This is a beautiful time in the NFL season for all fans. Expectations are high, excitement is growing, and Bills, Dolphins, and Jets fans all collectively believe this is their year. It is fun because we can all make predictions about how certain players will perform throughout the season. It doesn’t help we have major sports news outlets and shows like Hard Knocks spotlighting certain players we as fans, wouldn’t normally see. This is literally the only reason I am drafting the Cleveland Browns, David Njoku, in my fantasy drafts this year. I know, I know. I am falling into the trap that I just outlined.
As far as the Patriots, I wanted to look into the crystal ball some and try my hand at predicting end of season awards such as: Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. To keep it interesting, I will refrain from using top guys like Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski as candidates because, come on, they are already the MVPs of our hearts. Plus, it is a given that these two future first ballot Hall of Famers would win one of these awards.
So here we go, on to the awards:
Most Valuable Player (MVP): James White
Every fan knew James White was getting an award and while I was leaning towards most improved player, I truly believe this accolade fits his profile. James White has often gotten lost in the running back debacle with the Patriots, especially during the regular season. Whether it be losing red zone touches to LeGarrette Blount/Rex Burkhead or losing passing down touches to Dion Lewis, White has never really shined during the regular season. He doesn’t dominate at one particular skill set, he just gets the job done. He is a playoff hero and as he enters his fifth year as a Patriot, one can argue his only true competition is Rex Burkhead. With Lewis gone, Michel being a rookie, and Burkhead entering only his second season as a Patriot, it is obvious that White is the Patriots and Brady’s most trusted running back. This should propel him to an MVP season for the Patriots.
Offensive Player of the Year: Cordarrelle Patterson
Man, Gillette Stadium is going save on power this year because this guy is ELECTRIC. (Bad dad joke) Really though, time and time again we see Bill Belichick take truly gifted athletes that were never in the right system or coach, and turn them into something amazing, and I expect nothing less in this case. Patterson ran a 4.42 forty-meter dash and had a top performing vertical jump of 37.0 inches at his combine, he is also listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds. Basically, he is a freak athlete, and though I do not expect him to break into the top 10 wide receivers this year, I believe we will see him score many different ways and help the Patriots win many games, thus proving this reasoning for being offensive player of the year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Chung
Mr. Chung, you either love him or you hate him. Since I picked him to be our defensive player of the year, I am in the “love him” group. That is because he is basically the James White of defensive. Chung doesn’t exceed at one particular skill, but does everything pretty well, and with Brian Flores taking over the defense in 2018, I expect a more aggressive approach overall. This should benefit Chung since he can cover, tackle, and get after the quarterback just as well as anyone. Don’t be surprised when he ends the season with 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and a defensive touchdown
Comeback Player of the Year: Julian Edelman
This could have gone so many ways, Hightower, Ebner, Derek Rivers. This Patriots team had a ton of key injuries last year, and still made it to the Super Bowl. When talking about James White, I mentioned trust by Brady, well there is not many guys I would rank above James White, but Edelman is one of them. Our offense is completely different without Edelman, and with him back, I believe we will see a more comfortable Tom Brady. Edelman is a fighter, and he wants to prove his worth to the team and best friend every single snap and that is why we will see him bounce back better than ever this year.
Most Improved Player: Trey Flowers
When it comes to the Patriots as a whole, I believe our pass rush is greatly improved. Simply by health of players and new acquisitions like Adrian Clayborn, but 4th year man Trey Flowers should be looking to take a big leap this year. As our defense becomes more balanced on the defensive line, opposing offenses are not going be able to focus their attention on just one guy. Flowers had 7 sacks in 2016 and 6.5 sacks in 2017, so getting to the quarterback is well in Flowers’ wheelhouse. I would love to see this guy have a Chandler Jones type breakout season without the Chandler Jones type trade following.