This would have been Deshaun Watson’s award if the Houston quarterback hadn’t gotten hurt.

Brady’s Hall of Fame bona fides might seem blindingly obvious, but I want to take a moment to appreciate just how special he is. Brady is a once-in-a-lifetime type of person. You can rattle off the career marks that will likely never be matched: he has the most playoff wins ever for a quarterback (26 and counting), is the all-time leader in playoff passing yards (9,431), playoff passing touchdowns (66) and playoff completions (866) and is the oldest player (40 years old) to ever lead the NFL in passing yards.

And, of course, there are the five Super Bowl rings and seven Super Bowl appearances. He’s a grinder. I remember when I brought him to the East-West Shrine Game in Palo Alto, California, before he was drafted; he really stood out, but there were also clear areas for improvement. So for him to develop into the force that he’s become, despite not being the most talented guy, athletically speaking, shows you just how determined he was. He works so hard to understand the defense and maximize his opportunities, and that’s what has led to his greatness.

But with the Chiefs locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs, Mahomes gets his first NFL start Sunday, providing what could be a sneak preview for next season and beyond. Smith remains under contract for next season but the Chiefs are expected by many to turn to Mahomes as their 2018 starter, making Smith potentially available this coming offseason.

His placement on the all-time rushing lists might be a bit higher if he’d stayed healthy and on the field more, but you just cannot ignore the kind of production he put up with the Vikings, often serving as that team’s only offensive weapon during his time there. He’s also just one of seven players in the 2,000-yard club — four of whom are in Canton.

Offensive rookie of the year: Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs … There is support for New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara. But the choice here is Hunt, the league’s second-leading rusher entering Sunday’s play.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Saints … The Saints don’t sweep the two rookie of the year awards. But they do get the top defensive rookie in Lattimore, who quickly has become an elite NFL cornerback and leads all rookies with five interceptions.chargers_079

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