2023 NFL Honors: Who won the league's biggest awards?

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Friday, February 10, 2023

Before the Kansas City Chiefs (16-3) and Philadelphia Eagles (16-3) meet at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, for Super Bowl LVII (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox), the best of the NFL gathered in Phoenix for Thursday's NFL Honors.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who will appear in his third Super Bowl in four years, took home his second MVP award. If the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, Mahomes will become the first NFL player in history to win multiple MVPs and multiple championships in his first six seasons.

New York Jets rookies Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson won Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year, respectively. It is only the third time in history that teammates have won the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards in the same year. New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore won in 2017, and running back Mel Farr and cornerback Lem Barney of the Detroit Lions won in 1967.

Here's a look at who took home the awards and why:


Patrick Mahomes | QB | Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes had the second 5,000-yard season of his career, and while he didn't get to 50 touchdown passes as he did in his first MVP season in 2019, he still led the league with 41. But with Mahomes, it's about more than statistics.

He lifted the Chiefs onto his shoulders regularly, but never more so than when they needed him most. The most obvious example came in a Week 9 game against the Titans, when not much else was working for the Chiefs on offense. Mahomes threw 68 passes and led the Chiefs in rushing with 63 yards. With the Chiefs down by eight points in the fourth quarter, Mahomes scrambled for 20 yards on third-and-17 to allow them to continue a drive. He finished the drive by scrambling for a touchdown, also on third-and-long, and then tied the game by running the 2-point conversion. The Chiefs went on to win in overtime. -- Adam Teicher

Offensive Player of the Year

Justin Jefferson | WR | Minnesota Vikings

Jefferson produced one of the best seasons for a receiver in NFL history in 2022. He led the league with 128 receptions, became one of seven players ever to surpass 1,800 yards in a season (1,809) and made the most iconic catch of the year: A one-handed snag to convert a fourth-and-18 during a comeback victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Along the way, Jefferson broke team records for catches and yards in a season, held by Pro Football Hall of Fame members Cris Carter and Randy Moss, respectively. He did it all before his 24th birthday -- and agreed that he has plenty of room to grow.

"I can always get better at things," he said after the Vikings' season ended. "I'm not a perfect person. I'm not the perfect receiver. ... There's always room for improvement, and I'm definitely going to be improving as much as possible this offseason." -- Kevin Seifert

Defensive Player of the Year

Nick Bosa | DE | San Francisco 49ers

After a late-season win against the Washington Commanders, Bosa, who rarely talks about individual accomplishments, acknowledged that he has dreamed about winning the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award since he was young. Mission accomplished.

Bosa was consistently the most dominant defender in the league in 2022, posting a league-leading (and career-high) 18.5 sacks, along with 51 tackles, two forced fumbles and 58 quarterback pressures (third most in the league) in 16 games.

The honor comes just two years after Bosa suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in Week 2 of the 2020 season. Bosa bounced back from the injury with 15.5 sacks in 2021 but felt like he didn't finish with as many sacks as he should have.

"I think everybody here knows that he is just elite and he's the best," linebacker Fred Warner said in December. "He put the stamp on it. That's what you need from your best players to make plays where it matters the most. I'm so happy for him and I'm so proud of him." -- Nick Wagoner

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Garrett Wilson | WR | New York Jets

Wilson is the first player in Jets history to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Yes, really. After a few dropped passes in training camp and an uneventful regular-season opener, Wilson busted out in Week 2 with a game-winning touchdown reception against the Cleveland Browns. After that, he quickly ascended to the WR1 role in the Jets' offense.

Drafted 10th overall, he finished with 83 catches for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the first Jets rookie (the 23rd rookie in NFL history) to reach the 1,000-yard receiving plateau. He compiled those numbers with below-average quarterback play, illustrating how dominant he was at times. He led all rookies in receptions and receiving yards.

What separated Wilson from the rest was ... well, his separation ability. With tremendous body control and sneaky stop-and-start speed, he was able to pull away from defenders at the top of his routes and in the open field with the ball in his hands. At times, he carried the passing attack, as he recorded six games with at least 90 yards and five games in which he was targeted at least 11 times. The Jets have a checkered history when it comes to drafting offensive players, but they struck gold with Wilson. -- Rich Cimini

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Sauce Gardner | CB | New York Jets

Drafted fourth overall, Gardner set three individual goals for his rookie season: be selected to the Pro Bowl, make first-team All-Pro and win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The results: Check, check and check. He lived up to the hype (and then some), delivering one of the best individual seasons in franchise history.

He became the first Jets rookie to be named first-team All-Pro and the fifth Jet to win Defensive Rookie of the Year (the first since Sheldon Richardson in 2013.) Drawing comparisons to former Jets great Darrelle Revis, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023, Gardner was a shutdown corner from Day 1. He was remarkably consistent, handling a weekly diet of top wide receivers. He made two interceptions, recorded a league-high 20 passes defensed and allowed only a 48.1% completion rate as the nearest defender, which ranked second among cornerbacks (minimum 500 coverage snaps), according to Next Gen Stats.

He was so good that fans and media reacted with surprise whenever he allowed a completion longer than 10 yards. With his long frame (6-foot-3), change-of-direction skill and natural instincts for the position, Gardner was one of the main reasons why the Jets improved to fourth in yards allowed after finishing 32nd in 2021. -- Cimini

Comeback Player of the Year

Geno Smith | QB | Seattle Seahawks

Smith doesn't fit the mold of the typical winner of this award because he didn't come back from an injury or a down year, per se, but it was a comeback nonetheless. Smith went from a backup for most of the past seven seasons to a Pro Bowl selection and one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in 2022.

His eight seasons marked the NFL's longest gap between opening-day starts since 1971. He wasn't even expected to be the Seahawks' starter after they traded Russell Wilson last March, but Smith beat out Drew Lock and never looked back.

He finished sixth in Total QBR (60.8), first in completion rate (69.8%) and fourth in touchdown passes (30). He broke Wilson's single-season franchise records for completions (399), passing yards (4,282) and completion rate. Smith's career season came at the perfect time, as he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. -- Brady Henderson

Coach of the Year

Brian Daboll | New York Giants

Daboll took a team that had lost at least 10 games each of the previous five seasons and got them to the playoffs in his first year as head coach. He did it with a roster that was flawed and not overly talented. That is really what earned Daboll this honor.

The Giants won nine games despite having their preseason top four receivers either on injured reserve, stuck on the bench or not on the roster by the end of the season. Daboll set the tone right from the start, uniting this group and earning their trust when he went for the 2-point conversion and win against the Tennessee Titans in the final minutes of Week 1.

Running back Saquon Barkley specifically mentioned that as the galvanizing moment. Is Daboll his Coach of the Year? "I think so," Barkley said emphatically after the Giants clinched their playoff berth. The voters agreed. -- Jordan Raanan

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