2012 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
Steve Palazzolo examines the top candidates for Offensive Player of the Year and announces PFF's choice for the award.
2012 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
It appears that the final ballot for three different major awards will come down to the same two players.
Not only have running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Peyton Manning put up the best offensive seasons in the league, they did so while coming back from near career-ending injuries. They’re the only real candidates for Comeback Player of the Year, and they are clearly in the running for our MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards as well.
In a league where offensive record books are being re-written on a yearly basis, particularly in the passing game, Peterson and Manning stood out among their peers as they left their injuries in their rearview mirrors. Peterson proved that his ability to run the ball actually may be more efficient that his own team’s passing game, while Manning’s re-birth in Denver has vaulted them to the top of the AFC.
Not to be overlooked is wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards, and even QB Aaron Rodgers, who has taken a backseat after an predictable step back from his near-perfect performance from last season.
It’s time to take a look at the final three in our Offensive Player of the Year rankings, where two of the season’s biggest question marks answered their doubters loudly over the last 16 games.
Offensive Player of the Year
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Where to begin with Peterson’s accolades?
We can start with his falling a mere 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2105 yards, and his +30.1 PFF grade is the best we’ve ever given to a running back. It should be noted that in our system, it’s near impossible for a running back to post anything like the gaudy numbers we’ve seen from players like J.J. Watt and Geno Atkins this season, but Peterson’s grade is comparable for his position.
The context of the numbers is incredible, especially given Minnesota’s limitations in the passing game. With every opposing team’s game plan keyed in on Peterson, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry with 67% of his yards coming after contact. He averaged a ridiculous 4.1 yards after contact, effectively still acting as a league average running back even after the defense got to him. Peterson led the league by forcing 69 missed tackles and ranked second in our Elusive Rating at 72.3.
To rush for 2,097 yards there have to be some big gains, and Peterson had his share of breakaway runs. He broke free for two 82-yarders, as well as three others of more than 60. Perhaps most impressive, though, was his ability to save his best performances for the end of the season. At the beginning of the year, it was amazing just to see him take a snap being only nine months removed from major knee surgery, but as the year wore on, he clearly got stronger. Minnesota’s playoff push was set squarely on his shoulders and he came through with 100-yard efforts in nine of his last 10 games, and went for over 200 twice in that span.
To top off the season, Peterson’s most valuable run was likely his last, as it set up a game-winning field goal that put the Vikings into the playoffs. He may be the only running back who can actually be the focal point of a two-minute drill, but as Minnesota was driving for the game-winning kick, it was Peterson who received four straight handoffs. On his final carry, he delivered the a 26-yard gain that set up Blair Walsh’s kick and Minnesota’s postseason ticket.
When it came down to crunch time, the Vikings ignored the clock and put the ball into the hands of their best playmaker, and our Offensive Player of the Year.
Flip the page to find the runners up…