We may not have even gotten to the draft yet, but we can already look ahead and see who the early candidates are to win the 2017 NFL MVP award
It’s always one of the best topics to discuss during the season. As fans watch each and every team compete the question becomes “who deserves to be named the NFL MVP?” Last season the race came down to some of the usual suspects like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
There were also some surprises like Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. They all had fantastic seasons, but in the end it was Matt Ryan — the Atlanta Falcons veteran signal-caller — that walked away with the title.
When the season kicked off, Ryan would have been listed as more of a surprise player than one of the usual candidates. He came into the season regarded as a good quarterback, but wasn’t really one of the greats. He then led the Falcons to the NFC South title while throwing for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
Could this season be a surprise winner again, or will one of the established MVP-caliber players emerge with the title? With the season still several months away, we take a very early look at which five players are most likely to be the next NFL MVP.
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) enters the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
5. Tom Brady, QB — New England Patriots
Can any list for NFL MVP not contain the legendary Tom Brady? The New England franchise leader has won five Super Bowl trophies, four Super Bowl MVP’s and two NFL Offensive Player of the Year Awards. Surprisingly enough, despite all his accomplishments Brady has won the prestigious NFL MVP Award just two times. Once in 2007 and again in 2010.
It seems odd considering the soon-to-be 40-year old has been the most consistent winner in the entire league since becoming a starting quarterback in 2001. With Brady it seems to be a case of his greatness becoming so routine that it almost gets overlooked.
For that reason he winds up No. 5 on our list. He’s definitely the best quarterback of his time, and he’s still going strong despite his age. Unfortunately for him, to convince the voters that he’s worthy of being the MVP he has to do something crazy like toss 50 touchdowns or lead his team to a 16-0 record.
Brady will go down as one of the greatest — if not the greatest — to ever play the game. Eventually father time will catch up to him and he won’t be one of the best on the field anymore. That hasn’t happened yet.
Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to pass during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
4. Aaron Rodgers, QB — Green Bay Packers
Like Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has twice won the NFL MVP Award. He got his first following the 2011 season in which he threw 4,643 yards with an amazing 45 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He again won the award in 2014 when he had 4,381 yards with 38 touchdowns and only five picks.
Ever since taking over for Brett Favre, that’s been Rodgers calling card. He’s a highly efficient passer that puts up huge yardage numbers and touchdowns without turning the ball over.
In 12 NFL seasons, Rodgers has never thrown more than 13 picks in a single season and has only had double digit interceptions twice in his entire career. He’s working on six straight seasons of such efficiency as 2010 was the last season in which his pick total was more than single digits.
Heading into 2017 it looks to be more of the same for Rodgers. The Packers have always been a pass first team, but now they have allowed running back Eddie Lacy to leave via free agency. They also released his primary backup in James Starks, which points towards the team relying more than ever on the arm of Rodgers.
The No. 3 player on this list is the first potential surprise NFL MVP. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell not only has never won the award, but he also plays a position other than quarterback. The last time a non-quarterback won the award was in 2012 when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was given the honor. Before him it was all quarterbacks from 2007-2011.
Despite Ezekiel Elliott getting some votes last season, it’s become a bit of a surprise to see any non-passer get serious consideration for the trophy. That could change if Bell continues to dominate the way that he did in 2016.
After being suspended the first four games of the year, Bell came out ready to prove his worth. In just 12 games played he wound up with 1,268 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. He added another 75 receptions for 616 yards and two scores.
Bell’s ability to gain chunks of yards on the ground as well as through the air is one of the biggest reasons the Steelers win as many games as they do. In 2017 with him available for all 16 games, he should easily find himself among the favorites to be named the best in the league.
Jan 1, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) prepares for action against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
2. Dak Prescott, QB — Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott wasn’t supposed to be as good as he was during his rookie season. The fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State was catapulted into a starting role after both Tony Romo and Kellen Moore were injured in front of him.
He started to impress people during the preseason with his accuracy, command and poise. While many said he looked like a seasoned veteran, there was still the talk that it was only exhibition games. Then the regular season started and Dallas fell to 0-1 and the ship was sinking. All Prescott did was respond by leading the Cowboys on an 11-game winning streak as they finished 13-3 on the season.
Dak earned the Offensive Rookie of the Year for his efforts. He finished the year with a completion percentage of 67.8 on his passes for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The mobile quarterback added another 282 yards and six touchdowns on the ground as well.
With the team re-signing receivers Terrance Williams and Brice Butler in the offseason, Prescott will be back with a full season under his belt as well as the same cast of receivers he grew so familiar with as a rookie. That will be huge as Dak looks to take the next step in 2017 and get his name mentioned among the NFL MVP candidates.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) carries the ball in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. Derek Carr, QB — Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders won the 2014 NFL Draft. Their first pick was defensive end Khalil Mack, who has been the best player on their defense by far since his selection. As great as Mack has been though, he wasn’t their best pick that year. Instead that honor belongs to their second-round pick out of Fresno State, Derek Carr.
The young quarterback has grown into a leader for this franchise and was able to bring Oakland their first winning season since 2002 this past year, which was a huge reason he was considered a finalist for the NFL MVP Award in 2016. Unfortunately for Carr and the Raiders, he was unable to capitalize on the big season as a broken leg cost him the chance to play in the postseason. Even more unfortunate for the long suffering Oakland fans is that after finally becoming a winner again, news broke that the team would move to Las Vegas in a few years.
Such news is difficult, but Carr showed wisdom and maturity beyond his 26 years with his emotional tweet on how he felt about the past and the future of the team he represents.
Seeing him play is amazing. Watching him grow into the leader of a franchise has been even better. Carr is easily one of the favorites to win the 2017 NFL MVP Award because of how much he excels in both areas.