By Abu Mara
Most Valuable Player
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, QB
It is almost difficult to remember that people were wondering if they saw the last of Peyton Manning around this time last year.
After using the 2011 season as a rebooting sabbatical, Manning's 2012 season statistics of 38 touchdowns and 4659 yards passing, for a 105.8 QB rating was phenomenal. But it's Manning's ability to raise the level of his Denver Broncos teammates that earned my MVP.
For proof of Manning's positive influence, one need look no further than Eric Decker and the Broncos defense. In one season with Manning, Decker saw his numbers spike by 452 yards and five touchdowns. A Broncos defense that finished 20th last season, finished the 2012 season second. The Broncos defense meteoric rise can be attributed to Manning's ability to convert 3rd downs at a 45 percent clip compared to the 30.8 percent last season. The extra 3rd down conversions have allowed the Broncos defense to rest and remain fresh and energized throughout the season.
Both Adrian Peterson and Manning can make a strong case for the 2012 NFL MVP award. But today's NFL revolves around quarterback play. In 2012, Manning exhibited exemplary quarterback play on a team that finished tied for the leagues best record. Yes, Peterson did rush for 2,000 yards, but I still give a slight edge to Manning.
Offensive Player of the Year
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, RB
After shredding his knee in Week 16 of last season, Adrian Peterson was viewed as the NFL's former best running back. But Peterson's remarkable post-surgery 2012 season totals of 2,097 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns have vaulted him into all-time great status. Peterson is a once in a generation player that possesses excellent vision, brute strength and sprinters speed, which make him very difficult to corral, let alone contain.
This season Peterson regularly faced eight-man fronts and sometimes nine-man fronts. But the extra defenders in-the-box did nothing to slow him down. During the 2012 season, Peterson averaged a blistering six yards per carry against defenses that were primed to stop him. Add another 40 receptions for 217 receiving yards for a total of 2,314 yards, which is quite impressive considering that Peterson was the Vikings only offensive weapon.
Peterson's 2012 season was highlighted by a 210 yard rushing performance in Week 12 and a 212 yard game in Week 14, which illustrates Peterson's beast-like ability to get stronger as the season wore on.
Peterson's 2012 season didn't end up with the NFL rushing record, but it did end him cementing all-time great status.
Defensive Player of the Year
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans, DT
One thing that is certain after the 2012 NFL season is that J.J. Watt became a household name. Watt is an athletic and relentless defensive tackle that possesses a non-stop motor, and a penchant for destroying plays in the opponents backfield.
Watt was everywhere this season, which could be indicated by his 2012 statistics of 20.5 sacks, 81 tackles, four forced fumbles and 16 passes defended. The fact that Watt was the opposing offense point of emphasis make Watt's 2012 stats even more impressive. Though Watt requires double teams and constant attention, it's the Monster named Watt's ability to time up the quarterback and swat passes as if he were Wilt Chamberlain, that make him special.
Yes, Von Miller and Aldon Smith had impressive 2012 seasons. But, it was the unblockable Watt's energizer-like effort that the NFL couldn't figure out.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins, QB
When the dust settled after all the hype surrounding this year's rookie quarterback class, it was Robert Griffin III who finished as the rookie valedictorian.
Griffin’s laser right arm, lightning speed and ability to process NFL information instantly was astounding. In Griffin's rookie campaign, his 3,200 passing yards and 20 touchdowns didn't 'wow' some pundits that prefer Andrew Luck.
But Griffin's seven rushing touchdowns and 816 yards rushing clearly can't go unaccounted for. Not to mention that Washington's blend of Mike and Kyle Shanahan's West coast/ Zone-read offense and Griffin's pistol have become a reoccurring nightmare for NFL linebackers to diagnose. Add in the fact that Griffin only had seven turnovers in his first year of office, and it's easy to see why RGIII is one of the NFL's virulent weapons and my Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers, MLB
On any given Sunday, if you want to locate Luke Kuechly, just find the ball carrier. As the NFL version of 'Johnny-on-the-spot', Kuechly's rookie tallies of three forced fumbles, two interceptions, one sack and a league leading 164 tackles, resemble the numbers of a ten-year vet, not a linebacker in his NFL freshman orientation.
In Week 5, the tackling machine named Kuechly, stepped in for an injured Jon Beason with 11 tackles and an interception and never looked back.
Kuechly's rookie season was highlighted by an impressive 13 tackle, one interception showing in Week 16 against the Raiders. A couple of 15 tackle performances against Dallas and Washington, as well as a 16 tackle performance against Atlanta.
Kuechly's studious film preparation allows him to quickly and correctly process information, which often gives him the ability to diagnose plays often before the snap. But, even though Kuechly is only scratching the surface of his potential, his ability to play the run and pass make him a three-down linebacker and the new prototype for new NFL middle linebackers.
Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers