Bills Quarterback Josh Allen is hungry for more after being the runner-up to the 2020 MVP.
Coming off a loss in the Super Bowl, speedy Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill is poised for his best year yet.
After an intriguing offseason filled with trades and signings, a promising NFL season has just begun. The 2020 season was so different from what football fans had ever seen before. Some NFL teams did not allow fans to attend games and many people believed the full NFL season would not be played. Now, with 93% of players vaccinated, 2021 will look more like a normal season in the NFL. 2021 promises great games and races that will be remembered for years to come. As I share my predictions on 2021’s award winners, players are already showing their new strengths and weaknesses, preparing for an exciting and long awaited season.
Most Valuable Player: Josh Allen - Quarterback, Buffalo Bills
Coming off a breakout year, the seventh overall pick in 2018 will only get better. After acquiring superstar receiver Stefon Diggs in 2020, the Bills became an instant threat and lived up to the hype by making a run to the AFC championship, where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, in 2021, Allen’s team has a top defense and plays in a weak division with two rookie quarterbacks. Buffalo is a Super Bowl contender with a few difficult games along the way, and Allen will be able to patrol his team to beat other contenders to earn a top seed for his Bills.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyreek Hill - Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
Despite Tennessee Titans Derrick Henry having a 2,000 yard rushing season last year, his team's trade for wide receiver, Julio Jones, will lower his touches in 2021, opening the door for other superstars like Hill. The former Super Bowl champion will continue to work with 2019 MVP Patrick Mahomes. Hill, who collected over 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2020, is widely regarded as one of the fastest receivers to ever touch the field. Combining his ability to get wide open downfield with Mahomes’ insanely strong arm, fans should see many long scores as Hill helps bring his team to the playoffs.
Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett - Defensive End, Cleveland Browns
After a violent fight in 2019 with Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph, Myles Garrett was suspended and many people and analysts thought he may never be allowed back into the league. The NFL decided he could play, and the 25-year old dominated in the 2020 season with 12 sacks, which was 6th best in the league. This season, he’ll be facing slower and weaker offensive lines in the AFC North, plus a couple of less agile quarterbacks. He will not only break his career high of 13.5 sacks, but force more fumbles and record more tackles for loss than anyone else. Defensive Player of the Year is his award to win in 2021, and he’s got enough talent to prove it.
Offensive Rookie Of the Year: Devonta Smith - Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Taken 10th overall in this year’s draft, the Eagles new #1 receiver has big expectations for the season. Smith, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner--an award given to the best College Football player-- has used his quickness and incredible route running to gain separation and tons of yards. Despite his 170-pound frame, Devonta Smith caught 80% of his targets last season at Alabama, resulting in 24 touchdowns over 1,800 yards, guiding Alabama to a National Championship. Getting selected by the Eagles should only boost his success, as he is playing with his former college quarterback Jalen Hurts with whom he had great chemistry with at Alabama. Expect Smith to thrive in this new and improved Eagles’ offense.
Defensive Rookie Of the Year: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Linebacker, Cleveland Browns
Despite falling all the way into the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft due to medical concerns, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has the opportunity to prove everyone who passed on him wrong. With his tremendous ability to read an offense and phenomenal athleticism, Owusu-Koramoah will be able to patrol the Browns’ linebackers under reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski.
Coach Of the Year: Ron Rivera - Washington Football Team
A veteran in the NFL, Ron Rivera is no stranger to successful teams, as he led the 2015 Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. He won the award in 2013, and has another great chance to do it in 2021. After wide receiver Terry McLaurin’s breakout year and defensive end Chase Young’s DROY campaign, it’s safe to say Rivera is searching for even more accomplishments for his resume this year. The Washington Football Team made some under-the-radar moves this offseason to bring in depth at wide receiver, quarterback, and in the secondary. With a weak division and smart players, Rivera can lead this team to the top seed in the NFC and maybe even a Super Bowl appearance.
Comeback Player Of the Year: Dak Prescott - Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
In Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season, Dak Prescott scrambled on a broken play by the Cowboys. After stepping up and finding a route, New York Giants cornerback Logan Ryan tackled him and he ultimately suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. The star quarterback did not see the field again for the rest of the year. Despite his absence, the receiving core stepped up and developed perfectly for his return in 2021. Led by veteran Amari Cooper and sophomore CeeDee Lamb, Prescott will prove he can put his injury behind him and record another great year.
Most Improved Player: Antonio Gibson - Running Back, Washington Football Team
After a surprisingly outstanding season from the 3rd Round pick from Memphis, sophomore halfback Antonio Gibson will shock fans even more. After Washington’s season of quarterback dilemmas in 2020, they signed veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 1-year deal. Fitzpatrick has been known through his whole career for leading a pass first offense and allowing the running backs and wide receivers to work in the open field. Gibson, a former college wideout turned running back, does that as well as anyone in the NFL, so mixing his opponents weak defenses in the NFC East with his newfound experience can lead him to a season with well over 2,000 total yards.
As the season starts to heat up and new stars are made, fans will no doubt be in for a great season. Between tons of competitive divisions and classic rivalries, this year is guaranteed to bring the fans what they want and deserve. When the season is over there will be a new highlight reel of classic plays and special games -- ones we might be lucky enough to witness live.
Photo sources: CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated