By: Matt Watkins
Finally! Just a handful of days away from actual NFL football! As the way too long timeframe where people have to pay full price to watch games featuring guys who will likely be looking for gainful employment in a handful of days comes to a close, let’s take a look at who the best signal caller in the league is…otherwise known as the NFL MVP.
The buzz about the MVP race in the preseason has centered around three players: Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Rodgers, and Andrew—- Well, two out of three ain’t bad. We still can’t believe it; the question of “did Andrew Luck retire” seems surreal, but that’s the world we live in now.
First, let’s talk about the reigning MVP, Mahomes. He’s the oddsmaker’s favorite at +500. And why shouldn’t he be? He set records for the most TD in the opening game and two games of a season, threw for more than 5,000 yards, chucked 50 touchdowns, and it was not his fault in any way that the Chiefs didn’t represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. He’s flat out the real deal. If there is any concern at all, it’s who he’ll hand the ball off to, but given that Mahomes is a product of the Texas Tech system, I think he could be asked to pass 65 times a game and not miss a beat. Also, if you’re worried about a sophomore slump and that the league will catch up with him, stop. Mahomes was one of the rare players in this day of “will the first round QB start week one” to be pulled aside, asked to carry a clipboard, and actually LEARN the game and the speed of it at the NFL level.
SERIOUSLY? DID ANDREW LUCK RETIRE? NO MORE CPT. ANDREW LUCK?
With the stunning events of August 24, there are a slew of individuals who slot in anywhere between +950 and +1400, all in reasonable range of winning the award. At that +950 number is Rodgers. Maybe I didn’t do my discount double check here, but I just don’t see it. I’ll give him full marks for gutting it out through a knee injury during the season, but I’m having a hard time with the concept that a 35-year old, who has only started under one coach in his entire career will have a resurgence to MVP levels learning a new system for the first time in 14 years. Not helping my confidence are Rodgers completion percentage on third down last season.
Mahomes was 66.7 percent on first and second won, 62.1 on third. By comparison, Rodgers was 64.3 percent on first and second down before dropping to 56.8 percent on third and was just 54.9 on third and three or more. Add to that that Rodgers hasn’t taken a single preseason game snap in the new offense and I have more doubts (though AR claims that his work in practice is “the best reps I’m going to see all summer.”)
So if the oddmakers are right and Mahomes and Rodgers are the favorites, and the answer to “did Andrew Luck retire” remains, “yes,” who can step up and make it a three-or-more horse race? The smart pick here is on Carson Wentz, who is a steal at +1400 is he can stay standing for a full season. The ageless wonders of Tom Brady and Drew Brees are in the mix and will be until they decide they won’t be. Don’t be shocked if Baker Mayfield has enough wow moments to pull his name onto the outskirts of the discussion, especially if the Browns contend.
The vast likelihood is that there will be a QB to win the award. After all, a quarterback has won the last six and 12 of the last 13 with only Adrian Peterson interrupting the streak with a 2,000-yard season in 2012. It’s such a signal caller driven award that the first non-QB on the odds sheet is Ezekiel Elliot at 60-to-1.
That said, I’m going to throw one way off the wall idea out there. To even think a defensive player might win could easily warrant a need for psychiatric evaluation, but with the deadline to sign franchise players to multi-year deals past, keep a look out of the corner of your eye at the season Jadaveon Clowney has. With all due deference to Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Luke Kuechly, Clowney has the best skill set of any front seven player in the game. The knock on him, even back at South Carolina is his motor.
Now, he gets the to play the disrespect card thanks to the Texans on two levels; both not getting a long-term deal and by franchising him as a linebacker, not a defensive end, earning Clowney $2M less this season. He’s playing under a second franchise tag and will be highly motivated to earn his big money contract as a UFA next season, whether from the Texans or someone else. Hell hath no fury like a player at a diva position scorned and if Clowney plays all 16 games with a JJ Watt-esque work ethic, quarterbacks beware and he could become the first MVP candidate on the defensive side of the ball since Lawrence Taylor won it in 1986.