NFL Nation reporters from the AFC North -- Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon -- have reviewed the film and sorted through the analytics to determine the 2015 annual awards for the division. On Monday, we hand out the AFC North offensive player of the year.
Winner: Antonio Brown
Runner-up: Tyler Eifert
Eifert was one of the league's best scorers, catching 13 touchdown passes for the Cincinnati Bengals, one shy of the NFL lead. But Brown wins, unanimously. The Pittsburgh Steelers star put together one of the most complete seasons the wide receiver position has ever seen. With 1,834 receiving yards, Brown ranks fourth all-time for a single season. With 136 receptions, Brown ranks tied for second all-time with Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who outdistanced Brown with 1,871 yards in 2015. But Brown had two more touchdowns than Jones, 10 to 8, despite playing without his starting quarterback for four games.
Brown's numbers in 12 games with Ben Roethlisberger are unreal -- 9.9 catches, 133.3 yards and 0.83 touchdowns per game. For most, that's a career day. For Brown, that was routine. Some knock Brown for his lack of production without Roethlisberger (17 catches and 235 yards in four games). But he was catching passes from Landry Jones and a 35-year-old Michael Vick. It's hard to criticize Brown for having good chemistry with his starting quarterback.
At times in the 2015 season, Brown simply took over games. Denver’s Chris Harris is an elite corner, and Brown torched him for two touchdowns in a Week 15 Steelers win -- marking Harris' first scores allowed since 2013. Brown was unguardable that day in December, prompting Broncos coach Gary Kubiak to say Brown deserved Most Valuable Player consideration. Former Browns coach Mike Pettine said the same thing two weeks later. Pettine's defense got burned by Brown's 187 receiving yards in the regular-season finale.
Brown faced double teams, zone coverages and, well, pretty much everything defensively. The only defense to truly stop Brown and Roethlisberger was Seattle, with corner Richard Sherman covering him one-on-one with steady safety help over the top. Otherwise, most efforts were futile. Brown lined up all over the field and could beat defenses several different ways.
The winner of this award is not debatable. Brown was the division's best offensive player.