Insiders predict 2018 NFL awards: MVP, top fantasy scorer, more

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Way-too-early NFL Power Rankings for 2018 (1:40)

The 2017 NFL season may have just ended, but ESPN's NFL Nation already has you covered for next season by ranking every team for 2018. (1:40)

The 2017 season is over, and we're already looking ahead to 2018.

We asked six ESPN NFL Insiders to give us their 2018 Super Bowl pick and predictions on next season's MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and more. We even threw in a bonus question on the offseason's hottest topic -- the future of Kirk Cousins.

Their answers are below:

Quick links: Power Rankings | 10 predictions for '18 | What's next for Foles?


Who's your pick to be 2018 MVP?

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. The league's most talented player returns at full health to a playoff-caliber team. With legit weapons at wide receiver and enough balance on offense to dial up some play-pass opportunities, Rodgers can rack up MVP numbers.

Dan Graziano, NFL writer: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints. I think New Orleans is poised to repeat its stellar 2017 season, and I have a suspicion that Brees is motivated by the idea of trying to outdo Tom Brady in his late 30s/early 40s. Think about it -- he let Sam Bradford have the single-season completion record for exactly one year before taking it back.

Mina Kimes, senior writer: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. He was my pick at the beginning of the 2017 season, and he carried an injury-riddled roster to a 4-1 start before breaking his collarbone in Week 6. The Packers should benefit from better health and an injection of fresh talent and ideas.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. He should be in position for another strong season with Julian Edelman returning and Brandin Cooks entering his second season in the offense. Rob Gronkowski's durability is a concern, however.

Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. He's the best player in the league who isn't over 40.

Field Yates, NFL Insider: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. It's always good business to forecast success for Rodgers, as he was perhaps the league's MVP at the time of his first collarbone injury in 2017, which effectively ended his season. With a capable group of pass-catchers in 2018, Rodgers should again be in the MVP discussion.

Who's your pick to be 2018 Defensive Player of the Year?

Bowen: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars. The physical coverage ability, the ball skills, the swag. Ramsey is quickly developing into a star. And with that Jaguars pass rush, Ramsey will be in a position to make impact plays on the ball for a Super Bowl contender.

Graziano: Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers. I expect Bosa's third year to be the year he joins the elite pass-rushers in the league, and he noses out Von Miller and Aaron Donald for this award.

Kimes: Cameron Jordan, DE, Saints. Jordan was an absolute beast in 2017, finishing the season with 13 sacks (tied for fourth in the NFL), nine batted passes (first) and 11 pass breakups -- distinctive stats for a defensive end. As the Saints' defense continues to grow as a unit next season, look for him to rack up big pass-rushing numbers.

Sando: Chandler Jones, OLB, Arizona Cardinals. Jones was sensational this season, and he could be even better with a defense-minded coach in Steve Wilks.

Schatz: Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers. Voters often give this award to the top pass-rusher of the year, and Bosa seems like a good bet to hold that title in his third season.

Yates: Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks. There was a compelling case to be made for Wagner to be in the conversation for this award in 2017, as he was marvelous for Seattle during a year in which his team needed him to take on an even more prominent role with injuries to key veterans around him. He's a tackling force.

Who's your pick to play in Super Bowl LIII?

Bowen: Patriots vs. Packers. Until the rest of the AFC catches up to Brady and Bill Belichick, I'm sticking with the Patriots as the favorite to reach the Super Bowl. With a healthy Rodgers back in the mix, however, and a positive shift in the Packers' defensive culture under new coordinator Mike Pettine, Green Bay is my early pick to take home the title.

Graziano: Steelers vs. Saints. This is the matchup I picked in my let's-get-nuts, way-too-early 2018 predictions, so for consistency's sake we'll stick with it. Two of 2017's most disappointed divisional-round losers make it all the way this time, and New Orleans delivers to cap Brees' big year.

Kimes: Patriots vs. Saints. New Orleans just had one of the best drafts in recent memory; young stars such as Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams should improve next season, and Brees sustained a high level of play. For the AFC, I'm sticking with the Patriots until the Jaguars upgrade at quarterback.

Sando: Patriots vs. Eagles. There's no sense in picking against the Patriots until they stop becoming a consistent force. The Eagles have the roster to contend. They also have Carson Wentz returning at some point. Why not a Super Bowl rematch?

Schatz: Patriots vs. Saints. New Orleans is my pick to win. The quality of the young talent on the improved Saints defense should stave off regression, and Sean Payton and Brees still run one of the best offenses in the league. It might take a Super Bowl appearance for people to finally realize just how good Michael Thomas is. As for the Patriots, it's boring to keep picking them, but at this point why would you take anyone else?

Yates: Patriots vs. Vikings. The Patriots have shown a track record of sustained success and are primed to return the core of their roster in 2018. Minnesota, meanwhile, has made decided strides almost each season under coach Mike Zimmer, though the team must solve its quarterback quandary this offseason.

Who's your pick to be 2018 Coach of the Year?

Bowen: Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo's five-game run to end the season was a preview of what we can expect from the 49ers in '18. He's a perfect fit for Shanahan's offense. If the 49ers can continue to bolster the roster this offseason, look for Shanahan's team to be in a position to make a December push for a playoff spot.

Graziano: Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders.This award always seems to go to a coach whose team makes the biggest turnaround, and I think the Raiders are primed to rebound in 2018. Gruden will get credit for changing the culture and getting Oakland back to the playoffs.

Kimes: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers. Coach of the Year tends to go to the man at the helm of the most improved team. With Garoppolo, a few talented young guys on defense, and an ocean of cap space heading into the offseason, San Francisco seems primed for a big leap.

Sando: Jon Gruden, Raiders. Structure and discipline help the Raiders rebound from a 6-10 season to win the AFC West.

Schatz: Josh McDaniels, Indianapolis Colts. No, it's not official yet, but McDaniels is expected to be announced as Indianapolis' coach this week. He'll get some of the credit if the return of Andrew Luck boosts the Colts back into the playoffs.

Yates: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers. The 49ers saw a meteoric rise once Garoppolo became the starting quarterback. If that persists and the team puts together another aggressive offseason under general manager John Lynch, San Francisco could challenge for the playoffs.

Which player will rank No. 1 in fantasy scoring in 2018?

Bowen: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans. With Deshaun Watson back on the field, Hopkins is in the discussion with Antonio Brown as the top fantasy wide receiver. Look at the high target volume, the red zone opportunities and the Texans' play-action passing game that creates open windows down the field. Hopkins can put up monster numbers in 2018.

Graziano: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers. Carolina addresses the receiver position, the second year of Christian McCaffrey keeps the short passing game humming, and as always, Newton adds significant value with his running ability.

Kimes: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. Because of the timing and nature of Johnson's wrist injury, I don't think he'll have any trouble returning to form. And with the Cardinals' quarterback picture is still murky, I'm betting they'll lean heavily on their running game next season.

Sando: Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints. New Orleans knows what it has in Kamara and will make full use of him right from the start.

Schatz: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams. Now that the Rams know how much they can use him in the passing game, I don't see that usage disappearing. David Johnson returning to Arizona from injury is a dark-horse contender.

Yates: Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. Business has been boomin' since 2010. Do we really think that's going to change in 2018?

Bonus: Where will Kirk Cousins be playing in 2018?

Bowen: New York Jets. The Broncos will make a hard push to land Cousins, but I see the veteran signing with the Jets. New York has the cap space, a major need at the position, and Cousins could mesh with new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.

Graziano: Jets. I think they'll go over the top to outbid the Vikings and Browns and break records with the Cousins contract. I expect it to go over $30 million per year and approach $100 million in guarantees.

Kimes: Denver Broncos. John Elway needs to resuscitate the offense before the defense's window closes, and he probably won't be comfortable starting whoever falls to Denver in the draft after Cleveland and New York pick their quarterbacks. Money will certainly factor into Cousins' decision, but by all accounts, he wants to win -- and Denver is the most playoff-ready team contending for his services.

Sando: Jets. All the teams desperate for quarterbacks have some drawbacks. There is no perfect fit. Arizona and Denver are logical destinations. Both teams should have interest. Jacksonville and Miami are a couple of dark-horse teams to watch.

Schatz: Broncos. No team needs Cousins as much as the Broncos. They have a couple of good receivers, and they have a great defense. Denver badly needs an upgrade at quarterback, and that defense offers Cousins a chance to win.

Yates: Broncos. A rare opportunity arose in 2012, prompting Elway to swoop in and sign Peyton Manning. It's different circumstances -- and Cousins doesn't have nearly the pedigree that Manning did -- but few foresaw Cousins hitting the open market, opening the door to Elway once again making a quarterback splash.