Recapping 2022 NFL Award Winners: Patrick Mahomes, Sauce Gardner, Nick Bosa and more

Phoenix, Arizona, US; New York Jets corner back Sauce Gardner poses for a photo after receiving the award for AP Defensive rookie of the Year during the NFL Honors award show at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Most Valuable Player

After the Chiefs lost elite talent at receiver prior to the season, the sentiment from many around the football industry was to expect regression from Mahomes and the offense. That couldn’t have been further from the outcome we got. Instead, he lit opposing defenses on fire en route to league-leading numbers in passing yardage (5,251) and passing touchdowns (41), and it wasn’t close. He led the field by more than 500 yards and 6 scores. If that wasn’t impressive enough, his passing yardage total not only acts as his career high but also the fourth-highest single-season performance in NFL history.

The box score wasn’t Mahomes’ only redeeming quality this season, as his grading and advanced metrics also support his MVP crown. His 91.7 PFF offensive grade and 90.1 PFF passing grade rank second best among quarterbacks this season. His PFF WAR (4.63) is even more telling, as it ranked among the league’s best and is also a 1.44 increase over last season. And it all came while playing without his former favorite receiver, Tyreek Hill.

Offensive Player of the Year

Winning an honor such as this requires a combination of highlight plays, clutch moments and statistical prowess. Jefferson put all three on full display all season long. Not many players outside of the quarterback position make the shortlist of finalists for the league MVP, but Jefferson did, and that alone should tell you how impressive his season was.

Jefferson was lethal this season, leading the league in a number of categories, including receptions (128) and receiving yardage (1,809), both of which rank among the top-seven single-season marks in NFL history. His ability to make impossibly difficult plays look routine when his offense needs them most has proven invaluable, as displayed by his 22 contested catches and 80 receiving first downs this season, both league-leading marks.

Volume isn't the only thing Jefferson had in spades this season. He was also incredibly efficient, ranking in the 98th percentile in yards per route run (2.48). Jefferson jumped off the spreadsheet in more advanced metrics, too, earning an impressive 91.1 PFF receiving grade to go along with the NFL’s highest offensive WAR from a non-quarterback. 

Defensive Player of the Year

The main factor in deciding who claims this award has always been the flashy defensive stats — sacks and interceptions — and, boy, can Bosa do one of those things as well as any player in the NFL. He was a menace on the edge in 2022, earning a 90.9 PFF pass-rush grade and producing league-leading marks in nearly every pass-rushing category. Bosa bullied opposing tackles on his way to the sack title, accumulating 18.5 sacks and an NFL-best 25.6% win percentage. He was also the only player in the league to surpass 100 total pressures this season. 

Bosa is the rare do-it-all player on the edge who can absolutely destroy an opposing offense’s game plan. Just five players finished this season with 80.0-plus PFF grades in overall defense, run defense and the pass rush. The ability to not only rush the passer but to also fit the run is a crucial aspect that helped set him apart from the rest of the pack. Bosa boasts an 81.1 PFF run-defense grade, the highest of any of the finalists, to go along with just a single missed tackle all season.

Comeback Player of the Year

Given the nature of this award, narrative-based analysis is often used to justify a selection here, and Geno Smith's emergence as a capable starting signal-caller after eight years of toiling away in mediocrity is no exception. After bouncing around the league, backing up Russell Wilson and beating out Drew Lock in training camp, Smith finally got his opportunity to lead the Seahawks' offense — a challenge he handled unexpectedly well.

Smith set new personal bests in passing yardage and touchdowns this season, totaling 1,236 yards and 17 scores more than his previous career highs. He finished the season among some of the league’s most accomplished passers in a number of statistical categories, including touchdown passes (30), big-time throw percentage (5.8%) and accurate pass percentage. Most impressively, Smith managed to finish the season in the top 10 in PFF offense, pass and rushing grades among quarterbacks, ahead of guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert and Kirk Cousins.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Wilson has to be the prototype for producing in the face of adversity. Despite having four different quarterbacks throw him the ball in 2022, he still managed to put up impressive numbers in his rookie campaign. Totaling more than 1,100 yards on 83 catches, the most of any rookie, Wilson proved he will be a tough cover for years to come. What’s made him so dangerous early in his career is his ability after the catch, where he forced 22 missed tackles on receptions (fourth most in NFL).

As impressive as Wilson’s season was, it’s the context that makes this situation fascinating. The Jets were forced to play a number of quarterbacks this season, none producing much more than the previous iteration. The group combined for a 24.6% uncatchable pass rate. In all, the Jets didn't have a single quarterback earn a PFF passing grade higher than 60.0. In fact, the only Jets player to surpass that threshold was Garrett Wilson himself. 

Defensive Rookie of the Year

The second Jet to win hardware during this year's NFL Honors is lockdown cornerback Sauce Gardner. This was a pretty simple decision for voters, as Gardner was not only undoubtedly the best rookie defender this season, he was the best player at his position in the entire league.

Sporting an impressive 90.0 PFF coverage grade (best among secondary players), Gardner played high-level coverage consistently all season long. This season, he allowed the second-lowest completion percentage in the NFL (45.5%) while also producing outstandingly in both forced incompletion percentage (27.5%) and yards per coverage snap (0.58), both of which he led all cornerbacks in.

The most impressive part of his young resume has to be the significant WAR value he managed to produce in his first year. Gardner finished this season with the highest WAR in the NFL from a non-quarterback (0.74) — above both the Offensive Player of the Year (Justin Jefferson – 0.73) and the Defensive Player of the Year (Nick Bosa – 0.48), as well as more than double that of the next closest rookie defender (Kyle Hamilton – 0.35).

Coach of the Year

This was the closest award of the season, as you could make an argument in favor of each of these brilliant football minds. Daboll is as deserving as anyone after the turnaround he pulled in his first season in New York, making the playoffs as a rookie head coach. 

Quarterback Daniel Jones‘ development was Daboll’s primary directive coming in. Although Jones is far from a finished product, he did manage career highs in passing yardage (3389) and completions this season, which is more impressive when the state of New York's receiving corps is considered. The previous regime spent more than $72 million on free agent receiver Kenny Golladay and drafted Kadarius Toney in the first round in 2021, yet Daboll had no qualms about sitting his high-priced receivers on the bench in order to give snaps to other guys further down the depth chart. The Giants even traded Toney to the Chiefs at the deadline, opting to roll with a combination of Darius Slayton, Richie James Jr. and Isaiah Hodgins. Somehow, this team managed to secure a wild-card berth throwing to all receivers drafted in the fifth round or later.


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