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This is the final piece in a five-part series picking the winners of each AP season-long NFL award. Previous articles:
- Coach of the Year Picks
- Comeback Player of the Year Picks
- Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year Picks
- Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year Picks
Finishing up this week’s NFL Picks series with predictions for the Associated Press season-long awards, we finally arrive at the big one: the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
As noted previously, I’ve reviewed the past winners looking for trends that can help us make smarter picks for the upcoming season, specifically using the past decade’s winners. Obligatory disclaimer that COVID-19 makes predicting these awards particularly difficult this season.
For each of these award picks, I’ve been noting the odds-on favorite, the “trendy pick,” my “best bet” pick, and my “best longshot” pick. My “best bet” is who I think is most likely to win, while “best longshot” is the higher-payout option that may be worth sprinkling a little additional Monopoly money on if you feel so inclined.
Without further ado, let’s get into it, finishing the series today with my picks for the
NFL’s best quarterback of the year AP Most Valuable Player award.
Most Valuable Player
Favorite: Patrick Mahomes (+350)
Trendy Pick: Kyler Murray (+2000)
Now let’s look at the trends:
- 90% of the last 10 winners were quarterbacks, including 7 straight. Only 4 non-quarterbacks have won the award this century.
- 100% of winners played won 10+ games and made the playoffs. 80% of winners won at least 12 games.
- 60% of players also won Offensive Player of the Year.
Everyone already knows what these trends tell us: we’re looking for the quarterback of the best team in football.
I mentioned yesterday in my explanation for the Offensive Player of the Year picks how that and the MVP are often connected. Since I’m going with Mahomes for my OPOY award, while (barring injury or a COVID disaster) there’s a very good chance he also wins MVP (hence his status as the favorite for both awards), I’m going to diversify with my MVP pick.
To reiterate, in a vacuum, my best bet would be Patrick Mahomes for MVP at +350. But because this pick is made in conjunction with my OPOY picks and we are looking for more value than Mahomes can offer at +350, we are going to diversify the portfolio and look for a player with a better bottom-line payout.
Russell Wilson has famously never received an MVP vote despite receiving heavy MVP buzz midway through what feels like every season. The Seahawks have quietly amassed the most talented collection of pass-catchers Wilson has ever played with, with Tyler Lockett one of the more reliable targets in the game, D.K. Metcalf poised to enter the elite wide receiver conversation, the recent return of Josh Gordon, and the addition of Greg Olsen. Even Paul Richardson returns to the only team and quarterback with whom he ever found success.
If the Seahawks defense takes a step back with the loss of many veterans (even with the addition of Jamal Adams), they could be forced to rely on Russell Wilson playing “hero ball” more than ever before. With the talented receiving corps he has to throw to, we could see the best statistical season of Wilson’s career. If things break right for Seattle and they manage 11 or 12 wins in a tough division, this could finally be the year voters recognize Russ. It’s a possibility well worth the 8:1 odds.
Best Bet: Russell Wilson (+800)
When it comes to a longshot here, I’m looking for someone who meets all the above criteria and who could also pay off big with legitimate longshot odds.
I like Kyler Murray as a trendy pick, but do we really think the Cardinals can win 12+ games in that division with the Niners, Seahawks, and Rams? The value there has evaporated with many people betting on Murray to follow the paths of former second-year quarterback MVPs Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
As I mentioned at length in my Comeback Player article, the Steelers continue to stand out to me as one of the top bounce back teams of the league. Ben Roethlisberger reportedly looks great in training camp and is building quite a rapport with rookie Chase Claypool. Diontae Johnson has been “dominant” in practices, too. The Steelers have a tough defense and the 24th most difficult schedule according to projected win totals; it’s not hard to see them winning 12+ games in 2020.
The 2018 Steelers finished as the 6th-ranked offense by DVOA, and the 2019 Steelers finished with the 3rd-ranked defense by DVOA. If those can come together for 2020, Roethlisberger would be seen in the media as the catalyst for the Steelers return to dominance… Just as long as he stays on the field. I’ll take the 50:1 odds that he does.
Best Longshot: Ben Roethlisberger (+5000)
I’d like to finish off this award picks series by again reminding you of the unpredictability of this season in particular more than most, with the uncertainty that COVID will present on a weekly basis. For that reason, you may get better value on the longshot picks than ever before, while the favorites could be hit with unforeseen circumstances that hurt their chances.
Just keep that in mind as you think about futures bets for the 2020 NFL season.