A Glance at Winners: NFL Offensive Player of the Year Winners List

John Rizzo

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Offensive Players in the NFL

In the thrilling world of American football, individual excellence often shines as brightly as team success. 

The NFL Offensive Player of the Year award is a coveted accolade that recognizes the remarkable achievements of offensive players who have left an indelible mark on the game. 

Since its inception in 1972, this honor has celebrated the outstanding performances of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and other offensive stars who have propelled their teams to victory.

As we delve into the annals of the NFL Offensive Player of the Year winners list, we uncover a diverse array of winners, from legendary rushers like O.J. Simpson to record-setting passers such as Peyton Manning. 

We explore the positions that have dominated this prestigious award and the standout seasons that made these players household names. 

Join us on a journey through time, where the gridiron heroes etch their names into football lore as we unveil the illustrious list of NFL Offensive Player of the Year winners. Stay focused. 

Who Are the Offensive Players in the NFL?

The National Football League (NFL) features a wide array of offensive players who play pivotal roles in moving the ball down the field and scoring points for their teams. 

These players can be categorized into various positions, each with its own unique responsibilities:

  • Quarterback (QB): Often considered the most important player on offense, the quarterback is responsible for passing the ball and orchestrating the team’s offensive strategy. They are typically the decision-makers and play-callers.
  • Running Back (RB): Running backs are versatile players who can run with the ball, catch passes, and block for the quarterback. They are key in ground attacks and screen passes.
  • Wide Receiver (WR): Wide receivers are known for their speed and catching abilities. They run routes to catch passes from the quarterback and are essential in stretching the field.
  • Tight End (TE): Tight ends are a hybrid between offensive linemen and wide receivers. They can block and catch passes, providing versatility in both run and pass plays.
  • Offensive Linemen (OL): The offensive line consists of tackles, guards, and a center. They protect the quarterback from the opposing defense and create openings for running backs. Their teamwork is crucial for the offense’s success.
  • Fullback (FB): While less common in modern NFL offenses, fullbacks are primarily blockers for running backs but can also carry the ball or catch passes in short-yardage situations.
  • Special Teams Players: Kickers, punters, and return specialists play crucial roles in scoring points through field goals and extra points, as well as gaining field position through punts and returns.
  • Utility Players: Some players are versatile and can take on multiple offensive roles, such as running backs who can also catch passes or wide receivers who can line up in the backfield.

These offensive players work together to execute plays and strategies designed to advance the ball toward the opponent’s end zone and ultimately score touchdowns or field goals.

Responsibilities of An NFL Offensive Player

Responsibilities of An NFL Offensive Player

The responsibilities of NFL offensive players vary depending on their positions and the specific plays called by the coaching staff. 

Here’s a breakdown of the general responsibilities for each offensive position:

Quarterback (QB)

  • Passing the ball accurately to receivers.
  • Reading the defense to make pre-snap and post-snap decisions.
  • Calling audibles and changing plays at the line of scrimmage.
  • Handing off the ball to running backs when necessary.
  • Managing the game clock and leading the offense down the field.

Running Back (RB)

  • Carrying the ball effectively, gaining yardage, and protecting the football.
  • Running through designated holes or following blocking schemes.
  • Catching passes out of the backfield.
  • Picking up blitzes and protecting the quarterback in pass blocking.

Wide Receiver (WR)

  • Running precise routes to get open for passes.
  • Catching passes and gaining yards after the catch.
  • Blocking for other offensive players, especially on running plays.

Tight End (TE)

  • Blocking in both running and passing plays.
  • Catching passes as a receiving target.
  • Running routes and finding openings in the defense.

Offensive Line (OL)

  • Blocking to protect the quarterback (pass blocking) and create running lanes (run blocking).
  • Maintaining proper footwork and technique.
  • Communicating with fellow linemen to pick up stunts and blitzes.
  • Staying disciplined to avoid penalties like false starts and holding.

Fullback (FB)

  • Blocking for running backs and protecting the quarterback.
  • Occasionally carrying the ball in short-yardage situations.
  • Catching passes out of the backfield.

Center (C)

  • Snapping the ball to the quarterback accurately.
  • Making line calls to identify the defensive alignment.
  • Blocking and protecting the quarterback in pass plays.
  • Engaging with defensive linemen and linebackers in run blocking.

Offensive Guards (OG)

  • Blocking and protecting the quarterback in pass plays.
  • Pulling or leading blocks on running plays.
  • Maintaining proper positioning and leverage against defenders.

Offensive Tackles (OT)

  • Protecting the quarterback’s blind side (left tackle) and strong side (right tackle).
  • Engaging with pass rushers to prevent sacks.
  • Opening up running lanes by blocking defensive ends and linebackers.

Kicker (K) and Punter (P)

  • Kicker: Scoring points through field goals and extra points.
  • Punter: Changing field position by punting the ball to the opposing team.
  • Kicker and punter may also handle kickoffs and onside kicks.

These responsibilities are general guidelines, and specific plays and strategies can vary widely based on the team’s offensive system and the game situation.

NFL Offensive Player of the Year Winners List

Here is the list of the NFL Offensive Player of the Year winners in the last decade:

Justin Jefferson 

Justin Jefferson

  • Years: 2023 
  • Team: Minnesota Vikings

In 2023, Justin Jefferson electrified the NFL as he secured the Offensive Player of the Year award, showcasing his exceptional talents as a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings. 

The young playmaker’s explosive speed, precise route running, and ability to make acrobatic catches made him a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Jefferson’s 2023 season was marked by his knack for turning routine plays into extraordinary highlights, consistently demonstrating a deep understanding of the game and an innate connection with his quarterback. 

His impressive yardage, crucial receptions, and ability to stretch the field made him a pivotal asset for the Vikings’ offense.

This recognition not only celebrates Jefferson’s individual brilliance but also underscores his vital role in the team’s success. 

As he continues to evolve into one of the league’s premier wide receivers, Justin Jefferson’s 2023 Offensive Player of the Year title serves as a testament to his impact on the game.

Cooper Kupp 

Cooper Kupp 

  • Years: 2021 
  • Team: Los Angeles Rams

In 2021, Cooper Kupp emerged as a standout force in the NFL, securing the Offensive Player of the Year award as a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams. 

Kupp’s incredible performance showcased his versatility, precise route running, and a knack for making clutch plays in critical moments.

The chemistry between Kupp and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was palpable, leading to a remarkable season filled with receptions, yardage, and crucial touchdowns. 

Kupp’s ability to seamlessly navigate defenses and create separation made him a constant threat, elevating the Rams’ offensive prowess.

His 2021 campaign was not only statistically impressive but also marked by a consistency that defined him as a reliable playmaker. 

The Offensive Player of the Year honor solidifies Kupp’s status as one of the premier wide receivers in the league and highlights his instrumental role in the Rams’ success during the 2021 season.

Derrick Henry 

Derrick Henry 

  • Year: 2020 
  • Team: Tennessee Titans

In 2020, Derrick Henry bulldozed his way to the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award, embodying the term “workhorse” for the Tennessee Titans. 

Henry’s punishing running style, combined with surprising speed for his size, made him a nightmare for opposing defenses.

His remarkable season included an impressive number of rushing yards, dynamic runs, and a knack for breaking tackles that left defenders in his wake. 

Henry’s ability to carry the Titans’ offense on his shoulders and wear down opposing defenses made him a standout player in the 2020 season.

The Offensive Player of the Year recognition solidifies Henry’s impact as one of the league’s premier running backs, highlighting his exceptional skill set and his crucial role in the Titans’ offensive game plan.

Michael Thomas 

  • Year: 2019 
  • Team: New Orleans Saints

In 2019, Michael Thomas showcased his exceptional talent as a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, earning the prestigious NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. 

Thomas’s ability to consistently catch passes in traffic, create separation and make contested catches made him a nightmare for opposing secondaries.

Thomas’s 2019 season was marked by record-breaking receptions and a remarkable catch rate, illustrating his reliability and importance to the Saints’ offensive scheme. 

His connection with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees was evident, and Thomas emerged as one of the league’s premier wide receivers.

The Offensive Player of the Year honor in 2019 solidifies Thomas’s status as a top playmaker, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the Saints’ success and his impact on the league as a whole.

Patrick Mahomes 

Patrick Mahomes 

  • Year: 2018 
  • Team: Kansas City Chiefs

In 2018, Patrick Mahomes took the NFL by storm, not only earning the league MVP but also clinching the Offensive Player of the Year award. 

Quarterbacking the Kansas City Chiefs, Mahomes showcased an unparalleled combination of arm strength, accuracy, and creativity. His 5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes signaled a new era of quarterback excellence. 

Mahomes’ ability to extend plays, make throws from various arm angles, and read defenses with a veteran’s poise made him the face of the Chiefs’ high-flying offense. 

His impact went beyond statistics, as he led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game, setting the stage for future successes.

Todd Gurley 

Todd Gurley 

  • Year: 2017 
  • Team: Los Angeles Rams

In 2017, Todd Gurley, the star running back for the Los Angeles Rams, claimed the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award with an outstanding season. 

Gurley’s versatility was on full display as he amassed 2,093 scrimmage yards and an impressive 19 total touchdowns. 

A dynamic runner and a potent receiving threat out of the backfield, Gurley played a pivotal role in the Rams’ offensive resurgence. 

His ability to break big runs, catch passes, and contribute in the red zone made him a nightmare for opposing defenses. 

Gurley’s performance not only earned him individual accolades but also played a crucial role in the Rams’ return to playoff contention under coach Sean McVay.

Matt Ryan 

Matt Ryan 

  • Year: 2016 
  • Team: Atlanta Falcons

In 2016, Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback, delivered a career-defining season that culminated in winning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. 

Ryan orchestrated a prolific offense that propelled the Falcons to the Super Bowl. He threw for a staggering 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, exhibiting precise passing and intelligent decision-making. 

Ryan’s ability to spread the ball among various targets, including Julio Jones, showcased his mastery of the quarterback position. 

The Falcons’ quarterback not only led the league in numerous passing categories but also guided his team to the Super Bowl, where they narrowly fell to the New England Patriots in a memorable showdown.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton

  • Years: 2015 
  • Team: Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton’s 2015 season with the Carolina Panthers was nothing short of spectacular, earning him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. 

Newton’s dual-threat abilities were on full display as he passed for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns while also rushing for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

The charismatic quarterback led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance, showcasing his athleticism, leadership, and flair for the dramatic. 

Newton’s unique playing style, combining powerful running with accurate passing, made him a nightmare for defenses to contain. 

His infectious energy and iconic celebrations further solidified his status as one of the league’s most captivating figures during the 2015 season.

DeMarco Murray 

DeMarco Murray 

  • Year: 2014 
  • Team: Dallas Cowboys

In 2014, running back DeMarco Murray electrified the NFL with a standout performance, earning him the Offensive Player of the Year award. 

That year, Murray donned the iconic Dallas Cowboys uniform, and his remarkable achievements played a pivotal role in the team’s success. 

His spectacular season included a league-leading 1,845 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, making him a force to be reckoned with in the ground game.

Murray’s ability to consistently churn out yards and find the end zone made him a linchpin in the Cowboys’ offensive scheme. 

Beyond statistical dominance, his durability and workhorse mentality was evident, as he carried the ball a staggering 392 times, showcasing his resilience and importance to the team’s offensive rhythm.

His recognition as the Offensive Player of the Year underscored not only his individual brilliance but also the impact he had on the Cowboys’ overall offensive prowess during the 2014 season.

Peyton Manning 

Peyton Manning 

  • Year: 2013 
  • Team: Denver Broncos

In 2013, the legendary Peyton Manning added another feather to his illustrious cap by being named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year while leading the Denver Broncos. 

Manning’s transcendent season was characterized by record-breaking performances and masterful quarterback play.

During the 2013 campaign, Manning set a new NFL record with an astounding 55 touchdown passes, showcasing his unparalleled ability to dissect defenses and deliver pinpoint throws. 

He also amassed 5,477 passing yards, another league record at the time, solidifying his status as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

Manning’s leadership and football acumen guided the Broncos to a formidable offensive juggernaut, making them a Super Bowl contender. 

The Offensive Player of the Year accolade in 2013 not only recognized Manning’s exceptional individual achievements but also his role in orchestrating one of the most prolific offenses the league had ever witnessed.


Who was the first NFL Offensive Player of the Year winner?

The first NFL Offensive Player of the Year award was given in 1972. O.J. Simpson, the legendary running back for the Buffalo Bills, was the inaugural winner for his record-breaking 2,003-yard rushing season.

How many times has Peyton Manning won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award?

Peyton Manning, the former quarterback, won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award a record five times during his illustrious career, in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2013.

Has a wide receiver ever won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award?

Yes, wide receivers have won the award. Jerry Rice won it in 1987 and 1993, while Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints earned the honor in 2019.

Which position has the most NFL Offensive Player of the Year winners historically?

Running backs have historically dominated the award, with over half of the winners being RBs. Their versatility in both rushing and receiving makes them key offensive contributors.

Who is the most recent winner of the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award?

The most recent winner was Derrick Henry, the running back for the Tennessee Titans. He won the award for his outstanding 2020 season when he rushed for 2,027 yards and scored 17 touchdowns.

Wrapping Up

In the realm of American football, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award stands as a testament to the brilliance and dedication of those who have graced the gridiron. 

As we conclude our journey through the list of winners, we are reminded of the sheer talent, unwavering commitment, and remarkable achievements that define this prestigious honor.

From record-breaking running backs who bulldozed their way through defenses to iconic quarterbacks who orchestrated aerial symphonies, each winner has left an indelible mark on the game. 

Their performances have not only thrilled fans but have also inspired generations of aspiring athletes.

The NFL Offensive Player of the Year award encapsulates the essence of individual excellence in a team sport, showcasing the extraordinary talents that make football a cherished spectacle. 

As we celebrate the winners of the past, we eagerly anticipate the future stars who will continue to etch their names in the annals of NFL history, ensuring that the legacy of greatness endures. Best wishes. 

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn