Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Through just 10 games, Hunt has rushed for 873 yards at a 5.0 yards-per-carry clip while hauling in an additional 335 yards through the air. Statistically, he has been easily the best of a highly-touted 2017 running back class. The Chiefs have felt his impact immediately. He racked up 148 rushing yards and 98 receiving yards in his career debut, a game in which Kansas City dominated the New England Patriots and established themselves as one of the NFL’s best. Months later, Hunt and the Chiefs hold a commanding lead in the AFC West and are poised to make a playoff run. His performance already looks great, but Hunt still has room to grow and should only become more exciting as his career progresses.
It is also important to acknowledge that Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans broke two NFL rookie records—most touchdowns in a week (five) and a calendar month (16) for a rookie. However, Watson’s season-ending ACL tear on Nov. 2 removes him from contention.
Most Valuable Player: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
After a pedestrian rookie year, Wentz has been a revelation in his sophomore season, already topping his 2016 season mark for touchdowns in seven games. He now leads the NFL with 25 touchdown passes and has led the Eagles to a surprising 9-1 start. This progression is even more impressive given Wentz’s lacklustre offensive options. He has played a big role in making tight end Zach Ertz one of the NFL’s most productive players in his position. Aside from Ertz, Wentz’s only alternatives are uninspiring veterans and disappointing big names like Alshon Jeffery and Jay Ajayi.
No one expected the Eagles to make a deep playoff run this year, but behind Wentz and a superb defence, Philly is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. It’s obvious that Wentz is the heart and soul of his offence. Without him, the Eagles would be going nowhere once again, which cements his spot as the most deserving of MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
This race boils down to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Since it’s quite difficult for tight ends to receive the award, Brown is the pick. Despite playing alongside wide receiver Martavis Bryant, running back LeVeon Bell, and standout rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Brown has remained Ben Roethlisberger’s main target, earning him impressive numbers once again. In fact, he’s on pace to post career highs in receiving yards, touchdowns, and yards per reception. Moreover, he has continually bailed out a struggling Roethlisberger and the less-than-stellar Pittsburgh defense, leading them to an 8-2 record. Between dominant performances like athree-touchdown Week 11 game and clutch plays like a 51-yard touchdown reception in Week 6, he has constantly carried the team on his back.
Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars
After signing a four-year contract with the Jaguars, Campbell opened the season by setting a franchise record with four sacks. From there, the defensive end has not slowed down. He is on pace to post a career-high 20 sacks this season, and leads the NFL with 11 sacks already. His total tackle count has dipped this season, but that’s because the Jacksonville defence is stacked with great players. With a mediocre offence, the Jaguars depend heavily on their defence. Led by Campbell, they have certainly stepped up, holding teams to 4.6 yards per play and forcing a turnover margin of 11—both NFL-bests. The team’s strong defence has led the burgeoning Jaguars to a surprising 7-3 record, and Campbell clearly deserves credit for his role.