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Wednesday Walkthroughs: Which Packers win our midseason awards?

Eight games into the 2020 season, we’re naming our midseason award winners.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers are 6-2 and looking strong, and given that we’re at the midpoint of their regular season schedule, it seemed like a good idea to name some halfway-point award winners.

Our staff made their picks below in six categories: Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Best Non-Starter. Do you agree with our picks? Who’s on your ballot?

Rcon14

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Aaron Rodgers, but we’ll say Davante Adams
DPOY: Jaire Alexander
ROY: Krys Barnes
MIP: Aaron Rodgers but Robert Tonyan
Best Non-Starter: The rotating cast of subs on the OL

MVP is a no brainer. Rodgers has a good case to be the league’s MVP, as he leads the league in QBR, and PFF grade, and is 2nd in EPA/play. On OPOY, I’ll avoid getting redundant and give it to Davante Adams. Adams has missed some time, but has claimed a real stake to the top wide receiver spot in the NFL. Despite missing two games, he is 2nd in the NFL in DYAR and his efficiency is elite as he ranks 4th in DVOA. His usage has been better in 2020 and he’s putting on an absolute show. DPOY is a no-brainer as well.

Jaire might be CB1 in the NFL. Teams rarely target him at all, and when they do they find very little success. ROY is very underwhelming. Always great when your rookie of the year wasn’t even a part of the draft class. Barnes hasn’t even better that good, it’s just that the rest of the class has done basically nothing. Semi-competent LB play is good enough to take the award.

MIP is again Aaron Rodgers for me, having gone from the good category back into the elite category, but I’m gonna give it to Big F’in Bob to avoid further redundancy. Tonyan has gone from a fringe player in the offense to a highly efficient target. He ranks #1 in DVOA and #3 in DYAR. He was always gonna slow down a little from his insane TD rates, but he has remained a very good option.

I can’t pick out one specific backup OL to give the last award to, but the overall rotating cast of characters that have filled in have done an amazing job. The Packers have missed snaps from David Bakhtiari, Billy Turner, Rick Wagner, and Lucas Patrick at some point this season. The rotating cast of depth characters, particularly Wagner and Jon Runyan, have done a phenomenal job. Despite all the injuries, the Packers are far and away the best team in both PBWR and RBWR.

Jon Meerdink

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Elgton Jenkins
DPOY: Jaire Alexander
Rookie of the Year: Jon Runyan
Most Improved Player: Billy Turner
Best Non-Starter: Chandon Sullivan

Rodgers seems like the clear choice at MVP, so no need to complicate things there. For Offensive Player of the Year, I’m going with value over raw production. Davante Adams has been great, but Elgton Jenkins has had a 2020 season unlike any I can remember for an offensive lineman. He can do whatever the Packers need him to do at any point on the line, and I’m not so sure he wouldn’t be an upgrade at a few other positions throughout the roster. To round out the rest of the top-level awards, Jaire Alexander is finally becoming the player we thought he could be.

Jon Runyan, meanwhile, is my Rookie of the Year because in a year with few notable young contributors, he’s been the most immediately impressive of the Packers draft picks. It looks like he’ll be around for some time. His line-mate Billy Turner, meanwhile, has moved from a fringe-y guard prospect to someone I’d trust starting at both tackles (for now, at least). Chandon Sullivan is, as Tex points out below, essentially a starter, but for balloting purposes I’m bumping him out of the starting lineup and making him my most notable sub. He’s been excellent and hasn’t missed a beat taking over for Tramon Williams in the slot.

Tex Western

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Davante Adams
DPOY: Jaire Alexander
Rookie of the Year: Krys Barnes
Most Improved Player: Robert Tonyan
Best Non-Starter: Jamaal Williams

I don’t need to explain Rodgers, but I’ll touch on Adams as OPOY for a moment. That award tends to go to a player who has particularly gaudy statistics and who is not the MVP (think Drew Brees winning it in 2011 when Rodgers got MVP or Michael Thomas getting it during Lamar Jackson’s MVP season a year ago). By that logic, Adams is the ideal choice. He is the only player in the NFL averaging more than 100 receiving yards per game, and he ranks 8th in total receiving yards despite playing just six games (everyone ahead of him has played at least eight). He’s also up to #2 in DYAR and #4 in DVOA, the latter being a number that has usually not been his friend.

For Rookie of the Year, I’m going with the only rookie who has truly made a significant impact in Barnes. He has his limitations, to be sure, but he has filled in admirably for both Kamal Martin and Christian Kirksey at different times this season. Still, this is much more an indictment of the rest of the draft class, and I expect Martin to surpass Barnes in short order.

For MIP, give me Tonyan, who has gone from effectively an afterthought in the offense to the clear TE1. He’s on pace for 48 receptions and 628 yards — numbers comparable to Jimmy Graham’s 2018 season — but his yards per reception average is much higher than Graham’s and he already has five touchdowns on the season. Tonyan is also proving to be at least a solid blocker, something one could never say about the Packers’ previous starter at that position.

Best non-starter is a tough one for me, as I consider Sullivan a starter due to the Packers’ base nickel defense. I’m going by the NBA’s rules, which say that a player cannot have started more than half of one team’s games, so I’ll give Williams the nod. He filled in acceptably as a runner for Aaron Jones in two games — acceptably, not exceptionally — but his contributions as a receiver and a pass-blocker maintain his value as a secondary player within the offense. Williams is on pace for his best season as a receiver in terms of total receptions and receiving yards, and he has a stellar 92 percent catch rate. He even was one of the focal points of the passing game against the Falcons, catching eight balls for 95 yards in that contest. He’ll likely never be a featured back, but he excels at all of the soft skills associated with playing running back and is an important piece to the offense.

Shawn Wagner

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Davante Adams
DPOY: Jaire Alexander
Rookie of the Year: Krys Barnes
Most Improved Player: Elgton Jenkins
Best Non-Starter: Jamaal Williams

For MVP, it’s pretty simple. When Rodgers has been on like he’s been in the team’s six wins, the Packers are tough to beat. When he’s off or unable to have a usual game plan (wind versus Minnesota), Green Bay is very beatable. The Packers go as Rodgers goes. While he could be the offensive player of the year as well, that honor goes to Rodgers’ best man. Adams has been snubbed repeatedly when talking about the best receivers in football over the past couple years, but he’s made his case as the best at this point. His explosive statistical outputs on a weekly basis when healthy are hard to match around the league.

Defensively, Alexander has blossomed in his own way as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. While he has only one interception this season, Alexander is certainly not thrown at to the same extent as other players on the roster and has only allowed 16 receptions on 27 targets. He’s among the team’s most consistent and reliable players from week to week, with only one penalty to his name. That side of the ball also holds the team’s top rookie in Barnes, an undrafted gem at inside linebacker. He’s been steadier than Ty Summers and Oren Burks despite several years less experience in the system than the two others. Barnes earns ROY accolades almost by default due to limited production from the team’s drafted players, but Kamal Martin may challenge by the end of the season.

While Jenkins had an excellent rookie season as a full-time starter, his dependability and ever-evolving versatility have made him an incredible asset in year two. While Robert Tonyan gets a close nod in becoming an all-around tight end, Jenkins has given the Packers plenty to think about. Not only has he played his typical left guard position at a high level, Jenkins has also slotted in at left tackle and center - two positions with upcoming free agent considerations. Jenkins may be becoming the most versatile lineman in all of football. Finally, Williams has been the team’s mainstay as a third-down back. While he remains a fairly average runner, his pass-blocking and receiving continue to be valued traits. With Aaron Jones and Tyler Ervin both seeing time on the injured list, Williams has stepped into the starting lineup when needed and rarely turns the ball over.

Paul Noonan

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Aaron Rodgers
DPOY: Jaire Alexander
Rookie of the Year: Krys Barnes
Most Improved Player: Billy Turner
Best Non-Starter: Every non-starting lineman

Rodgers is one of the favorites for NFL MVP, enjoying a bounce-back season and destroying everything in his path. Any other answer for MVP or OPOY is silly. Jaire consistently grades out as one of the league’s best corners, and he always gets the opponents’ best receiver. His improvement has been absolutely critical with the pass rush taking a step back. Krys Barnes wins this by default, as a rookie who actually sees the field and isn’t terrible, though this award is more of an indictment of their draft class than anything. Billy Turner has been amazing, and he deserves a ton of credit for putting in an outstanding season. He’s been capable when healthy in the past but his performance this season is far beyond his expected ceiling.

The most amazing thing about this year is the continued dominance of the line through various rotations and injuries. They’ve never lost a step, and everyone, from Jenkins playing multiple positions, to Rick Wagner stepping in admirably, to Jon Runyan seeing time as a late-round rookie with no drop-off in production, has been incredible. Turner is, I think, the standout and gets the MIP for that reason, but the entire unit probably deserves to split it.

Jonathan E. Barnett

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Davante Adams
DPOY: Jaire Alexander
Rookie of the Year: Krys Barnes
Most Improved Player: Josh Jackson
Best Non-Starter: Jon Runyan

So, Aaron Rodgers is the clear MVP as he is actually in consideration for NFL MVP and no one else is. I used The OPOY much like a runner up (much how the NFL frequently has). The team can get by without Davante Adams, but he is head and shoulders above any other receiver out there when he plays. He has become much better in contested passes this year as well. Jaire Alexander is the best player on the defense and he has been (knock on wood) fairly healthy this year. He has been against some great WRs and really held them in check. Kenny Clark has missed too much time in the first half of the season to get that sort of nod just yet.

Krys Barnes has been a wonderful addition and has done a great job. He has been a massive surprise in terms of earning the starting spot over Oren Burks and Kamal Martin. Martin has been fine, but seems like he does not read the field as well as Barnes and gambles a bit more. Barnes being the only real starter out of the 2020 rookies definitely gives him a leg up on the others. Martin and Jon Runyan have looked good when given their chances to shine.

I think I went a little off the board here with Josh Jackson. Turner and Tonyan get a lot of credit from the other writers. Jackson came in with a lot of promise. He was pushed out of starting positions and then really pushed down near the bottom of the depth chart by the end of last year. He has come on strong and played very well as the nickel back and has done well when pressed into starting service. Chandron Sullivan keeps pushing him, but Jackson has been much more solid this year in coverage and seems to be finding himself more in the pro game. Jon Runyan was a later-round pick, but one of the ones I was more excited to see. When he is on the field, he does not make you notice him. He has been very valuable in a shuffling line. Should see starting time in the coming years.