Bama Pros of the Year: 2020 Season Awards
MVP & Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry had an all-timer of a season for the Tennessee Titans. Statistically, he became just the eighth player all-time to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards, rushing 378 times for 2027 yards and 17 scores. More importantly, his play extending to this time last year has made the Tennessee Titans a respected championship contender.
With the regular season in the books, Henry has now become just the 11th player in NFL history to lead the league in rushing in back-to-back seasons. Nine of those previous running backs are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and since the MVP award was introduced all but three occasions have seen the rusher take home an MVP award in at least one of the leading seasons. With Aaron Rodgers likewise having a career-year throwing 48 touchdowns, Henry faces tough competition. Nonetheless, he is a 2020 NFL MVP candidate.
Henry made highlight reels throughout the season with devastating stiff arms and unbelievable speed. Between the highlights and 60-minute performances that saw his Titans win 11 games and an AFC South title, Henry was named Tide 100.9's Bama Pro of the Week six times, four more than any other player.
Last year, Henry led an unexpecting Tennessee squad to an AFC Championship game that just fell through its fingers thanks to the late-game heroics of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. This year there won't be much surprise in how the Titans plan to fight through the January tournament as Henry has a target painted across his herculean shoulders. Ironically, that's been the case for the entire 2020 season, and none could slow down the "King."
Defensive Player of the Year: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick may have seemed to have had a quieter second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the numbers tell a completely different story. In fact, Fitzpatrick's numbers are nearly identical to, and in some cases better than, his 2019 stats: 79 total tackles, four interceptions, one for a touchdown plus a forced and recovered fumble.
Looking at his advanced stats, he stayed on par as well, allowing just a 50% completion percentage on 26 targets (the best in his career) and missed only 12.2% of his tackle attempts, just .7% worse than last year.
What truly set Fitzpatrick apart in this race though were a few clutch plays that helped give his Steelers the victory. Whether it was Week 3 stopping Kenny Stills short on a 3rd & 26 to clost out the Houston Texans, Weeks 8 and 9 against the Ravens and Cowboys by batting away a Hail Mary attempts, or Week 12 against the Ravens again, deflecting an end-of-half touchdown attempt to hold a slim lead, Fitzpatrick always seemed to be around when the Steelers need him most.
Fitzpatrick didn't take home a Bama Pro of the Week, thanks in large part to Derrick Henry showing up in similar weeks, but regardless, Fitzpatrick was nothing short of his usual self: an elite NFL defensive back.
Lineman of the Year: Ryan Kelly
The Indianapolis Colts have quite possibly the best offensive line in the NFL. Philip Rivers was sacked 19 times, making him the least sacked quarterback in the league to start all 16 games. Only three quarterbacks that started 10 or more games were sacked fewer times: Mitchell Trubisky, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.
The Colts also placed 11th in total rushing yards with 1996 yards and tied for 6th in rushing touchdowns with 20. 1145 of those yards came before contact.
That all starts up front with Ryan Kelly at center. As the man who works in tandem with Rivers to set the protections, Kelly earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl. Kelly allowed just one of the Colts 21 sacks and was only flagged twice the entire season.
Kelly continues to prove he's not only one of the best centers in the NFL, but frankly, one of the best offensive linemen to come out of Alabama during Nick Saban's tenure.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jedrick Wills
While Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and others put in respectable resumes, no one put up a full season among the Crimson Tide offensive rookies like Browns left tackle Jedrick Wills. Wills started 15 games for the Cleveland Browns, proving on many occasions he is without a doubt the next franchise left tackle for the organization.
Wills was a dominant force in pass protection and as run blocker all season. He allowed just four sacks all year, and thanks to Wills and the stellar line and backs the Browns employ, Cleveland racked up 2374 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, both top-5 ranked in the NFL.
What's most impressive about Wills is the fact that he started 29 games at Alabama at right tackle. Still, the Browns saw enough in Wills to select him 11th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft and move him to the blindside despite signing a respected veteran in Jack Conklin in the offseason.
Wills shined throughout the season, racking up two Bama Pro of the Week awards along the way.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Trevon Diggs
Trevon Diggs may have fallen to the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but he proved in just his first NFL season he has the makings of an elite cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys.
On the season Diggs tallied 58 combined tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, 14 pass deflections and three interceptions. His receivers were targeted 84 times and he allowed 46 receptions and five touchdowns. Ironically, Diggs was scrutinized throughout the draft process for being a poor tackler, however, in his rookie season, he missed just five tackle attempts.
The most impressive stat? He did all of this in just 12 games.
The Most Honorable Award: Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley deserved better. We named the third-year Falcon an honorable mention five times in 2020, and likely should have done so more. Ridley finished the 2020 season with career highs in targets (143) catches (90) and receiving yards (1374) while scoring nine touchdowns all in just 15 games.
Alas, our guidelines from the beginning required the Bama Pro of the Week to be a winner in that given week and Ridley's Falcons were rarely in the winner's circle, finishing 4-12.
Ridley was also a snub for 2020 Pro Bowl, likely due to the Falcons' abysmal season. He was 8th in targets, tied for 10th in receptions, tied for 5th in yards and 7th in touchdowns.
Even if Atlanta wasn't capable of following him, Calvin Ridley was a phenomenal receiver for the 2020 NFL season. He'll look to continue his play into 2021. Hopefully, fans pay attention then.
Comeback Player of the Year: Quinnen Williams
Quinnen Williams did not have a rookie season befitting of a third overall pick, nor was it indicative of the kind of player the Jets had obtained. In 2019 Williams played in 13 games and totaled 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks. It was a disappointment to be sure.
However, there is no denying Quinnen Williams was an animal in 2020, even if the New York Jets finished as the second-worst team in football. In 13 games again, Williams was in on 55 tackles, 10 for loss, and had seven sacks on the year along with 14 quarterback hits, three pass deflections and a forced fumble.
Williams's play against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14 helped the Jets take home its first victory of the season. Sadly, his season ended at SoFi Stadium due to a concussion.
Nonetheless, Williams proved he can reach the caliber of Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox if his play continues to rise as the Jets acquire more talent. Many NFL analysts caught notice, and opposing offensive lineman will as well. But with 2020 in the review mirror, Williams has a strong foundation to build upon.
Alabama Football Players in the Hall-of-Fame