Picks for Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown is No. 1
An award that is often difficult to separate from the MVP voting, the Offensive Player of the Year award should be about outstanding offensive performance, regardless of position. For that reason, at PFF, we’ve looked at all offensive positions to find the winner and we’ve even included offensive linemen in the mix in past years. This year’s winner was chosen with an internal consensus at PFF, although the other top performances were still among the best we’ve seen since our data has started in 2007.
Here’s a look at the best offensive players in the NFL this season:
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite playing a few games with backup quarterbacks Landry Jones and Michael Vick, Brown posted the highest receiving grade we’ve seen, and he finished with the top rating among wide receivers at 96.5.
The gaudy numbers speak for themselves — 136 receptions, 1,841 yards, 10 touchdowns, 23 missed tackles forced, 2.89 yards per route run — but it’s how Brown achieves such numbers that makes him great. Despite his small stature, he can get open at every level of the field using slippery route-running and above-average downfield ball skills to make plays. In addition to winning within the framework of the offense, Brown and QB Ben Roethlisberger have excellent chemistry when plays break down, and Roethlisberger’s improvisational skills mesh perfectly with Brown’s ability to lose a defender during the scramble drill.
Perhaps most impressive about Brown is his continued improvement. He finished as the second runner up for this award last season and somehow surpassed last year’s performance, which also had him ranked as the top receiver in the league. On top of all of the production, Brown dropped only five passes in 141 catchable opportunities (3.55 percent), good for fifth in the league. He brings the total package to the table, and Brown is not only the best receiver in the league, but also this year’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
While Brown has been ascending to his position the top, Palmer’s rise came out of nowhere. He’s always been talented, but this is the first season he’s really put it all together, and he did so with a week-to-week consistency that is among the best quarterback seasons we’ve graded since 2007.
Arizona’s passing attack is as aggressive as any in the league and Palmer ran it to perfection, making accurate, big-time throws to all levels of the field. He led all quarterbacks with a PFF rating of 98.5 and he posted a positive grade in all 16 games. While it’s just one part of the equation, Palmer’s passes to the intermediate level between the numbers look like a typo: 58-for-79 (73 percent), for 998 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions, good for a passer rating of 130.1.
His deep-ball accuracy and intermediate-level domination were unmatched this year, making for an MVP-like season and runner-up as Offensive Player of the Year.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
If not for Antonio Brown, Jones was the league’s best wide receiver, though he may get bonus points for being the only viable threat in the Falcons’ offense. Few receivers can take over a game like Jones, and his combination of deep speed, ball skills, and after-the-catch ability makes him special. Whether separating from man coverage, finding a hole in a zone, or picking up yards on a screen, Jones’ versatility makes him a factor in every game he plays.
His numbers are not far off from Brown’s, as he finished with 136 receptions for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns, all while leading the league with 637 yards after the catch. If the Falcons can find a complement to Jones, either at wide receiver or tight end, the numbers may drop a bit, but Jones has clearly established himself as a top-3 receiver in the league.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
No tight end can change the game like Gronkowski, and it’s been evident every time he has missed games due to injury in his young career. He’s already putting up Hall of Fame numbers despite his being in the league only six years.
This season, he led all tight ends with a PFF grade of 96.4, including a 94.9 mark as a receiver. He led all tight ends with 1,176 yards, averaging a gaudy 16.3 yards per reception and a league-high 546 yards after the catch, catching 11 touchdowns and dropping just four passes.
Further separating Gronk from the pack at is position is his blocking ability. His 88.8 grade as a run-blocker was the highest of any tight end this season.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Gronkowski’s quarterback deserves proper credit for his season as well. Brady came out on fire, perhaps running the offense at the highest level we’ve ever seen from him, and even though he tailed off toward the end of the season, injuries along the offensive line and out wide were both big factors. Brady finished No. 2 behind Palmer with a PFF grade of 92.9, and he didn’t post a bad individual game grade until Week 17.
Brady set a PFF record with 15 touchdowns while pressured, and he took care of the ball better than any quarterback in the league, as he had a turnover-worthy play (TWP) on just 1.11 percent of his dropbacks. Even as his teammates went down to injury, Brady’s decision-making and accuracy were stellar all season in his best wire-to-wire effort since 2007.
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