Congratulations to Lamar Jackson for being named the unanimous NFL Most Valuable Player for the 2019 season. Congratulations are also in order for any bettors who backed him at odds of +5000 or better before the season began. When placing a futures wager on something like the upcoming season’s MVP, it is always worth taking a look at the voting trends of years prior. Twelve of the last 13 NFL MVPs were quarterbacks. The lone non-quarterback in that time was 2012 when running back Adrian Peterson had a historic season. Based on recent trends, it seems foolish not to bet on quarterbacks. If Jackson’s win this year or Mahomes’ win the year prior tells us anything, it’s that there is value to be had further down the odds list.
Here are the best bets for 2020-21 NFL Most Valuable Player (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Deshaun Watson (+1000)
Picking Deshaun Watson is no disrespect to Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, or Russell Wilson, who are the three players ahead of him on this list. However, their odds are too short for various reasons. With Mahomes, the possibility of a Super Bowl hangover always looms large. Lamar Jackson takes too many hits for my liking, so there is always a concern for injury. Plus, defenses should be able to scheme better against him in year two of that system. Russell Wilson would have won MVP this year if not for Jackson’s breakout year. However, Seattle’s offense is still too run-heavy for Wilson to consistently put up big numbers.
Deshaun Watson plays on a team that can score points in bunches. They are the defending AFC South champions and have won the division four of the last five years. The Texans should be able to improve upon their 10-6 record from last year. Jacksonville looks more like a team contending for the No. 1 draft pick than a divisional crown. Indianapolis faces some roster decisions and the direction of their future. And Tennessee may come back down to earth after the best play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s career. Watson is coming off a year where he was completely healthy. He finished 2019 in the top eight in QBR, completion percentage, and touchdowns. If the Texans can string together an 11-5 or 12-4 campaign, Watson will be sure to be noticed as far as MVP voting is concerned.
Drew Brees (+1600)
Before placing a bet on Drew Brees to win MVP, one should be 100 percent sure that he’ll actually be back in New Orleans next year. If he is, he has all the pieces around him to make one last Super Bowl run. Brees led the league in completion percentage at 74.3 percent. He finished third in adjusted QBR and second in passer rating. That said, it’s not worth picking through Brees’ counting stats from 2019 since he missed five games. For him to make a strong MVP push next year, he’ll need to stay healthy.
Once again, New Orleans looks like the class of the NFC South. With Brees under center, they should be back competing for a top seed in the conference. Although Brees is one of the games’ most heralded quarterbacks, he has never won an MVP. I am not one to suggest that AP voters would be looking for a way to get Brees an MVP before he retired. However, if all else was equal between him and another candidate, don’t you think they would vote Brees’ way from a legacy standpoint?
Kyler Murray (+4400)
Given that Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have gone on to somewhat unexpected MVP campaigns in back-to-back years, it’s only fitting to include a “sleeper” in this list. This year’s candidate is Kyler Murray. The Cardinals went 5-10-1 in arguably the toughest division in football this year. For the Cardinals to make a playoff push (which is likely what Murray will need to garner serious MVP consideration), they would need some regression from the top teams in the NFC West. Are the 49ers capable of a Super Bowl loss hangover? Do the Seahawks have enough weapons around Russell Wilson to contend again? Do the Rams continue to regress under Jared Goff?
Murray should be more comfortable in his second year in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year finished with 3,722 yards and 20 passing touchdowns. Murray added another 544 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns. Even if the Cardinals part ways with running back David Johnson, fellow running back Kenyan Drake turned in a great second half, and he should continue to take the pressure off Murray. Also, the Cardinals select eighth in the upcoming draft. They could use that pick on a guy like OT Andrew Thomas to beef up their offensive line. They may even be able to find a stud wide receiver like CeeDee Lamb available, adding weapons for Murray to throw to. Either way, look for the Cardinals to continue to surround Murray with talent and to keep making strides in year two. +4400 for a talent like Murray is too enticing to pass up.