Ranking the candidates in a wide-open Offensive Player of the Year race

The 2017 season provided plenty of impressive performances at each position, with late-season injuries affecting two serious MVP bids.

Those players get a shot at redemption here, as we look at seven players worthy of being named Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY).

7. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

Brady led the league in passing yards and ranked third in passing touchdowns this season while completing 66.3 percent of 581 attempts with just eight interceptions along the way.

His 4,577 yards would have ranked fourth in the league last season and just sixth in 2015; it’s a mark he’s beaten himself on four occasions. His 32 touchdown passes make up just his seventh-best output of his career.

While his own past merits shouldn’t take away from what he was able to accomplish this season – as a 40-year-old – his MVP candidacy is built primarily on other factors that build on statistical accomplishments – leadership, experience, and name value to mention a few.

6. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

Like Brady, Bell falls a little short by virtue of past accomplishments. He’s recorded more rushing and receiving yards in a season before.

Bell ranked third in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, while 13 running backs had more receiving scores. His importance to the Steelers’ offense can’t be ignored, but the rest of the running back class is starting to catch up.

5. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

Wentz threw for more touchdowns than Brady while playing three fewer games. He wouldn’t have had a shot at the yardage title even if healthy all season, but he’s deservedly credited with the Eagles’ impressive turnaround.

His 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions through just 13 contests shattered the marks from his rookie season, making him the most improved player among this year’s candidates.

4. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams

Widely viewed as Brady’s top competition for the MVP award, Gurley ranked second in rushing yards and first with 13 rushing touchdowns. he also added another six scores as a receiver.

It was the best season of his three-year career by most meaningful statistics, and he was the poster boy of the Rams’ rise from the bottom of the standings to an NFC West title, nearly reaching 2,100 total yards from scrimmage.

3. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

Brown was on track to make history as the first receiver to win the MVP award prior to an injury in Week 15 that knocked him out for the final two games of the regular season. He returned to form to catch seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the divisional round.

Brown still has a shot to become the first wide receiver to be named OPOY since Jerry Rice in 1993. Rice caught 98 balls for 1,503 yards, and 15 touchdowns that season. Brown topped both the reception and yardage totals in two fewer games.

2. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks

Of the quarterbacks discussed, none were relied on as heavily as Wilson, who led the Seahawks in both passing and rushing. While no Seahawks running back could produce at a sustained level behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines this season, Wilson had little trouble, averaging 6.2 yards per carry on 95 attempts, his highest yardage total since 2014.

His 34 passing touchdowns matched a career-best mark set in 2015.

1. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

Hopkins led the league in receiving touchdowns, while ranking fourth in yardage (1,378) and sixth in receptions (96).

Six of those 13 scores came with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates passing him the ball, making his statistics all the more impressive. The two replacement quarterbacks completed just three other touchdown passes in place of rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson.

Hopkins’ route to the award didn’t open until Watson’s season-ending injury following Week 8. Watson himself was on pace to compete, as was receiver Will Fuller, who began the season with seven touchdowns in his first four games. Following Watson’s injury, Fuller would not score another touchdown for the rest of the campaign, and wouldn’t top 44 receiving yards in a single contest.

Hopkins’ ability to produce with lackluster quarterback play proves his worthiness for the 2017 OPOY honor, as he served as a necessary crutch for his quarterbacks and team as a whole, while posting top-of-the-league numbers.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)