The Buffalo Bills had a great first half of the season. They had their ups and downs, but they are 7-3 and control the AFC East. As the Bills prepare to take the field against the Chargers, I would like to take one final look back at the first half of the 2020 season. So, before the music plays me off the stage, let me officially welcome you to the 2020 Buffalo Bills Mid-Season Awards!
In this article, I will go through the three main teams (offense, defense, and special teams) and present my picks for “Most Valuable Player”, “Best Rookie”, and “Most Improved Player” from the first half of the 2020 Buffalo Bills season. Then I will present the “informal” mid-season superlatives. The full team awards will be announced at the end of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Stefon Diggs
There were only two reasonable choices for this award: Stefon Diggs or Josh Allen. I ultimately chose Diggs because his mere presence on the field forces opposing defenses to pick their poison every single play. Furthermore, he has made the big plays that no receiver from the 2019 Bills could have made (i.e. his touchdowns against the Chiefs and Cardinals and numerous contested sideline catches). I am not saying that Josh Allen wouldn’t have improved this season without Diggs, just that he would not be in the NFL MVP conversation without him. He lead all NFL receivers in targets (102), receptions (73), and receiving yards (906) heading into week eleven. Additionally, he is on pace to break Buffalo’s single-season franchise records in the latter two categories (currently held by Eric Moulds). It’s safe to say that he was worth every penny that Brandon Beane paid to Minnesota.
Best Rookie: Gabriel Davis
While Zach Moss has shown some promise, Gabriel Davis has been the team’s best (and most consistent) offensive rookie. He was praised for his rapid digestion of the playbook in training camp and has outplayed his draft position. He has tallied 19 catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns so far. That may not sound impressive, but his season has been chock full of highlight reel-worthy plays, including the go-ahead touchdown in Miami, a four catch, 81 yard first half against the Rams, and a 26-yard touchdown vs. the Raiders. He still has a long way to go before he becomes a viable WR2 for the Bills, but he is off to a great start.
Most Improved Player: Josh Allen
Since I gave Stefon Diggs “Offensive MVP”, I have to give Josh Allen the “Most Improved Player” award. I cannot recall a starting quarterback make as big a jump in their qualitative and quantitative performance from one season to another in my lifetime. His completion percentage has jumped nearly 10 points and his QB Rating is up nearly 20. He is making it hail on the field, throwing dimes left and right. Allen is on pace to break or tie the single-season franchise records in the following categories: Pass Yards, Pass Touchdowns, Completions, Completion Percentage, and QB Rating. I concur with Dov Kleiman in saying that Josh Allen is the NFL’s Most Improved Player.
Most Valuable Player: Jordan Poyer
There is no question that Jordan Poyer has been Buffalo’s best defensive player in 2020. He has been their rock. In 10 games, he has racked up 83 tackles (including four for loss), four pass breakups, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and two sacks. As I mentioned in my profile of him a couple of weeks ago, Poyer has always been a solid contributor but was overshadowed by teammates. Not this year. Mark my words: Jordan Poyer will receive Pro Bowl AND All-Pro honors for the 2020 season!!
Best Rookie: Dane Jackson
If you have been following my articles since the beginning, you know where I stand on Dane Jackson (see my Initial 53-Man Roster Projection and Is Dane Jackson the Next Levi Wallace?). He has been every bit the player I thought he would be when I saw his 2019 highlights on YouTube. In his two starts, he tallied 11 tackles, three pass breakups, and two turnovers. Jackson has proved his worth in the first half of the season and deserves to start against the Chargers next week (and possibly beyond).
Most Improved Player: A.J. Klein
This award was the second-hardest one for me to decide (behind Offensive MVP). While Jerry Hughes has been the most improved defensive player from 2019 to 2020, A.J. Klein has been the most improved player during the first half of this season. Therefore, I had to give this mid-season award to Klein. He was almost completely useless in his first eight games, recording 28 tackles, one QB hit, half a sack, and one forced fumble. Then he took the field against the Seahawks. Since week eight, Klein has had 16 tackles (including two for loss), five QB hits, three sacks, one pass break up, and one forced fumble (that he recovered). He went from Bills Mafia’s most hated player to one of their best defensive contributors. If he keeps it up in the second half, I may have to write an official apology article.
Most Valuable Player: Andre Roberts
I have to be honest, I never understood why a team would keep a designated return man on the roster over additional depth at a skill position. After seeing Andre Roberts field kicks and punts during the first half of this season, I am now a true believer in the return specialist. He is one of the best at his job, ranking in the top five among NFL return men in all categories except return touchdowns, punt returns, and longest returns (kick and punt) after 11 weeks. Roberts also plays an important role on offense as his returns usually set up Allen and the boys with good field position. He is by far the Special Teams MVP.
Best Rookie & Most Improved Player: Tyler Bass
You had to know that Tyler Bass was going to be named Best Rookie for Special Teams. The only surprise here is how well he has progressed in 10 games. In week seven, Bass tied Steve Christie’s record for most made field goals in a game against the Jets. In week ten, he became the first NFL kicker to make three or more 50+ yard field goals in a single quarter. (He is the third Bills kicker to make multiple 50+ yard field goals in a game.) Furthermore, he is currently in the top 10 in points scored this season and has the third-most points by a rookie in Bills history. Bass has truly been Buffalo’s best rookie in the 2020 season.
Meanwhile, I was all set to give Corey Bojorquez the Most Improved Special Teamer award, but I must abide by the precedent set in Hughes v. Klein. Since Tyler Bass is the most improved player for the first half of 2020, he gets the award. He struggled early this season, missing five kicks (field goals and extra points) in his first 29 attempts. Since then, he has only missed two of his last 26 kicks; one of which was a 61-yard attempt that would’ve been good from 70.
Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for…(*drum roll*)… the mid-season superlatives! This section is comprised of informal awards from both myself (the author) and Twitter.
One Hit Wonder (Weeks 1-10): Lee Smith
If you look up Lee Smith‘s 2020 season on Pro Football Reference, you will see the most immaculate stat line against the Rams: one offensive snap, one catch, one touchdown. The efficiency is elegant. Watch this clip and recall the majesty of Josh Allen dropping back, looking Jalen Ramsey to the left, and connecting to the wide-open blocking tight end. It becomes even more impressive when you realize that is his only recorded stat of the season. Well done Mr. Smith; you truly earned the title of “One Hit Wonder”.
The “Care for a Pint” Award: Chad Hall (@ClayTroia)
@ClayTroia named Receivers Coach Chad Hall as the guy he’d most like to have a beer with. That is an excellent choice. I’m sure everyone in Bills Mafia would love to sit down, chug some Labatt Blue, and gain some insight about working with those talented and lovable receivers. I would also love to have a drink with Brian Daboll, so I could pitch the quadruple option concept for the offensive playbook.
The Lorenzo Alexander “Process Player” Award (Weeks 1-10): Tyler Kroft & Justin Zimmer
This award, named after Buffalo’s OG “process player”, goes to the individual(s) who made the greatest contributions when they were pressed into service. Tyler Kroft has been a clutch contributor for the Bills longer than he has been on the team (see A Tyler Kroft Retrospective). He has continued this trend in 2020, making key plays against the Rams (two touchdowns) and Jets (four catches, 64 yards in week seven) in relief of Dawson Knox. Meanwhile, Justin Zimmer literally came out of nowhere to make key plays against the Jets (four tackles, one for loss, in 16 defensive snaps week one), Patriots (one forced fumble), and Cardinals (one sack). Both players exemplify the “next man up” mentality espoused in McDermott’s “Process”.
Honorable Mentions: Gabriel Davis, Ike Boettger, Tyrel Dodson, Dane Jackson, Dean Marlowe
Best “Draft Pick”: Stefon Diggs (@SportsRoc2)
The Bills had quite a few great draft picks this year: Tyler Bass, Dane Jackson, Gabriel Davis, Zack Moss. However, as @SportsRoc2 noted, Brandon Beane’s best draft pick this year was Stefon Diggs. Any time you can acquire an experienced playmaker in their prime, it’s worth the price tag; especially when they are under contract for more than one year. As good as Justin Jefferson has been for the Vikings, he is no Stefon Diggs.
The Renaissance Man: Isaiah McKenzie
Like Leonardo Di Vinci and Benjamin Franklin before him, Isaiah McKenzie has shown that he can do anything and everything he sets his mind to on the gridiron. (Remember Di Vinci’s 2,000-yard receiving season? Or Franklin’s 30 touchdowns on 30 carries?) I have long been an Isaiah McKenzie fanboy, but even I am impressed by what he did in the first half of the season. He has caught, thrown, and ran (jet sweep) for touchdowns already, and I expect him to do more of it in the games to come.
The “Bang for Your Buck” Award: Daryl Williams (@SportsRoc2/@RealChrisJahnke)
@SportsRoc2 and @RealChrisJahnke both named Daryl Williams as the biggest bargain acquisition for 2020. Williams has solidified the right tackle position and played over 99% of the offensive snaps through Buffalo’s first 10 games. Not too shabby for a guy making only $2.25 million this year. I could not be happier to have been wrong on this roster projection, and I hope he continues to keep his name off the lips of announcers in the second half.
The Monty Python Guard Award: Brian Winters
Remember that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Lancelot charges the gate of the castle on his solo quest? (If you don’t, click here for the clip.) Brian Winters is that guard that lazily says “hey” when his compatriot gets stabbed before Lancelot’s killing spree. He has drawn the ire of Bills Mafia for his poor blocking and untimely penalties throughout the team’s first 10 games. Winters has to be Buffalo’s most hated (and useless) player of 2020.
Mr. Stock Market: Tyler Bass (@WittyMcWittle)
@WittyMcWittle named Tyler Bass as “Mr. Stock Market” because of his inconsistent play over the first few weeks of 2020. I understand where he is coming from; it is irritating when kickers miss field goals and extra points. However, it takes time for rookies to adjust to the NFL, especially when they don’t have the usual offseason routine (i.e. OTAs, preseason games) and encounter botched snaps/holds (laces out Bojo). That being said, Bass has come around and is just as big a weapon for the offense as Josh Allen or Stefon Diggs.
* All player stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
* Contract details provided by Spotrac.
What do you think? Who’s your Most Valuable, Most Improved, and Best Rookie players for the first half of 2020? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).