There is only one trophy that stands next to the Super Bowl in football and that is the NFL MVP Award. The trophy is awarded to the player who proves to be the best player in football and the most valuable to their team. Though the award is commonly given to the most winningest quarterback in the league, the mould can be broken and has been in recent years. There is also always a surprise candidate that comes out of nowhere such as Carson Wentz or Matt Ryan over the past two seasons. No player has won the award in back-to-back years since Peyton Manning did it in 2008 and 2009.
League MVP is a special honour and with so many elite defences and backfields in the game today, the award is always up in the air. Here is nine preseason picks for the 2018 NFL MVP award.
9 Early 2018 NFL MVP Candidates
Aaron Rodgers (QB) – Green Bay Packers
Rodgers may not be entering 2018 with the best targets he’s ever had but he’s also Aaron Rodgers…perhaps the best pure passer of all-time. Plus, he’s already done it twice before. Despite playing just over six games in 2017, Rodgers threw for 1675 yards and 16 TDs with only six picks. Three of those picks also came in the one game where he tried to return from his collarbone injury. He also had a 106.1 passer rating before he was injured against Minnesota. At the pace he was setting, he would have led all QBs in touchdowns thrown (36.57). This year Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari are back healthy and Rodgers should go right back to being an elite quarterback. He’s the safest pick to win MVP in 2018.
Tom Brady (QB) – New England Patriots
Taking home his third MVP in 2017, Brady continues to dominate the league even at 40 years old. His path was made a bit easier by all of his competition getting hurt, but Brady having longevity after so long in the NFL is incredibly impressive on its own. He finished 2017 with the most passing yards and was third in TDs and passer rating. Julian Edelman also returns in 2018 giving Brady his favourite target of 2016 back. There are some offensive line concerns for New England for the first time in a while, but if Brady does Brady, New England should continue to win with their QB as the centrepiece.
Cam Newton (QB) – Carolina Panthers
After winning the MVP award but losing the Super Bowl in 2015, Newton had a down 2016. However, his performance in 2017 flew under the radar. It wasn’t eye-popping and he did throw 16 picks but he led the Panthers to an 11-5 record in the league’s best division. At the same time, he rushed for a new career high in yards. His numbers could potentially be explained by continually losing targets. Throughout the season he lost his favourite target in Greg Olsen to injury and his best receiver Kelvin Benjamin through trade. Now in 2018, Newton has a revitalized receiving core. The Panthers drafted the sure-handed D.J. Moore in the first round, signed a good deep threat in Torrey Smith and will have Olsen returning healthy. Newton is the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL and if he balls out in 2018 like he did in 2015, could easily lead the MVP discussion.
Todd Gurley (RB) – Los Angeles Rams
Winning AP Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 makes you wonder; what more does Gurley have to do to win MVP? He led the league in rushing TDs, added six more through the air, and finished second in rushing yards. Perhaps it was because Kareem Hunt‘s (league leader) 1327 yards were the lowest total to win the rushing title since 1972. Never the less, Gurley was dominant last season but the sexiest number for a running back is yards. The last running back to win MVP was Adrian Peterson in the season where he fell eight yards short of the all-time record. Gurley improved in a big way in 2017 and could take another step forward in 2018. It might seem impossible considering his performance last year, but Gurley definitely has the potential to take home the MVP if the Rams give him the rock enough.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – Dallas Cowboys
Everyone knows that the lifeblood of the Cowboys is their running game. Elliott was forced to missed six games in the middle of his season due to a looming suspension but still rushed for the most yards per game in the NFL. It wasn’t close either. He led Dalvin Cook, who only played four games, by 9.8 yards. Now with a healthy Cowboys offensive line, Elliott could be poised to have his best season yet. All he needs is to hope Dak Prescott can have a solid offensive year, taking some of the pressure off of Elliott. Prescott noticeably struggled without Elliott last year proving that Elliott is the largest cog in the Cowboys offence. As a rookie, Elliott led the league in rushing and could improve upon the 1631 yard total he totalled in 2016. If the Cowboys offence is to hit full stride, Elliott must lead the charge.
Michael Thomas (WR) – New Orleans Saints
This might be a weird one considering the talent he has around him, but Thomas appears to be in the best position to win MVP on the Saints. When Mark Ingram returns, he and Alvin Kamara will have to compete for touches, limiting their chance at having over-the-top numbers and Drew Brees saw his touchdown numbers fall from 37 in 2016 to 23 in 2017. That’s his worst total since 2003 and was less than Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins. Thomas looks to have a great chance because he is hands down their number-one receiving option and is only getting better every season. If Brees has another 5000-yard season, Thomas could lead the league in receiving yards and as a prefered red zone target, could also lead in TD receptions. That’s a pretty resume for a player trying to win MVP.
Antonio Brown (WR) – Pittsburgh Steelers
2017’s best receiver was robbed at a chance of winning MVP honours after suffering a calf injury during his week 15 matchup with the Patriots. Up to that point, Brown had put up 1533 yards and nine scores in his 14 games — good enough to keep him in the lead for receiving yards until the end of the season. The connection between himself and his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was unbreakable and was impossible to stop on almost every night. He will now look to replicate the success he has so often had as he enters his first season as a 30-year-old. Brown has been the most dominant receiver in the NFL since the retirement of Calvin Johnson Jr. and has a shot at being the first receiver to win MVP if he ups his play again in 2018.
Joey Bosa (DE) – Los Angeles Chargers
A defensive player has not won MVP since Lawrence Taylor in 1986, but Bosa has shown in his first two seasons that he is a force off the edge. He showed promise in his first season grabbing 10.5 sacks in just 12 games and then stepped his game up in 2017, upping his sack total to 12.5 while forcing four fumbles. His ability as an edge rusher is almost unmatched by any of his contemporaries but what flies under the radar is his great ability to stuff the run. The defensive end finished the season with 70 tackles by a DE only trailing Khalil Mack. Bosa doesn’t deflect many passes but he does everything else you can ask of a defensive player. He’s light on his feet, gets to the quarterback, and can knock the ball out of anyone’s hands. Having just turned 23 this month, Bosa could have a special season in 2018.
Justin Tucker (K) – Baltimore Ravens
I do not believe it is possible for a kicker to win MVP. In fact, it was done before by Mark Moseley in 1982. Tucker is as flawless a kicker as you can find and had another great season in 2017. It was not as incredible as his 2016 campaign, in which he only missed one field goal attempt (a block) all year, but the two-time all-pro was still automatic from almost anywhere on the field. He nailed 91.9% of his kicked and moved into sole possession of the most accurate kicker of all-time. Here’s one more crazy stat: Tucker has never missed an extra point in his career…NEVER, even with the longer 33-yard implemented PAT. If Tucker can lead the league in points scored and guide the Ravens to the playoffs with monster numbers and sputtering QB play, why would he not be considered for MVP? Kicking is winning and losing more games than ever and having a lights-out kicker is more necessary than ever. I swear I’m not crazy.
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