By: Aiden Holczer
The best time of the year is almost upon us. The 100th season of the National Football League (NFL) is set to kick off Thursday, September 5th with the Green Bay Packers taking on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. NFL fans everywhere are praying to the football gods that it will be their team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year in Miami. Before the start of every NFL season, I like to play a little game with myself and see if I can predict as many aspects of the season as possible. From stat leaders and team records to the MVP and Superbowl champions, I can proudly say I’m usually not far off from the actual result.
Most Valuable Player
My pick for 2019 MVP is Ryan Fitzpatrick. For the first four weeks. After that, my MVP is second year QB Baker Mayfield. The Browns made the largest splash of the offseason by adding former Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a stacked receiving core that already includes TE David Njoku, Beckham’s former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry, Rishard Higgins, and more. Head coach Freddie Kitchens is sure to be an improvement over Hue Jackson, who showed little faith in Mayfield, choosing to start Tyrod Taylor through week four, until he went down with a concussion. This forced Jackson to throw Baker into the fire, and to the shock of even the most staunch Baker Mayfield fans, he performed spectacularly. In only twelve starts, Mayfield broke the rookie touchdown record held previously by Peyton Manning, put up 3,700 Yds passing off of 486 attempts, 27 TD’s, and completed 63.8% of his passes. After Jackson’s eventual departure from the team in week 8 of the regular season, Greg Williams took over for the remainder of the season.
Even though Baker’s statistical numbers will almost certainly improve, that isn’t necessarily the deciding factor in MVP voting. A lot of the voting has to do with the story behind the player and the success of the team. A story like Baker’s seems more likely to originate from a fairytale than real life. Coming out of Lake Travis High School, Mayfield was only a three star recruit and wasn’t even ranked within the top 1000 players in his class. He received only four offers from FBS schools: New Mexico, Rice, Washington State & Florida Atlantic. Mayfield attended and walked-on at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma and repeating the walk-on process again. He eventually led Oklahoma to the 2017 College Football Playoff, but fell to the Georgia Bulldogs 54-48 in double overtime. Baker went on to win the Heisman that season and get drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Browns.
With statistics and personal story considered, I’m locking in Baker Mayfield as my 2019 NFL MVP.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
I believe for the third year in a row, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year will be a running back. In 2017, it was Alvin Kumara, in 2018 it was Saquon Barkley, and this season, it’s Chicago Bears running back, David Montgomery. The Chicago Bears selected David Montgomery in the third round with the 73rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, intending to replace Jordan Howard who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. I expect Montgomery to make an immediate impact on the Bear’s offense.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has shown improvement in both his years with the Bears, but he still lacks the arm strength to make a significant impact downfield. This has led to significant production from any running back used in Chicago. Last season the Bears had the 21st-best rushing offense, yet they used running back Tarik Cohen as a large part of their short to intermediate passing game. Cohen finished with over 700 yds receiving and 5 receiving TDs. Last year’s Offensive ROY winner Saquon Barkley proved that team success doesn’t matter and the Offensive ROY is an individual award, as his Giants went 5-11.
The trend of impressive individual seasons from Chicago running backs makes me believe David Montgomery will take home the 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
I believe my choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year is a fairly easy one. I’m going with Steelers linebacker Devin Bush. Bush first jumped off my TV screen during the Draft Combine. He posted an impressive 4.43 40yd dash, 21 bench press reps, 40 inch vertical and more. He is the perfect WILL linebacker in today’s NFL: compact, fast, and explosive off the edge. Bush had a 28.9% pressure rate at Michigan. You can expect Bush to rack up tackles, sacks and pressures with ease in a Steeler’s defense that has drafted T.J Watt and others with the intent to improve the ability to pressure opposing QB’s. Bush isn’t much of a playmaker, however, only posting 1 interception in 32 games played. Bush’s speed and patience allows him to make tackles within gaps, but his lack of length causes him to miss in the open field.
I don’t think these criticisms are going to prevent Bush from being the best defensive rookie this season. I’m locking in Devin Bush as my 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year
The reason im including the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) in this article and not Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY) is because nine times out of ten, the OPOY winds up winning the MVP. The last time a defensive player won the MVP was Lawrence Taylor—possibly fueled by an incredible amount of cocaine—in 1986. For the first time in over 30 years, there appears to be a player with the potential to win MVP on the defensive side of the ball. That player is Ram’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald. This is going to be my shortest segment, because what can be said about Donald that hasn’t already been said? Donald, is easily the best defensive player in the NFL. The gap between Donald and the other defensive tackles in the league is so large, that no one even cares to debate who’s second. Donald has been to the Pro-Bowl every year since entering the league, been selected First Team All-Pro 4 times, and has been NFL DPOY twice before. Needless to say, this isn’t a very hot-take.
I’m locking in Aaron Donald as my 2019 DPOY.
Leighton Vander Esch
All right enough, of individual stats and awards: let’s get into what really matters. Who will win the Super Bowl 54, the 100th season of the NFL? I have the Kansas City Chiefs raising the Lombardi Trophy in Miami over the Green Bay Packers. My reasoning for picking the Chiefs is more concrete and probable than their opponents, so I’ll start there. Lets just call it how it is: Tom Brady got bailed out after throwing a late game interception in the AFC Championship. And if it wasn’t for that boneheaded offsides, the Super Bowl would have been Chiefs against Rams. The Chiefs this offseason went and took care of business by improving the side of the ball that needed help the most: the defense. Patrick Mahomes looks like the second coming so far in his two-season tenure in the NFL. Everything looks to be in place for a deep playoff run, and in my opinion, a Super Bowl run. My pick of the Packers on the other hand, is based almost completely in gut-feeling. I am by no means a Packers fan. I’m a die-hard Cowboys fan, and that means I have watched first hand Green Bay ruin the Cowboy’s Super Bowl aspirations twice in the last five years. And through that, I have learned first-hand how good a healthy Aaron Rodgers is. Along with Aaron Rodger’s talent, the Packers have improved heavily on defense, and the development of Devante Adams has been special to watch. But all of this comes second to the MVP caliber season I believe Aaron Rodgers will put up, reminding everyone of his place among the NFL greats. So we have the two most talented QBs I’ve ever seen set to duel it out in the finale of the 100th NFL season. And in the end, I think the kid prodigy will prevail over the old guard and bring the Lombardi Trophy back with him to Kansas City.
I’m locking in Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs as my 2019 NFL champions.