NFL Honors: Top 10 MVP Candidates for Next Season

With NFL Honors airing on Saturday night, we look at the top 10 MVP candidates for the 2017 season next year.

Saturday marks the sixth annual NFL Honors, the end of the season awards ceremony for the NFL. The event will be hosted by Keegan-Michael Key this year and is held at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, TX.

In total, the NFL Honors has 16 awards to be handed out to the winners. Some of the bigger awards are the AP Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, the AP Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, AP Coach of the Year, AP Comeback Player of the Year, and most importantly, AP Most Valuable Player.

No matter what anyone tells you, the award that matters most is the NFL MVP. Last season, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stole the show. He was the obvious choice for MVP and the NFL Honors show was just to officially confirm that. Luckily for football fans, this year’s MVP race is one of the tightest we have seen.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has the best chance at taking home the award this year. He dominated the stat sheet, but more importantly, his team is playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. It isn’t a guarantee that Ryan will take home the award, though, as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is also a possibility. His team is in the Super Bowl and he dominated this after his four-game suspension (one that might doom his candidacy). Another choice is Aaron Rodgers, but it seems that the two Super Bowl quarterbacks have the best chance.

Regardless of who wins this year, let’s take a look at which 10 players have the best chance at winning MVP at the NFL Honors next year for the 2017 NFL season.

David Johnson Arizona Cardinals

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10. David Johnson, RB – Arizona Cardinals

If you took Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson in the first round of you fantasy football league, you were one happy team owner. Johnson built off of his solid rookie season and burst onto the scene in 2016.

He ran for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns this season while also adding 80 receptions for 879 yards and four scores. His 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns led the NFL, so you may be confused as to why Johnson is only at No. 10. The biggest reason is because the team around him isn’t very good and it looks like he could lose both Carson Palmer, though Larry Fitzgerald comfortingly confirmed his return.

Palmer did not do much anyways, but losing your starting quarterback and best wide receiver is never good. Teams will be able to load the box against Johnson and make whoever is taking snaps try to win the game.

Johnson was already the entire offense this season so teams will now game plan to stop him and make someone else beat them. If he can push through that, or the Cardinals can get better quarterback play, then maybe Johnson can win MVP next season.

Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during introductions before a game against the Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during introductions before a game against the Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

9. Drew Brees, QB – New Orleans Saints

There is no debate that Drew Brees will be on his way to Canton, OH for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he decides to hang his cleats up. Brees is currently sitting third on the all-time lists for passing yards (66,111), touchdowns (465), and completions (5836). He is also first in passing yards per game (283.7) and completion percentage.

Adding to his amazing stats, Brees has now thrown for over 4,000 yards in 11-straight seasons. In those 11 seasons, Brees has thrown for over 5,000 yards four times. He has also thrown for 28 or more touchdowns in all 11 of those seasons, throwing for over 32 in nine of those and 43 or more in two of them.

His 2016 seasons silenced any critic that said he is slowing down as Brees ended the year (leading the league) with 5,208 yards. He also added 37 touchdown passes to highlight his dominant year. Oddly enough, even after looking at all of those stats, Brees has never won the NFL MVP.

Brees has won NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice (2006, 2011), but has never reached the top and earned MVP honors. A big part of that is that the team around him hasn’t helped much, but he is always someone that you should never rule out winning MVP. I mean, the 38-year-old still has it and if his team won 10 or more games this year, Brees would be a candidate this year.

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in action during the game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in action during the game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

8. Dak Prescott, QB – Dallas Cowboys

If you have read my work all season, in particular, my Quarterback Power Rankings, this may surprise you. Many people think that I am not a fan of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, but that is far from the truth. I loved Prescott throughout the 2016 NFL Draft process and said that if he fell into the right situation, he could be a star. There was no pun intended at the time, but now there is. Prescott is now a star (Cowboys star) and also has become a household name after just playing 17 games this season.

Many felt I did not like Prescott because I stayed level-minded on my evaluation of him during his amazing rookie season where he completed an NFL rookie record 67.8 percent of his passes. However, I was just watching the film and understanding that a lot of Prescott’s success came from his dominant offensive line and rushing attack. I was not knocking Prescott, but just telling the truth. I still felt that he did some impressive things all year and that is why I have him as one of the top 10 players that could win MVP in 2017.

Prescott is ready to take the next step in his sophomore season and I do not expect him to hit the “sophomore wall” that many speak of. I expect the Cowboys to expect more out of Prescott in 2017 and I think he could thrive with more responsibility.

2017 NFL Playoffs

Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

7. Le’Veon Bell, RB – Pittsburgh Steelers

If you asked me who the most talented and gifted running back in the NFL is, I would quickly answer Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Le’Veon Bell. The former Michigan State Spartan has made a name for himself in the NFL as one of the best all-purpose running backs in the league. His ability to run routes and catch passes makes him deadly. But when you add that with his ability to find a hole with patience and grace, Bell is a monster.

In 2016, Bell ran for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns while also adding 75 receptions for 616 yards and two scores. Those are solid numbers from the surface, but when you see that he did all of that in 12 games, Bell just put together one of the best 12-game runs in NFL history. In a 16-game season, going off of those 12-game numbers, Bell was on pace for 1,691 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. His receiving numbers would have been a ridiculous 100 receptions for 821 yards and three scores. Adding that all together, Bell was on pace for 2,512 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns.

If Bell is able to play all 16 games in a season, which he has only done once in his career, he will definitely be in the MVP conversation in 2017. And if Bell keeps progressing and getting better like he has throughout his career, I think he has a real shot at winning the award too.

Matthew Stafford

Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) prepares to throw the ball during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

6. Matthew Stafford, QB – Detroit Lions

The term MVP is always dissected, but it is pretty simple: it is the most valuable player for a team. That fits Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford the best. If the Lions did not have their 2009 No. 1 overall pick, they would have been in a lot of trouble in 2016, certainly not making the playoffs.

However, they did take Stafford with that No. 1 overall pick and he played some great football in 2016. Stafford ended 2016 with 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns. The 24 scores may not have been a lot, but it was the sixth season in a row that Stafford was over 4,250 yards. He may not have led the NFL in any of the traditional passing statistics, but he led the NFL in the most important one: game-winning drives.

Stafford led the Lions to eight game-winning drives this season, a career high and just an amazing mark for a quarterback. Without Stafford slinging the rock around the field late in games, Detroit could have found themselves picking first in the 2017 NFL Draft. Had it not been for a three-game losing streak to end the year, Stafford may have found himself in the MVP discussion this year. Even though he isn’t, Stafford is a strong candidate for the 2017 NFL MVP.

Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures before the snap against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures before the snap against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

5. Derek Carr, QB – Oakland Raiders

Before I get into why I believe Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is an NFL MVP candidate for the 2017 NFL season, let me first start by saying that this is with the intention that he is fully recovered from his horrible season-ending injury he suffered in Week 16 of the 2016 NFL season. Before that injury, Carr was dominating NFL defenses.

He had a career-high pace going, but without playing in the last game, he only ended with 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns. Carr led his Raiders to 12 victories and had them as one of the favorites in the NFL playoffs. However, the injury changed everything but proved to me just how valuable he is to their team. Without him, the Raiders looked terrible and they were terrible. They lost in the first round of the playoffs and it showed they missed Carr.

NFL.com’s Adam Schein said it best:

…Derek Carr got my AP vote. He meant everything to a Raiders team that was in major need of a great player and leadership at quarterback. Oakland morphed from an annual loser to a dynamite, clutch contender because of Carr, who led the Raiders to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. That’s kind of a huge deal. His talent and performance under pressure gave the team’s culture a boost it desperately required.

Carr defines the word valuable for his team and if he is healthy in 2016, watch out for Carr to steal the show again, but this time walks away with the MVP award.

NFL Honors

Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates a first down during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-15. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB – Dallas Cowboys

If you told me I had to give you the 2017 NFL MVP, but it can’t be a quarterback, I am going with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. First of all, let’s get the ‘he is good because of his offensive line’ garbage thrown away. Elliott is good because he is a once in a lifetime talent that has the chance to become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. It isn’t a fluke that Elliott led the NFL in rushing his first year in the league with his 1,631 yards. He only needed 15 games to do it, too. Just further proving the greatness that is upon us.

He also added 12 rushing touchdowns with 32 receptions for 363 yards and another score. Elliott can truly do it all, but his best trait doesn’t show up in stat sheets. Elliott is one of the best pass blocking running backs I have seen and it just shows that he takes his craft seriously.

Since he was able to dominate the league right away, I feel like year two will be even better. I think that Elliott has the chance to rush for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns next year. If he is able to do that and add another 300-plus receiving yards, Elliott will definitely be in the MVP discussion. Adding that he plays for the Cowboys, he could very well walk away with the award at the end of 2017.

Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons

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3. Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons

The 2016 NFL MVP frontrunner seems to be Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The 2008 NFL Draft’s third overall pick took some time to become an elite quarterback, but many feel he finally took that step in 2016. Ryan put up career numbers this year, throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns. He also completed a career-high 69.9 percent of his passes while throwing a career-low seven interceptions.

He is the biggest reason his Falcons squad is playing in Super Bowl 51. Without Ryan, the Falcons offense would never be able to put up the numbers it did this year. As they enter the Super Bowl, they are the hottest team offensively. They are averaging 40 points per game and Ryan has thrown seven touchdown passes in two games. If they Falcons are going to win the Super Bowl, it will be behind the arm of Ryan.

The only scary aspect of Ryan in the Super Bowl is the Cam Newton effect. Newton won the 2015 NFL MVP, lost in the Super Bowl, and then played terribly in 2016. Ryan has never been regarded as one of the best in the NFL—outside of this season—but I feel he will be able to keep his progression trending upward, even if he does lose in the Super Bowl.

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after a touchdown by running back LeGarrette Blount (not pictured) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after a touchdown by running back LeGarrette Blount (not pictured) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

2. Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots

It was an interesting year for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He entered the year with a four-game suspension for Deflategate. That suspension led many to believe that Brady would come back with a vengeance and dominate the NFL. Well, those people were correct because Brady played the best football of his career—at the young age of 39.

He may have missed four games, but Brady ended the year throwing for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also only threw two interceptions, ending with the best TD:INT ratio in NFL history. Brady will be playing for his fifth Super Bowl, which would be an NFL record. The one for the thumb would be sweet, but he is also close to winning his third NFL MVP award this season.

He has the chance to take it home, but even if he doesn’t win, it does not take away from his greatness this season. Brady is showing that even at 39, he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That is why he is still a serious contender to win the NFL MVP next season. He will be 40 years old on Aug. 3, but this 40-year-old can still sling it. If 2016 was a glimpse of what Brady is bringing to the table in his old age, he may even be a candidate to win the MVP in 2018!

NFL

Jan 8, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates as he leaves the field after defeating the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers

Before I get into why Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the No. 1 player that could win the MVP next season, let me start by saying I believe he was the MVP this season. I understand that Ryan and Brady were impressive and they led their team to the Super Bowl, but Rodgers had minimal help this year and led his team on an impressive eight-game win streak before losing to the Falcons in the NFC Championship.

If the Packers did not have Rodgers, they may have only won five games instead of 10. Many felt that Rodgers was having a down year, but his “down year” accounted for 4,428 yards and 40 touchdowns. He went on a ridiculous six-game win streak to get his team into the playoffs and in those six games, Rodgers threw 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. Those are numbers that just highlight the fact he should be the MVP.

He did this with no legitimate running game and tons of injuries on his team. With that in mind, hopefully, the Packers are a full strength in 2017 and have an actual run game. If they do, Rodgers is definitely the frontrunner to win the MVP. When he’s at his best right now in the current landscape of the NFL, no one is on his level.

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