Way-Too-Early NFL MVP Rankings for 2019
2019 NFL MVP odds come courtesy of BetOnline and are accurate as of Friday, June 1. Although these lines won’t move much with both free agency and the draft in the rear view, you’ll want to double check the numbers before placing a wager. It’s an especially good idea to do this at the beginning of training and into the regular season, as heightened activity breeds changes in odds, based on news, roster changes, injuries and an uptick in bets being submitted.
5. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (+3300)
David Johnson is laying the best MVP odds of any non-quarterback up for public consideration. This is hardly surprising.
Sure, his +3300 makes him an overall long shot. But that’s the nature of this award. The NFL is a quarterback’s league. Passing records are being broken each and every year—total yards, touchdowns, efficiency marks, you name it. Those under center have never had more of an impact on the game. Very few of them are in situations where they can just dump it off and let others, such as running backs, make plays.
If a team doesn’t have an above-average quarterback, it shows. Franchises have been set back years, sometimes decades, after a failure to install the right arm. Look no further than embattled organizations like the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, among a few others.
The last non-quarterback to win this honor was Adrian Peterson, then of the Minnesota Vikings, in 2012. He is the only non-QB to take home the distinction since 2007.
All of which contributes to David Johnson’s wonky odds. Last season’s injury-plagued campaign, which saw him appear in just one game, factors in as well. But history works against him more than anything. And yet, maybe it shouldn’t.
The Arizona Cardinals are entering a transition year. Their defense is set to improve upon its 19th place standing from last season, which makes them dangerous. But the quarterback position is in the middle of a face-lift. Carson Palmer is gone. In his places stands Sam Bradford, who’s prone to injury himself, and rookie first-round pick Josh Rosen.
With fans and pundits engaging in weekly “Who will the Cardinals start under center?” games, Johnson figures to be the lone constant. And if he replicates his 2016 performance, wherein he racked up an NFL-leading 2,118 yards from scrimmage, including both rushing and reception tallies, he’ll quickly turn into a borderline favorite.
4. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers (+2000)
Are we getting ahead of the game here? Maybe.
Jimmy Garoppolo started just six games for the San Francisco 49ers last year. That’s not a lot. At the same time, he won them all. That doesn’t just happen.
More than that, he’s looked good in the past. He helped keep the New England Patriots afloat a couple years back when Tom Brady was dealing with a suspension, and the 49ers didn’t give up solid value in the trade for him simply because it was something to do.
Garoppolo averaged 260 yards through the air per appearance with the 49ers. That mark ranked 10th overall among quarterbacks—which is actually on the low end.
Remove Gar0ppolo’s two-attempt debut from the equation, and he threw for 308 yards per contest over the last five games. That total would have ranked—get this—first in the league, in front of even Tom Brady. That’s legit.
The same can be said for his completion rate over that time. He converted 67.05 percent of his passes during this five-game stretch. Isolate all the quarterbacks who threw at least 50 passes last season, and that would have placed fourth, behind only Drew Brees, Case Keenum and Alex Smith.
What’s more, the 49ers averaged 28.8 points per game through Garoppolo’s winning streak. That would have been good enough to give them one of the top offenses overall.
So yes, Garoppolo has to prove his mettle. He needs to prop up these numbers over a longer haul. But if he does, he won’t just be a success story. He’ll have likely turned in one of the five best seasons among all quarterbacks, bar none.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans (+1100)
Did anyone tell Drew Brees that quarterbacks closing in on their 40th birthday (January) aren’t supposed to be elite unless their name is Tom Brady? Apparently not, because Brees remains elite.
Last season, his age 38 campaign, Brees finished second in QB rating, seventh in interception percentage, fourth in total yards and first in completion percentage. His touchdown percentage dipped to 20th, but that tends to happen when you play in front of two stud running backs.
If Brees delivers a similar performance as an encore, he might deserve to be higher up on this ladder. The New Orleans Saints’ offense has undergone stark personnel changes over the past few years. Brees has basically been the lone constant.
Even now, the Saints don’t really employ a superstud on the margins. Their top two receivers are Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn, with Benjamin Watson at tight end. Those are quality guys, but none of them are superstars. Thomas comes closest, and he’s not quite there yet.
That’s how much the Saints trust in Brees. He has a little bit of Brady and Rodgers in him. He can spread the ball around and cobble together great offensive outings almost irrespective of who he’s throwing to.
New Orleans’ defense also works in Brees’ favor here, as weird as that sounds. Voters gravitate towards offensive players on elite teams. To be truly elite, though, you need sound stopping power. The Saints didn’t have that before last season. After finishing 10th in points allowed per game, they do now. That balance will help get extra eyes on the entire team, including Brees, which in turn vaults him up our way-too-early MVP ladder.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (+700)
Defenses never look forward to playing Aaron Rodgers. He’s too damn good. But they should be especially afraid of going up against him this year.
Rodgers wasn’t thrilled that the Green Bay Packers said goodbye to his favorite target, Jordy Nelson, now of the Oakland Raiders. He still has Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham to work with, but that sense of familiarity he shared with Nelson is gone.
Rodgers is also coming off a year in which he mustered just seven appearances before having season-ending surgery. He’ll no doubt have a chip on his shoulder and a bitter taste in his mouth. And that’s straight harrowing. The thought of him seeking any sort of redemption, as if he still has something to prove, always is.
Before he went down, Rodgers was having himself a year. His interception percentage spiked while his completion percentage dropped, but that said more about the Packers’ offensive line and absence of running threats. Every ounce of attention from defenses was paid to him. And yet, he still was on track to finish third in touchdown percentage, trailing only Carson Wentz and the inevitably injured Deshaun Watson. That’s categorically ridiculous.
The Packers will need more of the same from Rodgers to reclaim their mantle as Super Bowl contenders. In fact, they’ll probably need just plain more. And at age 34, still in the thick of his prime, it doesn’t make sense to bet against him. He’s a two-time MVP who, as last season played out, has yet to look like he’s lost even a half-step.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (+600)
Surprise, surprise. But not really.
Tom Brady is your reigning MVP. He now has three of these awards, because, well, why not? He’s also turning 41 this August and immersed in constant drama with the Patriots. People are almost waiting, if perhaps expecting, his downfall to come sooner rather than later.
To that we say: Seriously?
The Patriots aren’t perfect. Far from it. Their defense was exposed by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, and they continue to change out pieces on the offensive side. At some point, tight end Rob Gronkowski will no longer be a megastar.
Still, with all that being said, do you really think the Patriots would have jettisoned Jimmy Garoppolo last season if they thought, even for a second, that Brady didn’t have at least a couple of years left in him? Of course not. And while Father time remains undefeated, we don’t have that much of a reason to doubt him.
Not only did Brady pilot the league’s second-best offense last season, but he finished in the top seven of completion percentage and touchdown percentage; the top five of QB rating; the top three of interception percentage; and with the No. 1 spot in total yards and attempts.
This is to say, the Patriots are still very much his team. They may limit his number of downfield bombs, but they’re not trying to cap his workload. That’s the faith they have in both him and the offensive line. And just as they haven’t strayed from him, we shouldn’t either.
This guy just wrapped up his age 40 season with the third highest completion rate of his illustrious career, along with the third best Approximate Value score he’s ever received. Unless you think the Patriots’ defense will play them out of contention, thus ruining his MVP chances, he absolutely belongs here, in the top spot.
Longer Shots To Consider
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (+5000)
Chalk this up to Ben Roethlisberger getting older. He hasn’t aged as well as Drew Brees or Tom Brady. He’s far more injury prone, and he finished outside the top among all quarterbacks in completion rating and QB rating. He also finished 25th in interception percentage, which could make it risky for the Pittsburgh Steelers to rely on production through the air.
That brings us to Le’Veon Bell. Running back stocks can be fickle, but he’s still only 26 years old, so he should be in the clear. He’s also developed into even more of a pass-catching threat than he was before. This could be the year he blitzes past 2,000 total yards from scrimmage. And if it is, you better believe he will engender authentic MVP consideration.
Eli Manning, New York Giants (+3300)
Go ahead. Laugh. It’s fine. Understandable, even. The New York Giants and Eli Manning were a laughingstock last year. The team ranked 31st in points per game en route to collecting just three victories, and Manning posted his lowest completion percentage and QB rating since 2013.
But the Giants’ wide receiver corps is healthy this time around. And they’ve added a star rookie in running back Saquon Barkley to help open up the field for everyone. And they’ve beefed up an offensive line that has been one of the very worst in football for roughly the last half-decade.
Point being: Write off the Giants and Manning at your own risk. They could surprise some people, particularly inside the NFC East division. And if Manning has a bounce-back year—he kept his interceptions in relative check while the Giants racked up losses left and right—he could find himself in the heart of this debate.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (+1100)
We’re entering weird territory here.
Carson Wentz isn’t technically laying underdog odds. On the contrary, he’s technically the third favorite to win this award, behind only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. But you need to tread lightly.
Indeed, he was one of the odds-on favorites to battle Brady for this honor last year before suffering a season-ending ACL injury we’ve since found out was worse than the initial prognosis. That’s kind of the point. We cannot totally trust his return. Heck, neither he nor the Eagles has even guaranteed he’ll be ready for Week 1.
That uncertainty could be damning and, ultimately, his undoing considering the expectations at hand. The Eagles are the NFL’s defending Super Bowl champions, and they finished last season with the third-best offense around. People—read: voters—will be banking on them and Wentz to pick up where they left off. And should they whiff on those anticipations even a little, Wentz’s case unravels.
None of which means he’s a terrible option. Again: He was neck and neck with Brady until last season’s injury. We’re just advising you to wait until there’s more info available on his health or his odds creep above +1500.
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