names on this list have been. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards, touchdown passes, Total QBR, miracle left-handed throws on the run and dazzling, highlight-reel jaw-droppers. Taking over a Kansas City offense that was one of the best in the league last season under Alex Smith and making it even better? Yeah, MVP to this point. Slam dunk.
2. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams. Gurley remains a yards-from-scrimmage monster, with a league-leading 16 touchdowns and 1,230 total yards for the 8-1 Rams. He does everything they need him to do in the run game and the passing game, and while the Rams feature multiple MVP candidates, Gurley’s the one who makes it all go.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints. Do you realize he’s never won this award? Crazy for a guy who’s authored five of the nine 5,000-yard passing seasons in league history and belongs on the all-time Mount Rushmore of NFL QBs. The Saints just knocked off the Rams and have won seven in a row with Brees looking as good as ever at 39.
4. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams. Two MVP candidates in the top four? That’s the kind of offense the Rams are running right now. Goff is fifth in Total QBR, second in yards per attempt and has 20 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. Gurley’s candidacy is really the only thing holding Goff back.
5. Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers. Something in the Pacific Ocean water, we guess, as both L.A. quarterbacks crack the top five at the midpoint. Rivers is fourth in yards per attempt, third in passer rating, third in Total QBR behind only Mahomes and Brees and has 19 touchdown passes to three interceptions. He’s got the Chargers’ offense humming and thinking about an all-L.A. Super Bowl.
Coach of the Year
1. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams. Last season’s winner of this award was the last coach in the league to lose a game this season. He grabbed six of our nine first-place votes to edge out the big guy in red who follows, who was McVay when McVay was still in high school.
2. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs. Big Red grabbed two of the other three first-place votes and six seconds. He’s really the Coach of the Past Season and a Half, when you factor in how well his overall plan for transition at quarterback from Smith to Mahomes has gone.
3. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. The only guy to beat McVay so far this season. Payton’s team has won seven in a row since its opening loss to the Ryan Fitzpatrick Express. He and Brees could end up pulling off a coach/QB double in this race and the MVP race, especially if the Saints don’t lose again!
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams. It stands to reason that the running back who ranks second in the MVP balloting would sit atop the “non-QB MVP” award voting. Gurley’s abridged résumé can be found in the MVP section of this article.
2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs. Honestly, it seems like this award only exists to find an award to give an MVP-worthy running back or wide receiver when a quarterback wins MVP. But when you’re doing what Mahomes is doing statistically, your team is 8-1 and you’re the leading MVP candidate, why can’t you win both?
3. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings. A new name! Thielen had at least 100 receiving yards in each of his first eight games of the season. Even with that streak over, he leads the league with 947 receiving yards and is tied for second with seven touchdown catches. He’s quickly become Kirk Cousins‘ favorite and most reliable target, and has entered the conversation about Best Receiver in the League.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams. Unanimous. You rack up 10 sacks in your first eight games of the season from the defensive tackle position, you have to win this award. Donald’s just doing things no one else in the league is doing. He won the award last season and is currently favored to repeat.
2. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. What a bounce-back season for Watt off of two years’ worth of devastating injuries. He’s got nine sacks for a Houston team that’s won six in a row after an 0-3 start, and the defense is clicking the way the Texans always hoped it would.
3. Khalil Mack, DE, Chicago Bears. If we’d done this exercise at the end of September, Mack likely would have run away with this award. Even after injuries sapped his production a bit over the past few weeks, he’s held onto third place. There’s no doubting the impact his acquisition just before the start of the season has had on the Bears and the NFC playoff race.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants. One of the few bright spots in another lost Giants season, Barkley is third in the league in yards from scrimmage behind only Gurley and Pittsburgh’s James Conner. He’s tied for eighth in the league in receptions — not among running backs, but among all NFL players.
2. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos. What a story. Undrafted Lindsay wasn’t even supposed to be the best rookie running back on the Broncos, who took Royce Freeman in the third round. But Lindsay beat out Freeman for playing time, and currently ranks sixth in the league in rushing yards and sixth with a robust 5.4 yards per attempt.
3. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons. While Julio Jones has famously not been catching touchdowns (he just got his first one in Week 9), his fellow former Alabama receiver and current teammate has been doing nothing but. Ridley has seven touchdown catches already, putting him in a tie for second in the league behind only Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers. James has been a factor on the back end of the defense, as the Chargers expected him to be right away. But where he’s made a major difference is in blitz packages, where the Chargers have had to get creative in the absence of star pass-rusher Joey Bosa. James had three sacks in the first four games of the season while the Los Angeles defense was getting its legs under it.
2. Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts. The second-round rookie out of South Carolina State leads the league in tackles with 88, and has four sacks for a Colts defense that’s outplayed expectations and advanced far more quickly than anyone expected it to advance. Leonard is in the middle of it all.
3. Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns. Cleveland surprised everyone by taking Ward fourth overall with Bradley Chubb still on the board, but so far he’s been everything the Browns imagined he could be. A legit cover corner who can press and brings toughness to a defense where he’s expected to be a long-range cornerstone.
Comeback Player of the Year
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts. “Will he ever play again?” “Can he be the player he used to be?” “Why isn’t he throwing a regulation-size ball yet?” The offseason questions about Luck after a season lost to shoulder issues have been washed away by 23 touchdown passes. The Colts are protecting Luck better than they ever have, and he’s thriving.
2. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. We went over Watt in the Defensive Player of the Year section, which tells you everything about how he’s put his 2016 and 2017 injury issues behind him.
3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. His return hasn’t made the Packers a clear Super Bowl contender, as they and many others believed it would. But Rodgers is all the way back from his season-ending 2017 injury (not to mention his Week 1 2018 knee injury) and averaging 318 passing yards per game with 15 touchdowns and just one interception.