As we continue to wait for more news and information regarding the NFL’s plan for the 2020 season, Las Vegas hasn’t skipped a beat, releasing a plethora of “future bets” to their casinos as they, too, wait with anticipation for commissioner Roger Goodell to lay out the blueprint for this upcoming year. While things could change in a hurry, the outlook for at least playing football to any degree seems like a lock to come true with details still being ironed out.
Most recently it was announced that the NFL would forego the first and last preseason games, chopping the total in half from four preseason games to just two.
As the countdown to football continues I’ll be going bet by bet, continuing this new segment each week to give you the rundown of the heavy favorites along with my own personal best value plays. If you missed my best 2020 Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates be sure to get caught up.
Today I take a deep dive on the always dramatic MVP race given to the league’s most valuable player.
Looking back at the origin of the award, the NFL’s MVP started back in 1957 when the Associated Press began handing out the yearly honor. Little did Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown know when he accepted the NFL’s very first MVP trophy that running backs would play second fiddle to their counterpart, the quarterbacks, when it came to collecting the award over its long history.
Since 1957 there have been 63 MVP honors signed, sealed and delivered. Of the 63, 67% (42) have been allocated to a quarterback — by far the most of any position. Of the remaining votes, running backs accounted for 28% of MVP award winners — by far the second most of any position. In fact, Brown would go on to win the award three times in all, after he won in consecutive seasons (1957-58) and once again in 1965 where he added the third and final MVP trophy to his mantle.
The final 5% belongs to three defensive players and a place kicker. Linebacker Joe Schmidt was first in 1960 after he shared the honor with Norm Van Brocklin. The Minnesota Vikings very own Alan Page is a part of history as the first of two defensive players to ever win the award when he won in 1971. Exactly 15 years later New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor won the title of Most Valuable Player in the league that season after posting 20.5 sacks to help his team win the Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos.
Mark Moseley is the trivia answer to stash away and impress your friends someday when someone asks who was the only placekicker to ever win the award. Mosley was kicking for the Washington Redskins in 1981 when he converted a league high 20 field goals and only missed one kick all year, which was good enough for an NFL MVP award.
Below are the current odds before the season for the 2020 NFL MVP, listed in order from favorite to longshot. While Patrick Mahomes is the heavy favorite, follow along as I break down the best value plays and what Vikings player will come the closest to the award this season and get the national media love and attention they deserve.
Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) +380
Lamar Jackson (Ravens) +700
Russell Wilson (Seahawks) +700
Dak Prescott (Cowboys) +1200
Carson Wentz (Eagles) +1700
Deshaun Watson (Texans) +1700
Drew Brees (Saints) +1700
Tom Brady (Buccaneers) +1800
Aaron Rodgers (Packers) +2300
Kyler Murray (Cardinals) +2300
Cam Newton (Patriots) +2750
Baker Mayfield (Browns) +2900
Philip Rivers (Colts) +3400
Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers) +3500
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) +4400
Josh Allen (Bills) +5000
Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) +5000
Saquon Barkley (Giants) +5000
Derrick Henry (Titans) +5000
Before placing your bets down It’s important to take a step back and remember what the MVP award is really trying to signify. Who’s the most “valuable” player to their team? Ask yourself: If you take this player away does their team come close to duplicating the same success? If you were to snap your Thanos fingers and take any of the players below away, there’s no arguing their offense and team’s production would dissolve before your eyes.
At first glance, it’s clear Mahomes is the hands down favorite to walk away with the award for the 2020 season. However, there are a few things to consider before laying down the pink slip to your family’s favorite four-door sedan on the reigning Super Bowl champion MVP.
Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Ravens (+700)
Jackson will give you nearly double the money back compared to the heavy favorite and will once again be one of the best dual-threat signal callers in the entire league. Despite starting in less than half the games his rookie season Jackson has managed to already compile nearly 2,000 yards on the ground in just his first two seasons to add to his 12 rushing touchdowns.
More impressive, though, was his ability to beat defenses from inside the pocket as a pure passing quarterback, something many defenses assumed he would not be able to do given his college tape. Jackson made huge strides and improvements to his game last offseason and cashed in when inside the pocket, throwing for over 3,100 yards and 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions in 2019.
No one even sniffs Jackson and the level of damage he has been able to create with his legs and arm in that time span, making him not only the most dangerous player in the entire NFL but also an extremely smart yet safe value play when breaking down the best options for league MVP.
The Ravens got stunned in the playoffs, but on paper John Harbaugh’s roster is well in place to replicate another 14-2 type of season, boosting Jackson’s MVP stock.
Like every candidate it’s also vital to keep tabs on each player’s surrounding cast as teams change so fluidly from one offseason to the next. However, for Jackson, the Ravens front office added arguably the top tailback in the draft in J.K. Dobbins along with two of my favorite wideout prospects of the class in Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
Bottom line, unlike the top favorite Mahomes, Jackson is a real home-run threat on every play with his arms and feet. Jackson returns the same skill position players in Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews, making it likely he will produce a bevy of juicy stats that will be impossible for the voters to ignore.
Of all the top options, Jackson is my favorite when you combine pure raw talent with the best available odds. Jackson is someone you bet on knowing full well he will be in the thick of the hunt every week until the very end of the season.
Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Packers (+2300)
Everyone loves a good old fashioned comeback story, which is exactly what could be on the docket for the former two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers.
Talk to anyone close to the NFL and you’ll think Rodgers was kicked to the curb outside of Lambeau Field and left for dead by the Packers front office. This tone was never clearer than immediately after draft weekend, which came and went without the staff giving Rodgers even one new wide receiver, a positional group that was by far the biggest to address heading into the offseason.
Instead the Packers used their first pick on a developmental quarterback (Jordan Love, Utah State) and then followed that up with a whole lot of defense. So what’s the catch? Well, let’s not forget Rodgers still has some of the best pure arm talents in the league, even at 36 years old, and at +2300 this quarterback is offering some of the best value you can find for a guy who already has two MVPs on his resume.
Who’s the most “valuable” player on the Packers? Enter Rodgers, who after being robbed of any new toys this offseason will clearly have to run the show on offense with little talent around him.
If Rodgers can somehow do what he did last year and carry his team into the NFC Championship round once again, then voters would have no choice but to think long and hard about Rodgers for MVP after proving to the world once again just how valuable he is to the Packers organization, despite the lack of talent surrounding him.
Remember the MVP award is commonly associated with a player who was able to carry their team into the playoffs, if not win the whole damn thing.
Since 2001, only one player has won NFL MVP without their respective team winning at least 11 games – Adrian Peterson, who was also the most recent non-quarterback to win the award, helped the Vikings win 10 games in 2012.
When it comes to teams with the most NFL MVPs, the Packers rank second with 7.5, behind only the Indianapolis Colts who have 8.5. The Packers last player to win the award was Rodgers himself back in 2014.
Christian McCaffery, Running Back, Panthers (+5000)
Now that you know that stats and realize quarterbacks dominate the MVP award at a 70% rate it makes it awfully tough to justify putting your hard earned money on anything but a signal caller. However, if it’s not a quarterback, it’s almost surely a tailback, strictly going off the history of the award.
As mentioned above, Adrian Peterson was the last running back to hoist the trophy in 2012. Prior to that it was Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson, who took home the prize in 2006 and Marshall Faulk in 2000 playing for “The Greatest Show on Turf” in St. Louis.
So while the quarterbacks dominate, it’s true a running back sneaks in every once in a while. Some may even make the case that we’re due for another tailback to win the MVP sooner than later based since quarterbacks have won the last seven, and if I’m picking one it’s got to be McCaffery.
If you’re talking about value you just can’t find a tailback that offers more value to his team than this kid. Just 24 years old, McCaffery has watched his yards from scrimmage improve every year during his first three seasons and was just eight yards shy of surpassing 2,400 yards in 2019. No one in the league came close to McCaffery and his yards from scrimmage, and he is on pace to replicate that again in 2020.
The Panthers brought in Teddy Bridgewater for more stability at the quarterback position but remain reliant on feeding their offense through McCaffery, who remains one of the biggest stars in the NFL. McCaffery has the rare ability to be equally effective rushing and receiving the football, which is why his effectiveness sits at an all-time high for any skill position player.
Despite having been in the NFL for just three years, McCaffery has already caught 303 passes, which averages out to 101 per season. That would be a Hall of Fame pace for any wide receiver, but McCaffery does even more work on the ground as a running back where he scored 15 touchdowns last year alone.
While Henry and Barkley are tempting, neither of the two offer the same threat in both the passing and running game while having shown the ability to stay healthy for a full season like McCaffery.
History tells you a quarterback will be chosen again for MVP in 2020. However, if you want to get frisky and risky with your yearly wage then no other non-quarterback offers the upside and betting value like McCaffery, who will help you turn a $100 bet into a $5K cash-out thanks to the rare value he provides his team.
The NFL’s premier all-purpose running back now gets to work with the innovative Matt Rhule, a revamped receiving corps and a new quarterback. McCaffrey will once again be the focal point of the offense, but it will be interesting to see all the different ways they choose to deploy the 2019 First-Team All-Pro. I expect McCaffrey to build off a prolific third season, effectively making himself a frontrunner for Offensive Player of the Year, and in turn, be in the mix as a legitimate MVP candidate.