When it comes to NFL MVP, there are really only four or five names that are discussed as viable candidates – and rightly so. They’re the very best of the best and are all deserving of the award.
But what about the other players out there who helped carry their teams but didn’t put up the numbers to warrant MVP consideration? We’re here to help sort that out by selecting the most valuable player of every team. And while it was easy for some teams, picking the MVP of others was essentially a toss-up.
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Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson
If the Cardinals were just marginally better, David Johnson would have been a legitimate MVP threat. He was by far the team’s best player this season, and that’s taking into account Larry Fitzgerald’s stellar campaign. He’s one of two players with 1,200 rushing yards, 800 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in a season.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
The MVP of the Falcons also is the best bet to be the MVP of the league. Matt Ryan had one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, so it should come as no surprise he’s the Falcons’ best player. His numbers say it all: 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions – all while facing one of the toughest schedules defensively in the league.
Baltimore Ravens: Justin Tucker
What does it say when your kicker is the MVP of your team? Ask the Ravens. Don’t let that detract from the incredible season Justin Tucker had, but the rest of the Ravens were pretty mediocre individually – especially on offense. He made 38 of his 39 field goal attempts with his lone miss being a block.
Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy
A lot went wrong for the Bills this year, which led to Rex Ryan’s firing. However, LeSean McCoy was a huge bright spot. He rushed for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns in what was his best season since 2014. No other Bills player matched his production.
Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen
The tight end put up wide receiver numbers this season. Olson caught 80 passes for 1,073 yards and three touchdowns, making him the most productive player on the team. Luke Keuchly was on pace for a terrific season before his concussion, posting similar stats to Thomas Davis in six fewer games.
Chicago Bears: Jordan Howard
Jordan Howard quietly finished second in the league in rushing, trailing Ezekiel Elliott by just over 300 yards. Quarterback play and the defense were atrocious for Chicago this season, but Howard gave the team plenty of hope at running back going forward.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green
It’s unfortunate A.J. Green got injured towards the end of the year because he was on pace for a career year. He caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four touchdowns in just 10 games, proving to be one of the five best receivers in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns: Terrelle Pryor
It seems counterintuitive to pick an MVP of a 1-15 team, but Terrelle Pryor just barely edges Joe Thomas for the award. Not because he was substantially better, but because he made impact plays and provided a spark for an unexciting team.
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Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott
Take your pick: Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott or the Cowboys’ offensive line. All of them would be deserving of this award, but Elliott and his ability to carry the offense gets the nod here. Without him, the Cowboys wouldn’t be 13-3 and there’s absolutely no doubt about that. He led the league in rushing by 300-plus yards, which says enough.
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Denver Broncos: Von Miller
Von Miller has a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year, and he’ll probably win it. The Broncos were not good offensively, so it only makes sense for their MVP to be their best defensive player – aka Von Miller. He had 13.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, generating pressure in the face of double- and triple-teams.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford
Before his lull at the end of the year, Matthew Stafford was a serious MVP candidate. He led the league with eight comeback victories and did so without any resemblance of a running game behind him. If only he didn’t injure his finger, because that clearly had an impact on his play.
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Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
Without Aaron Rodgers going on one of the better six-game runs we’ve ever seen, the Packers wouldn’t be in the playoffs. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that. He led the league with 40 touchdown passes and threw just seven interceptions, including none in the final six games.
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Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney
The Texans have a defense that plays well as a unit with no real J.J. Watt-type player. However, Jadeveon Clowney had his best season as a pro and was the leader of the unit that ranked No. 1 in yards allowed. He had six sacks and was a force against the run, as well.
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Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck is among the elite class of quarterbacks who you can peg as the team’s MVP year in and year out. That’s both telling of his talent and of the Colts’ underwhelming supporting cast. He threw 31 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions for a passer rating of 96.4. There’s no telling how bad the Colts would have been without him.
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Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey
Marquise Lee is a deserving candidate as well, but Jalen Ramsey was the leader of a surprisingly good defense. He led all rookies with 14 passes defensed while also racking up 55 tackles and two interceptions. He has an extremely bright future in Jacksonville.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill
If you ask yourself which player the Chiefs wouldn’t have won the AFC West without, it’s Tyreek Hill. He scored 12 total touchdowns as a rookie – nine on offense and three on special teams – providing a spark when Kansas City needed it most. He made game-changing plays with great regularity and altered the dynamics of the offense.
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Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald is the Rams’ best player regardless of position and has a bigger impact on the game than anyone else in Los Angeles. He’s the MVP of not just the defense but of the whole team, recording eight sacks for a loss of 54 yards to go along with 47 total tackles.
Miami Dolphins: Jay Ajayi
When the Dolphins needed a boost most, Jay Ajayi was there to provide it. He rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns this season including three 200-yard games. He was the sparkplug Miami needed, and he’ll need to remain such this weekend.
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Minnesota Vikings: Sam Bradford
Yep, Sam Bradford was the MVP of a team, as crazy as that sounds. The defense as a whole was really the most valuable unit, but as an individual, Bradford gets the nod. He set the NFL record for the highest completion percentage in a single season, which is obviously a great accomplishment. He also did so with the league’s worst running game.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Do we really need an explanation here? I think his 28 touchdowns and two interceptions speak for themselves.
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New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Drew Brees is really the MVP of the Saints each year. He posted his fifth 5,000-yard season, which is one more than every other NFL quarterback in history combined. Yeah, that’s pretty impressive. He deserves better support in New Orleans.
New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham Jr. made game-changing plays on a weekly basis, scoring multiple game-winning touchdowns for the Giants. Sure, Eli Manning will get credit for them, but it was Beckham making the plays. He had 101 catches for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, all of which led the team.
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New York Jets: Bilal Powell
Before the season, you probably would have put your money on Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte or Darrelle Revis as New York’s MVP. Bilal Powell? No one expected that, but he was arguably their most valuable player. His versatility as a running back with pass-catching ability provided the offense with the only stability it had all season. Leonard Williams was also a viable candidate.
Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr
Even though he missed the final game, Derek Carr’s overall body of work made him unequivocally the MVP of this team, and maybe the MVP of the league. Without him, the Raiders would probably be a seven-win team. He threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions with a passer rating just shy of 100. He was also one of the best late-game quarterbacks in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Peters
Jason Peters remained healthy all season, and it showed how impactful that was in his play. He was one of the best left tackles in the league this year, earning a Pro Bowl bid for stringing together a terrific campaign. Without him, Carson Wentz would have been hit a lot more than he was.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell
From Week 11 on, Le’Veon Bell may have been the best player in the NFL, and that’s not an exaggeration. He averaged 182 total yards per game with seven touchdowns in that span, carrying the Steelers to a six-game (seven-game, including Week 17 when he didn’t play) winning streak. He’ll play his first postseason game this weekend and is sure to see plenty of touches.
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San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordon
It’s truly unfortunate that Melvin Gordon got injured late in the year, causing him to come up 3 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. After his disastrous rookie season, it was great to see him bounce back with 12 total touchdowns and 1,416 yards from scrimmage.
San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde
The 49ers didn’t exactly have the most talented roster, but Carlos Hyde proved he can be an every-down back in the NFL with 988 yards and six touchdowns in just 13 games. On an offense absent of playmakers, Hyde was consistent and reliable.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
It certainly wasn’t Russell Wilson’s best season, but it may have been his most impressive as a whole. From battling injuries to overcoming the absence of a running game to having the worst offensive line in football, Wilson was able to remain productive on the field and lead the Seahawks to a division crown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston grew as much as any player on and off the field this season. He matured, embraced his leadership role and had his best season as a pro. He threw for 4,090 yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, nearly leading the Buccaneers to a playoff berth.
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota
This one came down to Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray, but ultimately, Mariota gets the nod for the importance of his position. The Titans still had success with Derrick Henry, albeit not as much, but Mariota’s ability to drive the ball downfield and take care of the football was key. He had 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions before suffering a crushing injury in Week 16.
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Washington Redskins: Kirk Cousins
This will only bolster Kirk Cousins’ claim to be the Redskins’ franchise quarterback, won’t it? He quietly had a fantastic season, throwing for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns. And while his Week 17 disappointment will sting, his overall body of work was great – the best of his career.