Where does Detroit Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson stand in NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race?

Detroit Free Press

After Aidan Hutchinson won NFC Defensive Player of the Week before Thanksgiving, a couple friends asked what I thought about Hutchinson’s chances of winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Hutchinson has had a nice season for the Detroit Lions. He has made some huge plays and disappeared at times, which is to be expected for a rookie, but he leads the team with 5½ sacks, has two highlight-reel interceptions and has become the face of a young, improving defense.

The No. 2 pick of April’s draft certainly has a chance to become the first Lion to win the award since Ndamukong Suh in 2010, and fourth Lion overall along with Bubba Baker and Lem Barney, but he is not the favorite right now.

New York Jets cornerback (and Detroit native) Sauce Gardner has had a better season with two interceptions and a league-leading 14 pass deflections, is playing on a better defense and has the power of the New York market behind him.

Gardner is the strong favorite to win the award with six weeks left in the regular season, so much so that BetOnline.ag has set his odds at 1:2. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen (five interceptions) is second at 13:4, followed by Hutchinson at 6:1.

No other player is better than 25:1 to win the award.

More:As Detroit Lions close in on top-5 pick, Matthew Stafford-Rams trade looks like win-win

I offered my way-too-early thoughts on several postseason award predictions at the quarter pole of the season, and now that we’re officially two-thirds of the way through this 18-week affair, it’s time to revisit those picks.

MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Previous: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

This is a three-horse race right now between Mahomes, Hurts and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and as usual, it likely will come down to which quarterback (and whose team) plays best down the stretch. Hurts has been great all season. I don’t think anyone forecast the leap he has made. And Tagovailoa, with a league-leading 115.7 passer rating, has silenced his many critics after a slow start to his NFL career. But Mahomes is still the best quarterback in football, and he (and Andy Reid) have done an impressive job with a Chiefs offense many expected to take a step back after the Tyreek Hill trade this offseason.

Defensive Player of the Year: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

Previous: Parsons

Parsons has ended Aaron Donald’s six-or-so-year reign as the best defensive player in football. He has 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and he and the Dallas defense helped keep the Cowboys afloat when Dak Prescott missed time with a broken thumb. Parsons is not a slam dunk for the award. Matthew Judon, the West Bloomfield/Grand Valley State product, has 13 sacks and has been a game-wrecker for the New England Patriots, and Nick Bosa is a dark horse for the award given the track the San Francisco 49ers are on. But Parsons, in his second NFL season, is too dominant to ignore.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks

Previous: Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

This award is a toss-up. Walker looked like he might lap the field when he ran for 424 yards in his first four starts, but he has managed 43 yards on 24 carries during the Seahawks’ current two-game losing streak. Olave is in the mix for this award. He’s closing in on a 1,000-yard receiving season, but plays for one of the worst teams in the NFL and won’t be top-of-mind down the stretch. Christian Watson (Green Bay) and George Pickens (Pittsburgh) could enter the conversation with big Decembers, but I’ll give Walker the edge for now based on the team he plays for and the role he’ll have if the Seahawks make the playoffs.

Birkett:As Detroit Lions close in on top-5 pick, Matthew Stafford-Rams trade looks like win-win

Comeback Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Previous: Barkley

Geno Smith has a great case, too, and the winner might come down to who finishes the season stronger, the Seahawks or Giants. Barkley, like Walker, has had two straight subpar games, but he’s about to crack 1,000 yards rushing and he’s not far removed from his torn ACL.

Coach of the Year: Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins

Previous: n/a

I would put Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Sirianni second and third on my ballot if I had one, but McDaniel has excelled as a first-year coach walking into a tough situation given all the offseason drama that surrounded the Dolphins. Sirianni has done a great job with the Eagles, and Brian Daboll (Giants) and Robert Saleh (Jets) deserve votes, too. But McDaniel is an offensive coach whose handprints are all over Miami’s success.

This week’s power rankings:

1. Kansas City Chiefs

2. Philadelphia Eagles

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Buffalo Bills

5. Miami Dolphins

6. Dallas Cowboys

7. San Francisco 49ers

8. Baltimore Ravens

9. Cincinnati Bengals

10. Tennessee Titans

11. Los Angeles Chargers

12. New York Jets

13. Washington Commanders

14. Seattle Seahawks

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

16. New England Patriots

18. New York Giants

17. Detroit Lions

19. Atlanta Falcons

20. Arizona Cardinals

21. Cleveland Browns

22. Green Bay Packers

23. Indianapolis Colts

24. Las Vegas Raiders

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

26. Pittsburgh Steelers

27. New Orleans Saints

28. Los Angeles Rams

29. Carolina Panthers

30. Denver Broncos

31. Chicago Bears

32. Houston Texans

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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