Awards season is a long way off, but six weeks into the 2022 NFL season it is becoming clear who is on course to be at the front of the line when the honours are handed out.
Using a combination of statistics, rankings and general importance to their teams, we’ve come up with a five-man shortlist of players to have caught the eye in the first third of the regular season, starting with the favourite for the MVP prize.
When he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2018, there were those who doubted whether Josh Allen had the accuracy and understanding to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL. Those doubters have since been made to eat humble pie.
Allen has developed year-on-year to become arguably the league’s premier quarterback and the scary thing is at 26, he could continue to improve.
The California native has proved he can do it all. He leads the NFL in passing yards entering Week Seven having thrown for 1,980 yards, nearly 200 yards more than the second QB on that list, Matt Ryan (1,765).
No one has thrown for more touchdowns (17) than Allen, but it’s not all about his arm strength and accuracy as he can also run the ball, rushing for 257 yards, putting him 35th amongst all rushers this season.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) have Allen graded as their highest-rated quarterback through six weeks, ahead of the likes of Jalen Hurts, Geno Smith, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, all of whom are having excellent seasons, but just not quite as good as Allen.
Allen is +137 to be named MVP and could have cause for a double celebration come the end of the season if he continues to power the Bills, who are +275 to win the Super Bowl, towards a first Lombardi trophy.
Travis Kelce has earned the nicknamed Zeus with his performances for the Kansas City Chiefs and the current season is set up to be another big one for the god of tight ends.
With Tyreek Hill having left the Chiefs for the Miami Dolphins in the off-season, Kelce became the face of the offence and has relished the extra pressure that comes with bearing more of the burden.
He is PFF’s number one ranked tight-end this season and no player has caught more touchdown passes than Kelce’s seven this year, helped by a haul of four in the Chiefs’ Week Five win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Tight ends aren’t supposed to put up the numbers Kelce does, particularly at 33 years old and after nine years in the league. And yet he still ranks top-10 for receptions and receiving yards with only the NFL’s elite pool of wide receivers ahead of him.
The Chiefs have a special quarterback in Mahomes who drives an offence with Super Bowl potential, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without Kelce.
Drafted second overall in 2018 by the New York Giants, Saquon Barkley was expected to change how we thought about running-backs. That hasn’t been the case, but after four injury-riddled years, Big Blue’s decision to draft the Penn State graduate so highly is finally starting to pay dividends.
The Giants are an unexpected 5-1 on the year and a lot of that has to do with Barkley, who has produced some game-changing performances for Brian Daboll’s side.
Entering Week Seven, no player in the NFL has more yards from scrimmage than the 25-year-old with 771. Barkley finally seems fit enough to take on the workload the Giants expect with no player attempting more runs this year, while only Cleveland’s Nick Chubb has more rushing yards.
Barkley is -250 to win comeback player of the year, a fitting prize for a talent we are belatedly seeing the best of.
It has only taken six weeks for Micah Parsons to pull clear in the Defensive Player of the Year race with the Cowboys linebacker now +100 to collect the honour.
Parsons enjoyed a storming first season in the NFL, collecting the Defensive Rookie of the Year gong, and has managed to build on that as the leader of one of the league’s premier defences.
The 23-year-old has six sacks, a forced fumble and 12 quarterback hits to his name already with Dallas’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn having smartly changed his scheme to fit Parsons’ playmaking strengths.
Even a niggling groin injury hasn’t slowed Parsons down and the Cowboys ace has all the making of a generational defensive talent based on his early efforts.
It hasn’t taken long for Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner to endear himself to New York Jets fans with the rookie cornerback having taken the step up from college to the NFL in his stride.
The 22-year-old has quickly become a key member of a fast-ascending Jets defence, forming part of a secondary that ranks sixth in team coverage, according to PFF.
Individually, Gardner has allowed just 149 passing yards on 33 targets and has recorded a league-high nine defended passes in his maiden NFL season.
Gardner is one of several defensive rookies to have shone this season, but the facts that he’s +260 to be crowned Defensive Rookie of the Year shows he’s a cut above the rest.Safer Gambling Week (17-23 October) – Let’s talk about safer gambling. Click here for more information on independent resources. Gamble Responsibly.