Travis Kelce OPOY

Race for Offensive Player of the Year (Non-QBs)

  • ALvin Kamara
  • Awards
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Davante Adams
  • Derrick Henry
  • NFL
  • NFL Awards
  • NFL Honors
  • Offensive Player of the Year
  • OPOY
  • Stefon Diggs
  • Travis Kelce
By Mitchell Wolfe January 11, 2021 0 Comment
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As the NFL moves into the playoffs, it is time to start discussing awards. While the Most Valuable Player award has become the sole province of quarterbacks, the award for Offensive Player of the Year allows for slightly more diversity. In past years, OPOY is more likely to be given to outstanding running backs or wide receivers.

In this article, we will look at the most deserving candidates for OPOY. But, this list will not include quarterbacks. As previously mentioned, other offensive players are much more likely to win this article than MVP. Additionally, we will discuss the best quarterbacks from this season in a future article, addressing the most likely MVP candidates. But for now, let’s look at the skill position players most likely to win Offensive Player of the Year.

Note: All statistics from Pro Football Reference

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Candidates for Offensive Player of the Year: Non-Quarterbacks

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

16 games, 16 starts, 704 snaps at 66%. 378 carries, 2027 yards, 126.7 yards/game, 5.4 yards/carry (4th among running backs), 17 rushing touchdowns. 31 targets, 19 catches (61.3%), 114 receiving yards, 3 fumbles. 954 yards before contact (2.5 yards before contact/attempt), 1073 yards after contact (2.8 yards after contact/attempt), 34 broken tackles. PFF Grades: Overall 92.4 (1st among RBs, 5th among offensive players, 7th among all players); 92.1 Rushing (1st), 55.4 Receiving (50th), 59.8 Pass Blocking (23rd), 57.6 Run Blocking (45th).

For the second straight year, Derrick Henry led the league in rushing yards, positioning himself very well to win Offensive Player of the Year. Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to rush for over 2000 yards. This season, he led NFL in rushing attempts, yards, broken tackles, touchdowns, yards per game, and scrimmage yards. He was 5th in yards after contact/attempt, indicating Henry is very good at creating his own yards (obviously). After another late-season surge, Henry certainly performed well enough to win Offensive Player of the Year.

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Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

14 games, 14 starts, 669 snaps at 62%. 312 carries, 1557 yards, 111.2 yards/game, 5.0 yards/carry (7th), 16 rushing touchdowns. 54 targets, 44 catches (81.5%), 361 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 5 fumbles. 801 yards before contact (2.6 yards before contact/carry), 756 yards after contact (2.4 yards after contact/carry), 33 broken tackles. PFF Grades: 89.0 Overall (3rd among RBs); 90.2 Rushing (2nd), 62.1 Receiving (33rd), 45.5 Pass Blocking (47th), 59.2 Run Blocking (37th).

Dalvin Cook finished behind Henry in many rushing numbers, but his effectiveness in the passing game could create a path for him to win Offensive Player of the Year. Finishing behind Henry in every category, Cook ranked second in the NFL in carries, yards, broken tackles, touchdowns, yards per game, and scrimmage yards. However, Cook finished second in yards after catch/reception (10.1). Furthermore, Cook recorded more receiving yards than Henry, allowing him to beat Henry in scrimmage yards per game (137 to 134). Granted, this might be due more in part to Cook playing 14 games and Henry playing 16. Additionally, Cook’s performance was not good enough to power the Vikings into the playoffs, likely dooming his campaign for OPOY.

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Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

15 games, 10 starts, 659 snaps at 61%. 187 carries (t-15th), 932 yards (13th), 62.1 yards/game (17th), 5.0 yards/carry (9th), 16 rushing touchdowns (t-2nd). 107 targets (2nd among RBs), 83 catches (1st, 77.6%), 756 receiving yards (1st), 5 touchdowns (t-1st), 1 fumble. 526 yards before contact (2.8 yards before contact/carry, 8th among RBs), 406 yards after contact (2.2 yards after contact), 19 broken tackles (rushing, t-6th). 731 yards after catch (8.8 yards after catch, 4th among RBs), 16 broken tackles (receiving, 1st overall), 9 drops (4th-most), 107.8 Passer Rating when targeted. Led the league in touchdowns from scrimmage. PFF Grades: 82.1 Overall (7th among RBs); 78.2 Rushing (19th), 90.1 Receiving (2nd), 48.2 Pass Blocking (42nd), 56.4 Run Blocking (48th).

Alvin Kamara was among the most dynamic offensive weapons in the NFL this season, making him a worthy candidate for Offensive Player of the Year. Kamara’s rushing statistics appear quite unremarkable. He recorded less than 200 carries and 1000 yards. Additionally, one could argue that Kamara’s rushing touchdowns were inflated by his incredible Week 16 performance. In the only game where he recorded over 100 rushing yards, Kamara also tied the record for most rushing touchdowns in one game. However, where Kamara truly excels is the passing game. He finished first in receptions and receiving yards among running backs, tied for most receiving touchdowns, and second in targets. His 90.1 Receiving PFF Grade ranked second among running backs as well. Due to the versatile nature of his dominance, Kamara has a good chance of winning OPOY.

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Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

14 games, 14 starts, 774 snaps at 75%. 149 targets (4th), 115 catches (t-2nd), 77.2 Catch Rate (6th among WRs). 1374 yards (5th), 98.1 yards/game (1st), 11.9 yards/catch (66th), 9,2 yards/target (28th), 18 touchdowns (1st). 777 yards before catch (12th), 6.8 yards before catch/reception (80th), 597 yards after catch (2nd), 5.2 yards after catch/reception (64th). 8.8 Average Depth of Target (97th), 6 drops (t-7th most), 4.0 Drop %, 136 passer rating when targeted (6th). 2nd in overall touchdowns from scrimmage. PFF Grades: 92.2 Overall (1st among WRs, 7th among all offensive players, 9th among all players); 92.2 Receiving (1st).

Davante Adams turned in an incredible year, certainly a major contributing factor to Aaron Rodgers’ MVP campaign. But can Adams take home Offensive Player of the Year as well? Despite playing in only 14 games, Adams is among the best or leads nearly every receiving category. Furthermore, Adams is also second in yards after the catch. His PFF grades were also stellar. His 92.2 Overall grade led all receivers and ranked ninth among all players in the NFL. When watching the Green Bay Packers, it is abundantly clear that Adams is the straw that stirs the drink that is the Packers’ offense.

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Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

16 games, 15 starts, 967 snaps at 89%. 166 targets (1st), 127 catches (1st), 76.5% Catch Rate (9th among WRs). 1535 yards (1st), 95.9 yards/game (2nd), 12.1 yards/catch (62nd), 9.2 yards/target (27th), 8 touchdowns (t-8th). 1071 yards before catch (2nd), 8.4 yards before catch/reception (51st), 464 yards after catch (13th), 3.7 yards after catch/reception (120th). 10.1 Average Depth of Target (74th), 8 drops (t-5th most), 4.8 Drop % (66th), 115.4 Passer Rating when Targeted (33rd). PFF Grades: 89.4 Overall (4th among WRs); 90.0 Receiving (4th).

In his first year for the Buffalo Bills, Stefon Diggs led the league in multiple receiving categories, putting together a strong campaign for Offensive Player of the Year. Like Adams, Diggs was a vital part of the explosive Buffalo Bills offense. He led the league in targets, catches, and receiving yards. Diggs’ December was absolutely incredible. In the four games he started, he 48 targets, 40 catches (83.3%), 514 yards, and four touchdowns. Diggs’ PFF Grades ranked him as one of the four best receivers in the NFL, as well. At the end of the day, however, Diggs did not have the consistency and overwhelming dominance, especially among the more detailed and analytical stats, to make a very strong case for Offensive Player of the Year.

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Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

15 games, 15 starts, 899 at 82%. 145 targets (t-6th among all players, t-1st among TEs), 105 catches (4th, 2nd), 72.4% Catch Rate (70th, 10th). 1416 receiving yards (2nd, 1st), 94.4 yards/game (3rd, 1st), 13.5 yards/catch (36th, 4th), 9.8 yards/target (18th, 4th), 11 receiving touchdowns (t-5th, t-1st). 833 yards before catch (8th, 1st), 7.9 yards before catch/reception (56th, 7th), 583 yards after catch (3rd, 1st), 5.6 yards after catch/reception(46th, 6th). 8.4 Average Depth of Target (8th among TEs), 2 drops, 1.4 Drop %(13th lowest, 4th lowest among TEs), 119.4 Passer Rating when Targeted (26th highest, 9th among TEs). PFF Grades: 93.5 Overall (1st among TEs, 2nd among offensive players, 3rd among all players); 93.3 Receiving (1st), 79.0 Run Blocking (3rd), 45.8 Pass Blocking (61st).

Travis Kelce would be the first tight end to win Offensive Player of the Year. But if anyone were to do it, it would be the Chiefs tight end. When he was not leader, Kelce ranked in the top-ten in nearly every receiving category among tight ends. Furthermore, his stats also ranked very highly among all offensive players, regardless of position. Naturally, Kelce led all tight ends in PFF Overall and Receiving grades. But, he also performed quite well in Run Blocking, something Kelce is not particularly well-known for. In fact, many refute Kelce’s claim to the best tight end in the NFL mantle because of his perceived struggles in run blocking. However, at least based on PFF Grades, that is seemingly untrue. Regardless, if Kelce wins, it will be because of his receiving skills. Kelce’s Overall grade ranked third among all offensive players.

Prediction for Offensive Player of the Year (Non-QBs)

The race for Offensive Player of the Year is wide open, with multiple players from various position groups vying for the honor. Last month, I wrote an article about why Devonta Smith deserved to win the Heisman trophy. I discussed how in one of the strangest years in living memory, voters should shake things up as well. I think this logic should extend to the Offensive Player of the Year award.

Travis Kelce has been among the NFL’s greatest offensive threats for many years. But this year was incredible, even for Kelce’s standards. When the chips were down for Patrick Mahomes, he looked for Kelce. Kelce really only had one bad game this season (Week 7 @ Denver; 3 targets, 3 catches, 31 yards). But after that, he went on an absolute tear. In the final eight games Kelce played in, he received at least 10 targets in seven of the eight games, at least seven catches in every game (at least eight in seven of the eight), at least 100 yards in five of the eight games, and recorded a touchdown in six of the eight games.

Despite elite 2020 campaigns from the other players mentioned in this article, Kelce truly stood out among all of them and turned in arguably the greatest season ever by a tight end. For that reason, Kelce deserved to win the Offensive Player of the Year award.

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I cover and write about the NFL, the NFL Draft, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am originally from Hershey, PA and was raised a Pittsburgh sports fan. I went to Boston College for undergrad and am currently finishing a Master's degree in Sports Business at Temple University, concentrating in Sport Analytics.


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