Football season is not too far away and there is plenty to look forward to. With an array of talent and several competitive teams, absolutely anything can happen. So without any further ado, here is the first of a two-part series of predictions for the upcoming NFL season. This one will include breakout players and award winners.
*Keep in mind that everything in this article is a prediction*
Breakout Players to Watch for: There are a number of guys who are destined for breakout seasons this year. Here are three of them.
1) Chris HoganÂ
Previously a four-year member of the Buffalo Bills, Hogan only played in three of them. In those three seasons combined, Hogan totaled just 959 yards and six touchdowns. He then became a free agent and signed an offer sheet with the New England Patriots this offseason. The Bills had the opportunity to match the Patsâ€™ offer and retain Hogan, but they chose not to do so.
Now with New England, Hogan will be catching balls from the great, Tom Brady. Yes, Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season, but when he comes back, Hogan is destined to breakout. Even with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in New England, Hogan is still worth keeping an eye on.
2) David Johnson:
The second-year running back was an afterthought in the Cardinals backfield for the first eleven games of last season, as Andre Ellington balled out when he was healthy and Chris Johnson enjoyed a revelation of a season. But both backs went down with injuries, and when they did, it was Johnson who answered the call. The Northern Iowa product totaled 658 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns in the seasonâ€™s final five games, helping Arizona finish the season strong and advance to the conference championship game. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians could not ignore Johnsonâ€™s production from the end of last year, and confirmed that by making him the starter for this season.
A very powerful runner and a menacing pass-catching threat out of the backfield, Johnson could very well be one of the gameâ€™s best running backs. All he needs now is an entire season of work to prove himself, and this year should be the one.
3) Ladarius Green:
The German born (but American) tight end spent the first four seasons of his career with the San Diego Chargers, and just like every other tight end that has donned a Charger uniform for the last thirteen years, he walked in the shadow of Antonio Gates. As Gates continues to play at a high level in San Diego, Green became a free agent this offseason and opted for greener pastures.
Green went to Pittsburgh, filling a void left by beloved Steelers tight end Heath Miller, after retiring at seasonâ€™s end. Now a starter, Green finally has a chance to show what heâ€™s got, and having Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback shouldnâ€™t be the worst thing in the world for him. Letâ€™s also not forget that the Steelers have Leâ€™Veon Bell and Antonio Brown; those two will be getting quite a bit of attention from opposing defenses, which should only work in Greenâ€™s favor. So with all that said, look for Ladarius to seize his golden opportunity in Pittsburgh.
Award Winners: Itâ€™s always fun to predict award winners for an upcoming season, as they could be shockingly accurate, or horribly wrong. Weâ€™ll just have to wait and see how these ones go.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers)
Nelson missed the entirety of last year after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason, and although the Packers made the playoffs, they were clearly not the same, for Aaron Rodgers was left with an underwhelming supporting cast. Davante Adams was expected to be a satisfactory replacement for Nelson, but underperformed mightily. James Jones was brought back, and while he made an impact at times, he completely disappeared at others. Randall Cobbâ€™s production was quite disappointing as well, as teams were able to pay more attention to him without Nelson on the field.
Now with Nelson back, balance shall be restored in the often-dominant Green Bay offense. The former Kansas State walk-on will return to his usual sure-handed self, and his terrific bounce-back season will be acknowledged with this award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas Cowboys)
Just two years ago, the Dallas Cowboys fed DeMarco Murray a whopping, 392 times, and he responded by leading the NFL in rushing. The Cowboysâ€™ effective ground game was an integral part of their 12-4 record, but after the season, Murray left in free agency and things went downhill in all kinds of ways for Americaâ€™s Team. So when Dallas selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot with the fourth overall pick in the draft, they made it clear that they are going back to what made them contenders a short while ago. They need an effective running game, and Elliot can definitely be the guy to get them there.
A hungry player who always wants the ball in his hands, when you add in Zekeâ€™s drive with his football ability, you have a darn good running back. Expectations are high for Elliot, who is being called upon to fill a colossal void for in a team in a huge market. The stakes are highÂ but expect the former Buckeye to embrace the big stage and deliver.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Karl Joseph (Oakland Raiders)
There were a number of big names on the list of defensive players in this yearâ€™s draft; Karl Joseph was not really one of them.
A two-time team captain at West Virginia, Joseph had three impressive seasons for the Mountaineers before his senior year was cut short by a knee injury. He played just four games last year, but still had five interceptions.
In an effort to upgrade their 26th ranked pass defense from last season, the Raiders looked past Josephâ€™s injury and drafted him with the 14th overall pick. ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called Joseph â€œan intimidator,â€ adding that he â€œcan step in immediately and make a difference in the teamâ€™s secondary.â€ Look for the safety to just that, en route to capturing the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
More to comeâ€¦
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt (Houston Texans)
J.J. Watt is the best player in football. Heâ€™s deserved an MVP before, but defensive players essentially never get it, especially in todayâ€™s offense-driven league. Instead, Watt is just routinely awarded with Defensive Player of the Year, having won it three out of his five years in the league. Look for that to continue in 2016.
Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers)
Coaching the Packers to the best record in the NFC, McCarthy will receive his first career Coach of the Year Award. Yeah they have Aaron Rodgers, but it also takes a good coach to win, right?
MVP: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
He wonâ€™t just win the Offensive Player of the Year award; he will be this yearâ€™s MVP as well.
Basking in the glory of Jordy Nelsonâ€™s return, Rodgers, along with the coaching of the aforementioned Mike McCarthy, will lead the Packers to an NFC North title and the conferenceâ€™s number one seed. A plethora of discount double-check celebrations may very well transpire.
For Next Week: Hope you enjoyed part one because weâ€™re just getting started. Be sure to catch next weekâ€™s addition of NFL predictions.