• Patrick Mahomes takes home MVP: While he had a fair number of challengers throughout the season, he remains the clear-cut pick when all is said and done.
• Sauce Gardner cleans up in defensive categories: The New York Jets rookie cornerback wins Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year and Best Coverage Defender.
• Chris Jones beats out elite edge rushers for DPOY: Jones dominated from his primarily interior alignment, earning him Defensive Player of the Year honors ahead of Micah Parsons, Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett.
Estimated Reading Time: 11 mins
The 2022 NFL regular season is over, which means it’s time to hand out some awards. Fourteen teams are focused on the playoffs, with the rest of the league already turning their attention toward NFL free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. Now, we recognize the best performances of the year.
PFF’s awards are based on the regular season only. Any playoff performances may affect a player’s standing in the PFF 101 after the season, but the following accolades are deserved based on the 2022 regular season. In addition, they aren’t purely driven by a player’s overall PFF grade. Play-by-play grading forms the bedrock of the analysis, but the level of competition, player role and several other factors weigh in and determine the final winners.
Honorable Mention: QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals; QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
The MVP race has been a battle all season long, but there has been one constant. First, it was Josh Allen versus Patrick Mahomes. Then, it was Tua Tagovailoa versus Mahomes, Jalen Hurts versus Mahomes or even Joe Burrow versus Mahomes. But when one name is constant all the way through the season, that guy is the MVP.
Mahomes led the best offense in the NFL after having arguably the best receiver in the game removed from the team in the offseason. He sports a 91.3 PFF grade on the season and passed for 8.1 yards per attempt while making the kind of plays only he can.
Dwight Stephenson Award
Honorable Mention: WR Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins; DI Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
Often, PFF’s Stephenson Award — given to the best player in the NFL regardless of position — allows us to fix what’s wrong with MVP, focusing on how good a player is, not how valuable. This year, it is one and the same. Patrick Mahomes playing at his best is the best player in the league as well as the most valuable. Other players at other positions ran him close, but Mahomes is as deserving of this award as he is the MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year
Honorable Mention: WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings; RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
There were some incredible candidates for Offensive Player of the Year this season, but no player had the kind of effect on defenses that Tyreek Hill did in his first season in Miami. Hill, within Mike McDaniel’s offense, helped transform Tua Tagovailoa from a quarterback who looked lost into one who put up 8.9 yards per attempt and ran the best offense in the game with him on the field.
Defensive Player of the Year
Honorable Mention: EDGE Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; EDGE Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
While all of the focus has been on the three elite edge rusher seasons, Chris Jones has been every bit as good as an interior force. With 77 total pressures, Jones tallied 14 more than any other interior pass rusher, and he even had snaps where he kicked out to rush around tackles from a true edge alignment at well north of 300 pounds.
With Aaron Donald getting hurt this season, Jones was the best and most consistent interior pass rusher, and he beats out the three elite edge rushers getting all of the attention.
Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mention: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions; CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks
Sauce Gardner recorded the lowest passer rating allowed (52.5), the highest PFF coverage grade (90.2), the lowest completion rate allowed (45.2%) and the most plays on the football (interceptions and pass breakups combined) of any cornerback this season.
He wasn’t just the best rookie defender; he was the best cornerback in the game in his first NFL season. Aidan Hutchinson played at that level in the second half of the year, but Sauce was there from Day 1.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mention: RB Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks; RB Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
Garrett Wilson's effect on the Jets' offense was obvious, and for him to have the kind of season he did with the quarterback situation in New York was remarkable. Zach Wilson dragged down his numbers almost every time he was on the field, yet Garrett still led all rookies in receiving yards (1,103), targets (139), catches (83) and broken tackles (22).
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mention: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions; CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks
The season that Sauce Gardner had at one of the most difficult positions in football was truly remarkable. He wasn’t just the best defensive rookie; he was one of the best defenders in the game as a rookie. That makes him the no-brainer Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Comeback Player of the Year
Honorable Mention: RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
You can reasonably make the argument that Geno Smith was never actually coming back from anything, or that the only thing he was coming back from was mediocrity earlier in his career, but it just feels right to accept that he belongs in this category and deserves the award for the incredible season he put together out of nowhere.
Even after a downturn late in the year, Smith finished ranked inside the top 10 in PFF overall and passing grades, made 34 big-time throws and broke Seattle single-season records held by the guy he replaced, Russell Wilson.
Honorable Mention: WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings; WR Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
Separating Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson has been incredibly difficult this season. At various points in the year, each player was on course to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record and become the first receiver to break 2,000 receiving yards. Hill fell short of that mark once Tua Tagovailoa began to miss serious game time, and Jefferson’s pursuit of it ended when he was virtually blanked by Jaire Alexander and the Packers in Week 17. They were the best two receivers in football, but only one of them can win the award. Hill had one more explosive play, dropped fewer passes and gained significantly more yards per route run (3.2 to 2.6), giving him the win by the narrowest of margins.
Best Offensive Lineman
Honorable Mention: OT Andrew Thomas, New York Giants; OT Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers
The last time Lane Johnson gave up a sack, Donald Trump was still president and the U.K. still had a queen, not a king. He allowed nine total pressures this season across 551 pass-blocking snaps despite having one of the hardest roles in the league in terms of schematic help.
Johnson is the gold standard for pass blocking, particularly at right tackle, and his absence for the final two games of the regular season made a notable difference for the Eagles' offense.
Best Pass Rusher
Honorable Mention: EDGE Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; EDGE Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys; EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
Like Defensive Player of the Year, all of the focus will go to the edge rushers, but Chris Jones was every bit their equal from an interior alignment, where he was a true game-wrecker all season long for Kansas City.
Jones tallied the most pressures (77) and the best pass-rush win rate (20.2%) of any interior rusher, with not a single one of his pressures being unblocked. He also had a massive 41 pass-rushing wins that didn’t get a chance to become pressure because the ball was thrown before it could.
Best Run Defender
Honorable Mention: LB Bobby Wagner, Los Angeles Rams; LB Frankie Luvu, Carolina Panthers
Jalen Ramsey was good in coverage this season, with occasional games of elite play, but he was on another level to any other cornerback in the game in run defense. Ramsey’s ability to impact the run game from his alignment is unrivaled, and he forced two fumbles in the run game, as well.
We typically think of run defense as a job for defensive tackles and linebackers, but no player was as good in that area as Ramsey from his unusual role within the Rams' defense.
Best Coverage Defender
Honorable Mention: LB Germaine Pratt, Cincinnati Bengals; CB Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos
Sauce Gardner has allowed just one touchdown since he was in high school, and that touchdown was a communication breakdown early in the season within the Jets' secondary. In just his rookie season, he was able to go toe-to-toe with some of the game’s best receivers and allowed just a 38.9 passer rating all year in single coverage — a marginally lower figure than if opposing quarterbacks had just thrown the ball at the dirt every play instead.
Breakout Player of the Year
Honorable Mention: S Ryan Neal, Seattle Seahawks; QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Andrew Thomas took a massive jump this season, morphing from an offensive tackle who was trending in the right direction to arguably the best left tackle in the game. It took until he encountered Micah Parsons for him to surrender his first sack this season, and he gave up a total of 21 pressures in 16 games despite an awful offensive line alongside him. Thomas was one of only two tackles (Trent Williams the other) to earn a PFF grade of at least 80.0 in both run blocking and pass protection.
Best Pass Blocker
Honorable Mention: OT Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; OT Laremy Tunsil, Houston Texans
Lane Johnson allowed nine pressures in 15 games, none of which were sacks or knockdowns of his quarterback. He had 10 games of allowing no pressure in pass protection despite playing in an offense that leaves him on an island as much as any player in the NFL.
Johnson was also blocking for a quarterback who averaged 2.57 seconds per pass attempt, meaning he was doing so for far longer than some other players across the league on average.
Best Team Offensive Line
Honorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens
The Eagles were the best offensive line in football this season. They ranked at the top of PFF’s offensive line rankings every single week from the preseason to the final installment. Until Lane Johnson missed the final two weeks of the regular season, there was nothing approaching a weak link, with all five starters grading out as above average in every facet of play.
Best Run Blocker
Honorable Mention: OT Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers; C Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs
The Atlanta Falcons fielded the most run-heavy offense in football this season, calling run plays on more than 50% of their snaps, and that led to some highlight-reel blocks from guard Chris Lindstrom, who was a dominant force in the run game all year.
Lindstrom earned a 93.1 PFF run-blocking grade, the best figure of any offensive lineman, regardless of position, in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals; QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
There are a lot of ways to measure passing performance. No matter which you choose, Patrick Mahomes is rivaling any quarterback in the league. Whether it’s pure volume (more than 500 yards more than anyone else this season), efficiency (8.1 yards per attempt), tape-based play-by-play analysis (91.3 PFF grade) or the sheer creativity of his throws, Mahomes is there with the best in the league. He boasts the best composite skill set of any quarterback in football right now, and maybe of all time.
Best Special Teamer
Honorable Mention: LB Josh Woods, Detroit Lions; S George Odum, San Francisco 49ers; K Daniel Carlson, Las Vegas Raiders
Washington’s Jeremy Reaves was one of the most active special teamers in the league this season. He played 373 special teams snaps across five different phases, making 17 combined special teams tackles along the way. His performances were good enough that he earned some defensive playing time, featuring sparingly during the season and then starting the final three games of the year, playing 124 snaps in the final three weeks in addition to his special teams duties. He was the best special teamer in the NFL this season.