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.

| 4 years ago

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…

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Ted Thompson

    I dont understand how you can have Manning over Rodgers. Rodgers is better in every category except yards. Rodgers was sacked 30 more times then Manning. You can say manning is better at getting rid of the ball quickly, but 30 sacks difference? Imagine would Rodgers would do with that line. Clearly Rodgers has better numbers and under more diress then Manning. He even has a better acuracy % with 5 more drops. Its close but Rodgers has had a better year the manning with a worse line and probably team. That said All Day should be the hands down MVP.

    • Begeness2

      Suk it Ted skol vikings

      • Annoyed

        typical fairweather viking fan class….smh

        • Ted Thompson

          Hey be nice to the Vikings fan their not used to being in the playoffs so their a little fired up

          • Chris Cunningham

            Actually I always thought that the sacks were on Rodgers for holding onto the ball too long as he trys to make plays down the field – I take his sacks as a negative against him but that is JMO. 

          • Chris Cunningham

            Actually I always thought that the sacks were on Rodgers for holding onto the ball too long as he trys to make plays down the field – I take his sacks as a negative against him but that is JMO. 

    • H.Y.

      Green Bay has worse OL than Denver : True

      Aaron Rodgers got sacked a lot just because his OL sucks : False

      Peyton Manning’s sack rate is always at the top even when he played behind horrible OL in Indy. Just ask Colts fans. It’s not OL which makes Manning better. It’s other way around.

      Avoiding sacks is very important skill of quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers’ tendency to hold onto the ball long is clearly one of the reasons why he got sacked a lot. 

    • Jx292

      I think you have a slight bias Mr. Thompson

  • Rawbebaba

    Wait did you say he had a horrible oline in indy……what kinda crack have you been smoking, yea he holds the ball, sometimes but a vast majority of his sacks come within 2 seconds of the snap…..and the amount of time he holds the bal is vastlyy impacted by his bootlegs, rodgers had a better year all around without his top two options…..but seriously manning had the 2nd best oline in front of him for the first decade plus of his career, ie, why james was so effective and why every game i ever wathed them play, that oline never let ppl free….they run block and pass blocked better than 98% of the league

    • Patrick_tone

      Rodgers also didnt have to rebuild his whole body manning at 4 neck surgeries came back n over came the odds n did what he did… manning and rofgers r the 2 best in the nfl … rodgers has a harder time leading his offense n doesnt take control like manning does… when u have a leader like manning he makes everyone aeound him better by having them work harder…

  • Rawbebaba

    OOan ima packer fan and think arodge should be mvp no team depends on one player to be excellent as much as the pack depend on him, the manning vs. Rodgers debate is splitting hairs but rodgers is the better qb same pre snap recognition rodgers has better velocity, as well as accuracy rodgers is head and shoulders above manning athleticly can actually throw on the run, and when he does it still has rhe velocity and pinpoint accuracy that his throws have when he standing in the pocket,