Expectations are high in Titletown, as the Green Bay Packers ready to kick off their 100th year as a franchise on Sunday night against the Bears. Following a tumultuous 2017 campaign that spiraled out of control without Aaron Rodgers, the team looks to rebound behind a roster containing proven veterans, promising rookies, and a pair of new coordinators.
If the team meets expectations, they’ll find themselves back in the postseason after missing out on the playoffs for the first time in nine years a season ago. That would also mean that some of the Packers’ established and budding stars could find themselves in contention for individual awards at season’s end. From MVP to the rookies of the year, which players on Green Bay’s roster are most likely to take home the hardware in each of the NFL’s award categories?
Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers
No surprises here. Rodgers’ electric, efficient, and high-volume performances have the Packers’ signal-caller in the MVP discussion on what seems like a yearly basis. Green Bay’s quarterback already has two MVP trophies to his name, and is an early favorite to land a third if he bounces back from injury as anticipated. The award has been almost automatic for quarterbacks in recent history, with 10 of the last 11 and all but four since the turn of the century going to QBs. That trend seems unlikely to change in 2018, and Rodgers is among the best of the best at the position. It’s worth noting that an MVP for Rodgers (or any other QB) would mark the first time in NFL history that quarterbacks took home the award in six straight seasons, but #12 still represents Green Bay’s best chance at boasting an MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year: Mike Daniels
Daniels’ position might not net him the most impressive stat sheet, but there’s little question that the 7th-year pro is currently the best player on Green Bay’s defense. He’s effective against the running game and disruptive to opposing quarterbacks, making him invaluable along the defensive line. It’s no secret that the Packers’ defense has struggled in recent years, but the front three of Daniels, Kenny Clark, and Muhammad Wilkerson should continue to develop into a major strength of the team. With depth issues at linebacker, inexperience at cornerback, and question marks with the safeties, if Mike Pettine can turn around the defense then Daniels and the D-line will likely be a big reason why.
Offensive Player of the Year (non-QB): Davante Adams
While Rodgers may be the most likely to win this award given his position, Adams should be the Packers’ best non-quarterback threat to win OPOY. He thrived as the #2 receiver in 2016, racking up 12 touchdowns (good for second in the league) and falling short of a thousand-yard season by just three yards. In 2017, he continued his development by emerging as a legitimate number one–and potentially a top 10 receiver in the league–all while dealing mostly with Brett Hundley at quarterback. Some criticize the fact that Adams has yet to eclipse the 1000 yard mark, but frankly that’s a weak argument that fails to take the rest of his impact into consideration. Adams’ 22 touchdowns over the past two seasons are the most in the NFL. And with Jordy Nelson no longer in Green Bay, Adams could easily see increases in his production across the board in 2018.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Jackson
The Packers enter 2018 with a trio of promising young rookies. Cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson look to fix Green Bay’s woefully incompetent pass defense of the past couple years, while inside linebacker Oren Burks flashed major potential after being thrust into a larger role after the team lost Jake Ryan to injury. Of the three, Jackson seems most likely to contend for league-wide recognition. The second-round pick excelled in the preseason and had the types of flashy plays that get award voters love. He recorded an interception against Pittsburgh that he returned for a touchdown, and had another pick six against Oakland that was called back due to penalty.He was the highest graded cornerback by Pro Football Focus in the preseason, as well as the top rated rookie regardless of position. Jackson and Alexander will both look to change the recent reputation of Green Bay’s secondary, and could garner a lot of attention if they’re able to do so.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: J’Mon Moore
For this award, it’s fair to be upfront; there’s an almost 0% chance the Packers have a player contend for OROY. The nature of Green Bay’s offense heading into 2018 is that it will revolve around veterans: Adams, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham, and Geronimo Allison as receivers, and Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones at running back. So the Packers’ rookie wide out trio of Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will have limited opportunities to impact the stat sheet. Their roles will be nowhere near those of players like Sam Darnold, Saquon Barkley, and Baker Mayfield, but drops aside, Moore’s overall ability would make him the most likely of the Packers’ offensive rookies to get his name in the discussion.
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers finds himself in a battle with a number of superstars who will be contending for Comeback Player of the Year. Again, quarterbacks tend to have it easiest in terms of getting their performances noticed, so a strong one from Rodgers just a year after missing half the season with a broken collarbone would definitely warrant consideration. Other elite players like J.J. Watt, David Johnson, Odell Beckham, and Andrew Luck are also fighting back from injuries, but Rodgers is the team’s only real chance at bringing this award to Green Bay for the second time in the past three seasons.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .