PFF 2016 Midseason Awards

With every team now past the midway point of their schedule, Senior Analyst Sam Monson hands out our midseason honors.

| 4 weeks ago
Russell Wilson

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

PFF 2016 Midseason Awards


Week 9 of the 2016 NFL season is in the books, meaning we are past the halfway point of the season and can begin to reflect on what we’ve seen so far.

With at least half of the games played for every team, it’s time to give out some midseason awards. Who has been the most valuable player? Which rookies have stood out, and who have been the most dominant offensive and defensive players?

Read on to find out:

Most Valuable Player

Winner: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Monday Night Football made up my mind on this choice, with Russell Wilson bolting from the pack to earn the midseason MVP award at the last gasp. It’s a tight race, with multiple players having strong cases, but what Russell Wilson has been able to do given his offensive line’s “protection”—not to mention with an injured ankle—has been ridiculous. He currently sits fourth in PFF’s QB rankings with a grade of 87.9, but the Seahawks hold the lowest pass-blocking grade as a unit in the entire league, and only four QBs have been under pressure at a greater rate than Wilson (38.1 percent of his dropbacks). His performance on Monday night was a perfect example of how his play has mitigated that pressure, putting the ball in the air early to the right spot and allowing his receivers to go and make a play before the pressure arrives.

Runner-up: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan’s play has improved to match the uptick in his numbers, and he’s a big reason the Falcons’ offense is on fire—along with Julio Jones. Ryan is now second in PFF’s QB rankings, with a grade of 90.8, and is completing almost 70 percent of his passes (69.7).

Offensive Player of the Year

Winner: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Tom Brady has been arguably the best player in football since returning from suspension, and certainly the best QB in the league. He has yet to throw an interception, is completing 73.1 percent of his passes, and even under pressure, has a passer rating of 96.8 in the four games since his return. Adjusting for drops, spikes, passes throwaways, etc., his completion percentage is a ridiculous 87.5—7 percent clear of any other QB. The only thing keeping Brady from the MVP conversation at the midseason point is that he missed half of the season (so far), and the team won games comfortably without him. If he continues this level of play throughout the second half of the year—and the Patriots continue to look this unstoppable—it will be difficult for him not to earn MVP honors. This might be the best Tom Brady has ever played, and that includes a career with some of the best single-season performances in NFL history.

Runner-up: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

While Antonio Brown has had relative struggles with his QB play, Julio Jones has been only more dominant with the guy throwing him the ball stepping up to an elite level so far this season. Jones has 970 yards through nine games, putting him on pace for a 1,724-yard season on 90 receptions, and has simply taken over and dominated games at times this season. Whether teams allow Jones to kill them or go out of their way to take him away and open things up for others, the Falcons’ top wideout has changed every game he has played in.

Julio Jones season grades

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald has picked up exactly where he left off a year ago as the single-most unstoppable defensive force in the game. Donald is playing at J.J. Watt-levels right now, and he has been at that point for the last season and a half. The only difference is how that is reflected in box-score numbers, like sacks. Donald leads the NFL this season in total QB pressures, with 49—a ludicrous number for a player that lines up almost exclusively on the interior of the defensive line and does not see significant snaps as an edge rusher. Donald has multiple-sacks in two games this season, but only five overall, which will likely see him underrated again when it comes time to give out season awards, but he is the single highest-graded player in the league this year (outside of Tom Brady, who has played half as many games) with an overall grade of 95.6, and hasn’t had a bad game since the 2014 season.

Runner-up: Eric Weddle, S, Baltimore Ravens

Eric Weddle has been the league’s best safety for most of his career, and a change in scenery this offseason has done nothing to change that fact. He is the best-graded safety in the league in 2016 as a Baltimore Raven, with a 92.4 overall grade, the only safety to clear the 90.0-barrier. He has graded well in every facet of the game PFF measures, and has been a real difference-maker on a defense that had been crying out for an impact player in the secondary for awhile.

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

I said the moment that Ezekiel Elliott was drafted by Dallas that he was destined for Rookie of the Year behind that offensive line, and so far, that logic has held up. The Cowboys still have arguably the best offensive line in the game, and Elliott has shown at times the value-add he can bring in terms of yards after contact and work beyond the space they open up. He leads the league with 891 rushing yards, which puts him on pace for 1,782 rushing yards this season—within sight of Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record. Crucially, Elliott has also earned solid grades in the passing game, both as a receiver and blocker, keeping him as an every-down player and an impact force that can carry the Cowboys’ offense when it needs it. He certainly has competition to fight off from the rookie QBs, none more so than his own teammate, but right now, Elliott is the midseason Rookie of the Year.

Runner-up: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

The most unlikely rookie of the year candidate of them all, Dak Prescott maintained his excellent preseason performance once things went live in the regular season. He has been excellent but for one hiccup in performance against a formidable Eagles’ defensive front, and if he maintains this (and keeps the starter’s job) down the stretch, he will be a hard player to beat out for Rookie of the Year.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Winner: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

The best two rookies this season both happen to be on the offensive side of the ball, so the winner remains the same here. Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, and Titans right tackle Jack Conklin are the other serious candidates.

Runner-up: Dak Prescott, QB, Dak Prescott

Other names worth throwing into the conversation would be Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is basically running a 2-route tree, but has 573 receiving yards and five touchdowns already, and Bears running back Jordan Howard, who has dominated since winning the starter’s job.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Winner: Joey Bosa, OLB/DE, San Diego Chargers

We may have had to wait awhile to see him on the field, but Joey Bosa has been the league’s most dominant defensive rookie by a distance. In just five (four and a half, really) games and 236 snaps, Bosa has 30 total pressures and 10 defensive stops. He has shown the ability to line up on both sides of the defensive line, and both at defensive end and outside linebacker for the Chargers. He looks every bit the impact pass-rusher San Diego was looking for; Bosa hasn’t had a game in which he has recorded fewer than four total pressures so far in his NFL career, and has the most pressures by any player after their five games of NFL action over the past 10 years of PFF grading.

Runner-up: Karl Joseph, S, Oakland Raiders

The Raiders took a couple of games to get Karl Joseph into the lineup, but he made a big and immediate impact once they did. He tied together a secondary that had solid components, but wasn’t playing together well, and while the Oakland defense still seems to be less than the sum of its parts, it’s far better with Joseph playing. The former West Virginia Mountaineer currently ranks 14th in the PFF safety rankings with an overall grade of 82.6, just one spot below Seattle’s Earl Thomas.

Be sure to check back at the end of the season for PFF’s 2016 season awards. To view last season’s winners, click here

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Matt

    Matt Ryan should be the MVP for mid season over Wilson. Ryan is number 2 in PFF grades only to Brady, which Brady shouldn’t even be counted based on the fact that Ryan has DOUBLE the snaps Brady has. Besides Brady at number 1, you have to go down to the number 11th QB to find a QB (Bradford) with less snaps than Wilson. Wilson’s overall grade, Passing grade & Run grade are all lower than Ryan’s AND Wilson has played 100 less snaps than Ryan. I understand that Wilson is playing with a horrible o-line and that adds to it but Ryan has just been playing better (according to this website) and one could even argue that the NFC South is actually better this year than the NFC West. Arizona, SF & LA are all terrible this year while NO, CAR & TB have struggled but are all actually solid teams

    • cflyyyy

      Totally understand where you’re coming from, Matt Ryan is having a phenomenal season, but think about what this title means. Most valuable. We’re not talking entirely on putting up high numbers, snap count, yards, td’s, etc. We are talking about who has proved they are the most valuable asset to any team in the league. Wilson has suffered two significant injuries this season, and has barely missed a play–sprained knees & ankles are no joke. I also think you’re factoring in snap count far too much. PFF looks at his production on the snaps he has taken and the quality he has played on those snaps, while weighing in on the importance of a strong pass protection and rushing attack. Seattle’s o-line grades out of an average 51.08 on PFF measurements. Atlanta’s line grades at 74.24. Also look at Atlanta’s rushing, Freeman and Coleman have 854 yards to Christine Michael’s mere 447. It’s imperative to look beyond the basic stats to determine who the MVP is, you must look at the entire team and supporting cast. While Ryan is putting up an amazing season with some great plays, look at his supporting cast: a strong offensive line, a potent 2 head rushing attack, and the best wr in the league. Right now, at this point in the season, Wilson has proved he is the most valuable player in the NFL.

      • David Hughey

        Atlanta’s offense is pretty much the best in the NFL, while Seattle’s is way down towards the bottom. Clearly, the Falcons are winning because of their offense while the Seahawks are winning because of their defense.

      • jummy

        In that case Matt Stafford with his 1 million 4th quarter comebacks should be the MVP

      • jummy

        Matt Stafford has the worst defense in the league and an average OLINE. He does more than any QB in the league could with what he has. He is MVP

        • Rocket Man

          Since 2005 there have been 24 QB’s in the NFL who started 10 games or more for their team during the regular season and who also finished the year with a QB rating of 103.0 or higher and when those 24 teams received that level of stellar quarterback play……….ALL 24 OUT OF 24 TEAMS MADE THE PLAYOFFS and only 2 times out of those 24 did the team not win at least 10 games (both SD Chargers won less 8 and 9 games).

          Also of note- there’s been 46 times since 2002 that a QB started 10 or more games in a season for a team and put up a 100 QB rating or higher and 45 of those 46 times his team had at least a .500 record or better (last year’s NO Saints with their god awful defense won just 7 games). Only 5 of those 46 times did that team not make the playoffs.

          Stellar QB play can cover up a lot of team deficiencies that’s for sure and this year’s Detroit Lions are proof of that. The Lions defense is ranked last in defensive DVOA (opponent adjusted) at another site, ranked 27th in rushing yards per game on offense and also they’ve dropped the most passes by a team in the NFL so far this year. Yet despite all of this they are currently 5-4 overall on the season.

        • Nelson Cobb

          Somebody started drinking early today!!

        • crosseyedlemon

          Your point about Stafford having very little support is valid but being able to lift a bad team to mediocre status really isn’t enough to get a QB into the MVP debate.

      • Stephen21

        If we’re talking most valuable to their team it has to be Rodgers. Without him the Packers wouldn’t have won a single game.

    • Eric Sloss

      I would definitely put Ryan over Wilson as well. He’s had the better yr and that offense is humming. The Falcons D has not been good at all, so there’s been a ton of pressure on Ryan because of this.

  • Joe Doe

    I rarely argue with PFF grading, but I have a problem with Russell as the midseason MVP. Occasionally I believe you have to take a step back and ask, regardless of PFF grades, am I ok with giving a guy who has 7 total touchdowns in 8 games this award? Yes, he has the worst line in the league, but he has two pass catchers with high 80’s grades. Let’s also consider that only one of the teams they played currently has an above .500 record. Actually, using this weeks power rankings you can see that they have played 2 top 10 and four bottom 10 defenses.

    If we really want to delve into supporting cast, let’s not stop short of extending it to the other side of the ball, where they have the #2 PFF graded defense. If they were average, these games wouldn’t be close enough that Russell’s presence would matter.

    The only way I can understand picking Russell is saying that this team would be 2-4 win team without him, which very well may be true.

    • AKjester

      I’m a Seahawk fan that generally agrees with your statements, but I do think it is likely that the Hawks would be 2-4 without him. That assessment is based on their lack of an established backup QB and Boykin could likely lose games for the Hawks this year.
      The lack of touchdowns is a big hit for a MVP candidate though. I think Derek Carr is a better choice. I do not think we would be talking about the Raiders at all without him.

      • Joe Doe

        Yeah, the more I think about it the less I have an issue with this. I’ll take it one step further, Tom Brady, Big Ben, Aaron Rodgers v1.0 (and especially v2.0, you know the one infested with the Munn bug) would all struggle behind that line. I think Russell is the most elusive quarterback I’ve ever seen that still keeps his eyes down the field. Behind the worst line he has about the same amount of sacks as Rodgers does behind one of the best pass protection lines.

        That being said, 7 touchdowns in 8 games. Eh……

        • gomer_rs

          Big Ben would be the only comparable, and I can’t stand that guy. But the way he sheds rushers and keeps plays alive is comparable to Wilson. The BIG difference, is that Big Ben takes the hit and shrugs it off, Wilson just dodges and survives.

          I can’t think of a single season in recent memory where Roethlisberger hasn’t missed significant time, while Wilson is going to make a run, if he doesn’t already have it, at the consecutive start lead.

    • gomer_rs

      Without Wilson the only game I think the Seahawks win is against SF. 1 win team without him. Even against the Jets, he tore them apart, Hawks only by one TD.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I think presenting mid season awards on a positional basis would be more relevant. This format precludes offensive linemen from getting any recognition and special teams play is likewise ignored.

    • Joe Doe

      Agreed.

    • johnforamerica

      Clearly you were on to something – they published THAT article today!

  • Mike

    Don’t care about mid-season, Derek Carr is going to win MVP when it counts because it’ll be undeniable at season’s end that he deserves it.

    • Nelson Cobb

      Haha, put the bottle away. You know what’s funny, all this hype for Derek Carr this year “breaking out”, he was actually better over the 1st half last season than he was over the 1st half this season. Lets see if he can avoid crumbling in the 2nd half this year like he did last year before awarding him anything. 104.3 passer rating, 19 TDs, 4 INTs, 7.67 YPA over the 1st 8 compared to 79.2 passer rating, 13 TDs, 9 INTs, 6.3 YPA over the 2nd half.

      • Neo Maxie Zoom Dweebie

        Your comment just reeks of bias. And typing, “HaHa” reeks of a troll.
        Carr is having an MVP season right now an you know it. (Or you dont read much about NFL players)
        Last year he was in his second year in the NFL. There’s NO reason to assume he’ll have a sophomore slump in his third year, especially when he’s twice the QB he was last year. 17-3, 2,505yds 99.1 passer rating. (Ranked 3rd!!) Not to mention his ability to lead his team to comeback/game winning drives all year and a 7-2 record. (What’s your teams record?)
        Carr is in every MVP discussion so far this year, and your hoping he tanks in the second half won’t change that….

        • Nelson Cobb

          He was playing better over the 1st half last season!!!! Those numbers you just posted for this year are not better than the numbers I posted over his 1st 8 last year. There’s no bias. There’s no trolling. Did I say “I hope he crumbles”?? No, I didn’t. I like Derek Carr, but the homerism from the Oakland fans is what annoys me. The guy was better at this point last year, and his issues came in the Winter months, when the weather begins to change. We’ll see what happens this year, but there’s nothing different this year from last year, same WR’s, same RB, solid Oline, but he was playing better over his 1st 8 last year than he did this year, yet he’s so much better this year??? No, he was better at this point last year. We’ll see what happens. I just can’t stand fans who have been irrelevant for the last decade, that finally have something to be positive about, come out the woodwork acting like they have the best thing since slice bread going on. Just be happy you aren’t irrelevant right now, and don’t act like Derek Carr is the best since Johnny U.

          • Neo Maxie Zoom Dweebie

            “Nothing different this year from last.”

            OK. I’m done. I don’t argue with morons. Have a nice day.

          • Nelson Cobb

            What you mean to say is, you’re biased and can’t argue against facts. That’s cool though.

  • Tom

    I would take Dak over Zeke for rookie of the year. Its way harder to do what Dak is doing than Zeke. The fact that Zeke is chasing records and Dak is breaking them tells you all you need to know.

    • Vince

      The Cowboys lost their only game when Elliot had less than 55 rushing yards. Conklin, Elliot, and Joseph are all better

    • gomer_rs

      Agreed. Running backs are much more dependent on the O-line and separating Zeke from the best O-line in football is much harder than separating Dak.

  • jummy

    Russell Wilson is MVP? He is almost last in ESPN Total QB Rankings. What a joke. PFF is crazy. Wilson has played like garbage. GARBAGE, up until Monday Night. He also is blessed with the best pass protection in the NFL.

    Matt Ryan or Matt Stafford are the most valuable players.

    WHAT A CROCK OF HORSE MANURE!

    • Don

      Jum….The Seahawks OL ranks as one of the worse by league standards. Ryan, Stafford, Brady, Rogers would be running for their lives and not nearly be as successful behind that OL, but Wilson does it weekly while still recovering from a MCL knee and a sprained ankle since week 1. Wilson for MVP!

    • gomer_rs

      The starting left tackle for the Seahawks has 3 total starts at Left Tackle, one in Middle School, one against the New Orleans Saints, and one against the Buffalo Bills.

      He’s actually an improvement over the guy that got hurt.

  • jummy

    Matt Stafford MVP. How many 4th quarter comebacks? How bad is the defense he plays with? Stafford has the worst defense in the league supporting him and has to WIN GAMES ALL BY HIMSELF EVERY WEEK!

    Ill throw Matt Ryan in as a runner-up. But no one does more with so little than Matt Stafford.

  • BeansNRice

    This site isn’t all that cutting edge. I mean it’s probably football. Moves at glacial pace.

  • KT

    Cowboys have the best OL in football but none are first team in your All-Pro team.

  • Kenny Wilson

    Tavon Young for Defensive Rookie. Idk how he’s graded out of late, but hes definitely coming into his own now as a starter.