Which New York Jets players could take home awards in the 2022 season?
A New York Jets player has not won a significant NFL award since Sheldon Richardson took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2013. Could that change in 2022?
Here are the most likely Jets players to compete for each major NFL award in 2022.
Offensive Player of the Year
For a long period of time, the Offensive Player of the Year award was reserved for quarterbacks and running backs. Over a 25-season stretch from 1994 to 2018, there were 15 instances of a running back winning the award and 10 instances of a quarterback winning it. No other position laid claim to the honor.
The tide has turned over the past three years. Wide receivers have won two of the past three OPOY awards, with Michael Thomas earning it in 2019 and Cooper Kupp winning it in 2021.
This paradigm shift has me turning my attention to Elijah Moore as the Jets’ most likely OPOY candidate. Moore created so many opportunities for big plays with his route-running last year. All he needs is for his QB to cash in on those opportunities and he can put up big numbers.
An OPOY-type season is an extremely lofty expectation for Moore, but, remember, I’m not saying it’s likely that he wins OPOY – just that he is the most likely player to win it on the Jets. I think it is more likely that Moore has a season that puts him on the edge of Pro Bowl consideration.
Breece Hall came to mind. However, a rookie has never won this award, so it is tough to imagine Hall will be the one who breaks the streak considering his time-share with Michael Carter will limit his production ceiling.
Defensive Player of the Year
In a league where passes are being thrown increasingly quicker and shorter, defensive backs are seeing their interception opportunities decrease, making it tougher for them to build cases for Defensive Player of the Year consideration.
As a result, pass-rushing production has emerged as the primary trait that garners DPOY consideration. Seven of the past eight Defensive Player of the Year awards have gone to edge rushers and interior defensive linemen.
This brings me three contenders: Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, and Carl Lawson.
I think Lawson is the best option out of this group. While Lawson has never come close to DPOY caliber production in the box score before (his career-high for sacks is 8.5), he has the potential to do so in the future.
Lawson has been one of the NFL’s best pressure producers throughout his career. He can get to the QB with the best of them – it’s just about bringing them down once he gets there. Lawson did not get many opportunities to do that with a Bengals team that severely lacked talent on the defensive line outside of himself. In New York, with plenty of weapons around him, Lawson should get plenty of great chances to turn his pressures into sacks.
Williams and Franklin-Myers also have high ceilings. However, I don’t think either has the upside in the sack department that is required to contend for a DPOY award. The last seven defensive linemen to win the DPOY award have boasted an average sack total of 16.6.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Okay, now we can turn our attention to Breece Hall.
Hall is one of the leaguewide favorites to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Vegas Insider had him with +800 odds as of July 14, tying him with Treylon Burks and Christian Watson for third-best in the NFL behind Drake London (+700) and Kenny Pickett (+500).
A split-backfield role alongside Michael Carter will slightly limit Hall’s production ceiling, but not enough to keep him from doing what’s necessary to be the brightest star of this particular rookie class.
Many things are in Hall’s favor when it comes to this award. He is the top-drafted RB of the class. Many of the class’s best WRs went to teams with shaky QB situations. The QB class is extremely weak – it may not even have a single Week 1 starter. A tight end was not drafted until the second round.
Hall could easily take home this award with merely a solid season.
I do not see Garrett Wilson making a serious case for this award, as his target total will likely be limited in a Jets offense with plenty of mouths to feed, but it’s not impossible.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson could both make a case here.
Gardner has the disadvantage of playing at the cornerback position, where it’s easier for a player to stand out in a negative way than at any other defensive position. Contrarily, Johnson plays on the edge, where it’s rare for a player to stand out in a negative way and they are primarily judged simply on how many positive plays they can accumulate.
It seems likely that Gardner will go through some rookie bumps against a schedule that is loaded with star WRs. However, his knack for playmaking could give him a shot at putting up the flashy box-score production that is necessary to win these prominent awards.
With three to four interceptions, double-digit pass breakups, a handful of fumble recoveries or forced fumbles, and maybe one touchdown, I could see Gardner getting some votes. The key is remaining at least competent in coverage. If he is constantly in the news for getting toasted, voters will pass on him regardless of his individual stats. But if he can just be respectable in coverage, his big-play production can put him in contention.
Johnson will need to be opportunistic to make his case for the DROY award. The nature of his position allows him to contend for the award even if he isn’t amazingly consistent on an overall level. He just needs the sack production.
Even if he is still raw as a pass-rusher, Johnson can load up on sacks by playing with nonstop hustle and finishing sacks with high efficiency when he does get home. Armed with great speed and plenty of length, Johnson is capable of doing these things. I can see him racking up plenty of cleanup sacks and chasedown sacks. Voters don’t watch the film to see how players get their sacks – they just look at the number in the sack column.
Johnson also projects as a good producer in the run game from day one, so he should add an impressive amount of total tackles and tackles-for-loss to his resume.
As of July 14, Vegas Insider actually gave Johnson the edge over Gardner. Johnson is tied with Derek Stingley for the sixth-best DROY odds at +900. Gardner is tied with Devin Lloyd for eighth-best at +1000.
Long-term, I think Gardner will have a higher ceiling than Johnson. But looking solely at this year, I think Johnson has a slightly better shot at checking the boxes that are necessary to win the DROY award. I’m going with Johnson here.
Comeback Player of the Year
Carl Lawson comes to mind first. After losing his entire 2021 season to an Achilles injury, he is in a prime position to compete for this award.
Mekhi Becton is the next player that entered my mind. He’s mostly in the same position as Lawson, looking to get back on the map after missing an entire season due to injury, but the difference is that Becton has been the subject of intense scrutiny regarding his physical shape. This aspect of Becton’s story would make it even more poetic if he were to come back with a huge season in 2021.
The problem for Becton is that offensive linemen simply do not win these awards. They don’t have box-score stats that voters can easily Google in two seconds. For that reason, they always get overlooked in the public eye. An offensive lineman has never won Comeback Player of the Year.
Becton easily makes the most sense here because of the storybook elements (how cool would it be to see him walk his talk and prove the critics wrong?), but, unfortunately, it does not appear that offensive linemen have a real chance of winning this award.
In that case, Lawson is the favorite here. As of July 14, Lawson is the only Jets player who can be bet on for the award at Vegas Insider, being given +4000 odds.
Most Valuable Player
“MVP” basically stands for “Most Valuable Passer” at this point. Quarterbacks have won 14 of the past 15 MVP awards, including each of the last nine. The last non-QB to win MVP was Adrian Peterson in 2012.
Considering the direction that the league is going, it seems unlikely that we will ever see a running back win the award again. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor did not get a single MVP vote in 2021 despite leading the league in scrimmage yards (2,171) and scrimmage touchdowns (20).
Not only have quarterbacks been winning all of the MVP awards in recent years, but nobody has come close to pushing them off the pedestal. Over the last seven seasons, quarterbacks have received 335 of the 350 votes for MVP (96%).
So, yeah, nobody on the Jets can compete for this award except for Zach Wilson.
I don’t think this topic is worth wasting much time on. Wilson’s odds of winning MVP this year are paper-thin, no matter how many bets he receives for non-football reasons.
If Wilson can show healthy progress in 2022, we can start taking him seriously as an MVP candidate in 2023.