2021 NFL Award Predictions

With Week 1 in the NFL just underway, the Maroon-News Sports Editors are here to give their takes on who will take home the league’s most prestigious awards.


MVP: Kyler Murray

Most people won’t look past Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady when it comes to the MVP discussion. Yet, in one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions, one quarterback stands small in stature yet tall in ability. In the deserts of Arizona, Kyler Murray leads the Arizona Cardinals into a new era. The Cardinals revamped their offense with the additions of  wide receiver A.J. Green and running back James Conner. With these new weapons and Murray’s ability to both run and throw the ball, NFL defenses will have to scheme accordingly and Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury will be able to slice up defenses with ease. Murray is the quarterback of Arizona’s future and entering his third season, he’s reaching elite status among the NFL’s top tier quarterbacks. In a league filled with young, speedy gunslingers, expect Kyler to rise above the rest and emerge as the MVP.


Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mac Jones

With the stunning news out of New England last week that the Patriots cut Cam Newton and named 2021 15th overall pick Michael McCorckle “Mac” Jones the team’s starting quarterback. It’s a new era in New England. Tom Brady is gone, Cam Newton is (finally) gone, and it’s Mac time in Foxborough. Jones threw for 41 TDs, just 4 interceptions, and had 4,500 yards for the Crimson Tide in 2021; with his passing yard performance breaking Alabama’s single season record. Jones also brought home another National Championship for the Tide. Mac Jones in New England with Bill Belichick is the perfect recipe for an impressive rookie of the year. The Patriots finally have some offensive weapons in tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and their new receivers Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers. I thought all along that Bill would start Cam Newton to begin the season because he wasn’t all that bad in preseason but Mac Jones won this starting position. In the preseason he was 36-52 with a TD, no interceptions, and a 97.3 QBR. He was also the highest rated rookie quarterback in the preseason by Pro Football Focus. Throughout the offseason, I’ve been saying Mac is the guy for New England, and I’m glad he now has been officially named that guy. He’s going to be the most poised rookie quarterback under the best NFL head coach of all time, and the offensive rookie of the year is his to lose. 


Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Surtain II

This was an extremely difficult prediction to make. There is a lot of talented rookies on the defensive side of the ball this year but I think Broncos rookie corner Patrick Surtain II will rise to the top of the group. He is a ballhawk and has great ball skills, which normally leads to one thing… a lot of INTs next to his name in the box score. In his first ever NFL preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, the 9th overall pick made a house call on a second quarter pick-six. He also did not allow a single catch against him on 11 pass coverage snaps. We saw what he could do in college under Nick Saban at Alabama but some analysts may point to the idea that Alabama had an elite defensive line that pressured mediocre college QB’s into throwing his way. However, the guy played in the SEC against very good quarterbacks and picked off 37 passes in his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. And now we get to see what he can do against elite NFL wide receivers on a weekly basis. I think Surtain is up for the challenge.  


Defensive Player of the Year: TJ Watt

Aaron Donald would be the easiest pick here. I wouldn’t even have to explain myself. This could be the entire article. 

However, a change is coming this year, and Pittsburgh linebacker TJ Watt is coming for the crown. The Steelers have a brick wall of a defense every year, and Watt has become the cornerstone of Mike Tomlin’s defensive scheme. He’s had more than 13 sacks in the past three seasons, capping off last season with 15 sacks and one interception. Now, Watt has multiple other all-pro linebackers alongside him, with the acquisitions of inside linebacker Joe Schobert and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram III. Offenses will have to pay attention to players that aren’t just Watt if they want to win, so Watt will have a feast in one-on-one’s with offensive linemen. Steel City is constructed for Watt to win DPOY this year, and with his contract extension looming over the front office’s head, Watt is primed for a career year and the DPOY crown.


Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera

Yeah, this is a bit of a hot take. The WFT had us all going WTF when they took the eventual Super Bowl champs to the wire with Taylor Heinicke under center.  Washington shocked many with their Wild Card performance a season ago after emerging from a downright terrible NFC East.  Well guess what?  That division isn’t getting a whole lot better this year, and with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, it isn’t unthinkable for this team to rattle off ten or eleven wins.  Rivera’s specialty is defense, and boy is that defense scary.  Dominant second year defensive end Chase Young will lead a hungry, athletic unit that can win them games single handedly.  The transformation of Washington from a joke of a playoff team to a legitimate force will hand Rivera the hardware come NFL Honors.