Analysis

Who Are the Top Longshot NFL MVP Candidates?

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Tom Rudawky is a former NFL scout for the New York Giants who previously worked in football operations for the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. He now writes for The 33rd Team among other publications.

For nine straight seasons, the prestigious NFL MVP award has been awarded to a Quarterback – Adrian Peterson was the last non-QB to take home MVP honors in 2012. Moreover, 14 of the last 15 award winners have been signal-callers. So, who will take home the award in 2022? Today, we identify three potential longshot award winners.

Any player who is currently outside the top ten in odds (per FanDuel Sportsbook) will be considered a long shot. After all, the last five award winners went to Brady, Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Aaron Rodgers (twice) – pretty much a who’s who of MVP favorites every year. Per FanDuel, the ten players with the best odds in 2022 are Josh Allen, Mahomes, Brady, Rodgers, Herbert, Prescott, Burrow, Wilson, Stafford, Murray, and Jackson (tied for 10th with Murray at +2000) – so these eleven players won’t appear on the list.

Derek Carr, Raiders (+2,500)

This feels slightly like cheating as Derek Carr is the next man up in the list above. However, Carr, who hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2017, would still be a surprise winner. Carr played at a high level in 2021 — some would argue it was his best season yet as a pro. After all, he threw for 4,804 yards, eclipsing his previous career high by more than 700 yards. It also ranked him 5th in the NFL, as he led the Raiders to their first playoff appearance since 2016.

Looking ahead to 2022, this is arguably the most fruitful situation Carr has ever had around him in his 8-year NFL career. First, the Raiders hired Josh McDaniels as their new head coach. McDaniels is one of the more well-respected “QB whisperers” in the NFL, and figures to form a formidable duo with Carr. The biggest reason Carr has a chance at the award in 2022 is due to the landscape-changing acquisition of star wide receiver Davante Adams this offseason. Adams is one of, if not the, top receiver in the game. He’s an elite route runner with outstanding hands and overall consistency. With back-to-back 1st-team All-Pro honors, adding Adams means giving Carr a game-wrecking wide receiver to pair with Hunter Renfrow. With McDaniels leading the helm, this offense should be highly productive all year long.

For Carr to win MVP, he must cut down on turnovers – which was really the only thing that plagued him in 2021. He threw 14 interceptions last year, which was also a career-high mark. In 2016, Carr finished third in MVP voting. That season, he threw for 3,987 yards, while posting a TD-INT mark of 28-6. For Carr to have a shot in 2022, that score-turnover ratio will have to look similar. He’s played MVP caliber football in stretches throughout his career, but can he do it over the course of a full season? At +2,500, considering the situation around him, it may be worth a shot to see.

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (+7,500)

These next two names are guys that represent long shots in the truest sense. First, at 75-to-1, is the 2nd-year quarterback on a team that has won a combined 15 games in the last season. There’s zero doubt about it – a LOT would have to go right for Trevor Lawrence to bring home the MVP award. But that’s why they’re long shots.

How can Lawrence defy the odds? Well, there’s no denying the 2021 1st overall pick’s talent and upside. He has all the physical traits you look for in a quarterback, possesses plus athleticism, and an electric arm that allows him to make difficult throws into tight windows. While having an up-and-down rookie season, Lawrence did flash all these things at times. For a rookie on a bad team in a really bad situation, it’s hard to blame Lawrence for the failures. After all, Lawrence’s first ever NFL Head Coach was fired 13 games into his NFL career.

Jacksonville hiring super-bowl winning Head Coach Doug Pederson is one of the smartest things the franchise has done in a long time. In 2017, when Pederson led the Eagles to the Lombardi trophy, it was in-large part due to the play of second year QB Carson Wentz – who played at an MVP level until he tore his ACL in week 14 against the Rams. Flash forward to 2022, and Pederson has aligned himself with another talented, highly touted young QB in Lawrence.

While there are plenty of differences between the 2022 Jaguars and the 2017 Eagles and their respective situations, the Pederson-Lawrence duo will most certainly be a positive thing for the franchise. So, what was to happen for Lawrence to win MVP? Well, obviously he has to elevate his game to brand new heights. He threw 17 interceptions as a rookie. He must cut that number in half in 2022, and must play smarter, more risk-averse football while still being aggressive and dynamic – which I believe Pederson will set him up to do. However, the MVP is always on a playoff team, so can the Jaguars fulfill that? While it feels unlikely, crazier things have happened. Again, at 75-to-1, you’re looking for potential players and situations that could ultimately result in an outcome far better than expected – and I do believe Lawrence paired with Pederson has the chance to do that.

Dalvin Cook, Vikings (+15,000)

As stated above, a non-QB hasn’t won the award since 2013, so why take a shot on Dalvin Cook? First of all, when looking for value, I think these are really good odds on Cook. Players such as Davis Mills, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, and Marcus Mariota have better odds than Cook, which I don’t understand.

When talking about the best running backs in football over the last five or so years, it’s hard not to include Cook on that list. In fact, I’d argue that after Derrick Henry, he’s been the top dog. Cook is both a load in between the tackles and an explosive, home run hitter. He’s got outstanding contact balance, toughness, and speed. For Cook to actually take home the MVP, he’d have to run completely wild on the rest of the league. In his career, we’ve seen Cook get hot and string together top-notch outings at times, and to win the honor he’d more-less have to be that guy the whole year. Unlike the aforementioned Mills, Goff, Darnold, and Mariota, I do believe Cook has MVP-level talent. Obviously, there are a lot of obstacles standing in Cook’s way. First of all, he has yet to play more than 14 games in his five NFL seasons. A running back winning the award is hard enough, but a running back that only plays 14 of 17 games? That won’t be possible.

Cook will need to prove he can withstand an entire 17-game slate to have a chance. Second, we don’t know much about specifically HOW Cook will be utilized, as new Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell is coming over from Los Angeles after two seasons as their offensive coordinator – none of which where he was the primary play caller. However, O’Connell is viewed as a gifted offensive mind and surely will have a plan for Cook.

Is it likely that Cook wins the NFL MVP this year? Of course not, which explains the 150-to-1 odds. But Cook does possess a truly elite skill set, and one that, barring good health, should continue to result in elite production moving forward.