2023 NFL MVP Picks, Odds: Expert Predictions, Bets on Brock Purdy, Dak Prescott
Getty Images. Photo Illustration by Matt Roembke. Pictured: Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes.
We're wrapping up our season-long awards previews for the 2023 season, and we saved the big one for last: our NFL MVP picks.
Most Valuable Player — three words that will send any sports conversation down a rabbit hole for hours at a time, debating the meaning of "value," who deserves the award and what the MVP criteria should be.
Patrick Mahomes is our defending winner after passing for 5,250 yards and 41 TDs en route to a league-best 14-3 record for the one-seed Chiefs in the AFC. Mahomes was in the mix all the way and pulled away late to secure 48 of 50 first-place votes and win with ease, winning his second MVP and cashing our +900 tickets from this very column last preseason.
So, what exactly defines a Most Valuable Player? What makes one player more valuable than another in 2023 and what sort of player wins MVP? Is this just a quarterback club or is the race open? And how much of this just comes down to narrative at the end of the day?
We'll monitor this award and add to our portfolio all season, so let's set the stage by building a historical winner profile and considering 20 potential MVP cases. I'll explain which names are no bets right now, what sleepers we're keeping an eye on and the two bets I'm making right now.
Be sure to check out all the other awards previews and picks:
Who Wins Most Valuable Player?
Let's take a look back at the past 16 MVP winners and spot some patterns:
- 2022 Patrick Mahomes: 5,250 yards, 41 pass TDs, 12 INT, 14-3, 1-seed
- 2021 Aaron Rodgers: 4,115 yards, 37 pass TDs, 4 INT, 13-4, 1-seed
- 2020 Aaron Rodgers: 4,299 yards, 48 pass TDs, 5 INT, 13-3, 1-seed
- 2019 Lamar Jackson: 3,127 yards, 43 TDs, 6 INT, 14-2, 1-seed
- 2018 Patrick Mahomes: 5,097 yards, 50 pass TDs, 12 INT, 12-4, 1-seed
- 2017 Tom Brady: 4,577 yards, 32 pass TDs, 8 INT, 13-3, 1-seed
- 2016 Matt Ryan: 4,944 yards, 38 pass TDs, 7 INT, 11-5, 2-seed
- 2015 Cam Newton: 3,837 yards, 45 TDs, 10 INT, 15-1, 1-seed
- 2014 Aaron Rodgers: 4,381 yards, 38 pass TDs, 5 INT, 12-4, 2-seed
- 2013 Peyton Manning: 5,457 yards, 55 pass TDs, 10 INT, 13-3, 1-seed
- 2012 Adrian Peterson: 2,097 rushing yards, 12 TDs, 10-6, 6-seed
- 2011 Aaron Rodgers: 4,643 yards, 45 pass TDs, 6 INT, 15-1, 1-seed
- 2010 Tom Brady: 3,900 yards, 36 pass TDs, 4 INT, 14-2, 1-seed
- 2009 Peyton Manning: 4,500 yards, 33 pass TDs, 16 INT, 14-2, 1-seed
- 2008 Peyton Manning: 4,002 yards, 27 pass TDs, 12 INT, 12-4, 5-seed
- 2007 Tom Brady: 4,806 yards, 50 pass TDs, 8 INT, 16-0, 1-seed
1. Quarterbacks win MVP.
You're probably not shocked to learn that 15 or our last 16 MVPs have been quarterbacks.
To be fair, we cut the list at 2007 for a reason. That was Tom Brady's breakthrough year for the 16-0 Patriots in which he set an NFL record for passing TDs and ushered in the modern passing era. The previous two years saw Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson win MVP by rushing for NFL records 27 and 28 TDs in a bygone workhorse RB era.
The only non-QB MVP in the last 15 years was Adrian Peterson, who nearly broke the all-time rushing record. And even including those three, 20 of 23 MVPs (87%) this century have been QBs.
Cooper Kupp is the only non-QB to get a first-place MVP vote in the past five years. He got exactly one (1) vote. This is a quarterback award.
2. We love repeat MVP winners.
Did you notice how often the same names came up over the past 16 years?
Mahomes won a second time. Rodgers sniped four of the 16. Three more went to Peyton Manning and three others to Brady. That's 75% of all MVPs — three of every four! — to the same four dudes.
That's why the average MVP in this stretch is 30.9 years old, because these aging superstars keep winning. Outside of Brady, Manning and Rodgers, the average MVP is age 26.0, with five of the six age 27 or younger.
Manning even had a pair of MVPs before this stretch. Looking back further, 22 of the past 34 MVPs were won by Mahomes, Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Steve Young and Joe Montana. That's 65% of all MVP trophies — two out of three — to the same eight dudes everyone knew was best.
MVP greats win again and again.
3. … But usually not consecutive winners.
Aaron Rodgers was an exception to the rule in 2021-22.
Jim Brown won the first two MVPs ever in 1957-58. Since then, only five men have won MVP in consecutive seasons, with only Rodgers and Manning this century.
Think how unlikely that is: 65% of all MVPs go to the same guys who keep on winning year after year, but almost never the same guy in back-to-back years.
MVPs repeat — but rarely consecutively.
4. We need some serious MVP statistical production.
Look at the average stat line for an MVP during this 15-year stretch: 4,462 passing yards, 41.2 passing TDs, and 8.3 interceptions. Not a bad year of work! We probably need even higher numbers since passing only continues to increase and those numbers are mostly from 16-game seasons.
That's about 285 yards and 2.5 TDs a game, and those numbers go up even further if we exclude Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton, who did much of their damage on the ground. The touchdowns especially stand out, with 11 of the 15 hitting extreme outlier TD rates their MVP season.
Note that six of the 15 actually hit double-digit interceptions, so 10-to-12 picks are not necessarily disqualifying if the rest of the profile is great, but only one MVP had more than that.
5. We need a winner — like, a big-time, serious winner.
Rule No. 5 is the most important takeaway, and it's what drives the narrative portion of the MVP award. Like it or not, QBs get by far the most credit for wins and losses, and we need a winning quarterback.
Our 15 quarterback MVPs went 201-41, a sparkling 83.1% win rate. That's a 14.1-win pace over a 17-game season — and that is a whole lot of wins.
Our MVPs finished as the 1-seed a whopping 12 times (80%), plus twice as a 2-seed. The only one outside the top-2 seeds was Manning in 2008, an unlikely and probably bad winner.
6. Long shots have dominated lately, but if it's an already elite QB, shorter odds are OK.
Before Mahomes cashed our +900 ticket last season, the previous four MVPs all started the season at +1100 or longer. In fact, six of the last eight MVPs began the year that long, with 2017 Brady the only other exception. That reverses a trend from the previous six years, where only one winner started the season longer than +800.
There's a method to the madness. Because we see so many elite QBs repeat as MVP, favorites do tend to be in the mix historically. If you're betting on someone with shorter odds, it better be a future Hall of Famer who's won it before — aka Mahomes. Otherwise, recent history says it could be a longer shot.
But it's not like the new long-shot winners have stuck around. Four of our last 11 winners never received a vote before their MVP win and never got another vote since. For most mere mortals, you get one shot and one shot only at your peak outlier MVP season.
7. Advanced metrics tend to be great predictors of MVP voting — in season.
The invaluable website RBSDM tracks Expected Points Added (EPA) and Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) to measure QB value, along with a composite EPA + CPOE to rank the league's best.
Over the last decade, every MVP but one finished the season top-two in EPA, and seven of the 10 finished No. 1. The same was true for EPA + CPOE. Every MVP but Newton finished top-two in EPA. Rodgers led the league in both of his recent MVP wins, and Mahomes did the same last year.
For now, that doesn't help us much until we get some season data, but it's a great tool to keep an eye on as the season progresses. History says EPA is a great MVP predictor.
So what are we looking for in an MVP winner?
This is an individual award, but it's really a team accomplishment. We need a QB capable of a 13-win season and a run at the 1-seed, and they need to have a real shot at 4,500 yards and 40+ TDs.
OK, let's get to the candidates.
Don't Bet on a Non-Quarterback
RB Christian McCaffrey, 49ers +8000
WR Justin Jefferson, Vikings +10000
WR Ja'Marr Chase, Bengals +15000
WR Tyreek Hill, Dolphins +15000
ED Micah Parsons, Cowboys +20000
Do not — do not — bet on a non-QB. Just don't.
Justin Jefferson caught 128 passes for eight scores and nearly 2,000 yards last fall. He got zero first place votes. Kupp put up 145/1,947/16 the season before and got one. Jonathan Taylor ran for nearly 600 more yards than the next closest competitor that season and didn't get a single vote.
If you bet on a non-QB, you're betting on outlier historical voting and historically great outlier production. That's just not a smart play. These guys can technically get down-ballot votes now that voting has expanded, but they're still not going to win.
Just look at the odds. Sam Darnold — an actual backup quarterback — has shorter odds to win MVP at most books than any of the superstar names above. You have to scroll past 23 quarterbacks before you even get to the first non-QB. Even the books are telling us a QB will win MVP.
If you want to bet an a wild statistical RB or WR season, bet OPOY instead.
Everyone's Favorite Sleeper Candidate
Justin Fields, Bears +2200
Fields is the obvious sleeper pick from the NFC, but he might also be the worst bet on the list.
MVPs average 14 wins and make a run at the 1-seed. I don't care how watered down the NFC is or how good a passer Fields magically becomes overnight — do you really think this Bears team has even a snowball's chance at reaching that standard?
Even if you completely ignore QB, Chicago ranks bottom-six for me on both offense and defense. It's really, really hard to imagine the Bears winning 13 games, even if Fields plays like a top-five QB.
Could he win MVP if he runs for 1,500 yards, throws for 4,000, and breaks our statistical brains, even if the Bears go 10-7 before a quick postseason flame out? I suppose it's possible in 2023.
Congratulations, you just gave the MVP to NFL Russell Westbrook. Will voters really do that?
I don't buy it, and I sure as heck can't recommend Fields at +2200 when you can play guys like Dak Prescott and Tua Tagovailoa at the exact same price with a way better roster around them.
MVP is a team award. I don't buy Fields the QB anyway, but I definitely don't buy the rest of his team.
7 Other NFC Sleepers to Keep an Eye On
Jared Goff, Lions +4000
Geno Smith, Seahawks +4000
Derek Carr, Saints +5000
Kirk Cousins, Vikings +5000
Jordan Love, Packers +6000
Daniel Jones, Giants +7500
Desmond Ridder, Falcons +15000
It's no secret that the NFC is far more open than the AFC.
Eight of the top nine names in my quarterback rankings play in the AFC. Six of my top seven offenses are in the AFC, too. At least one of those top nine QBs won't even make the playoffs in the AFC, while at least six QBs from outside the top nine will be dancing in the NFC.
The implication is clear: a sleeper, likely multiple sleepers, will emerge from the NFC. And it'll be on the backs of these quarterbacks.
Are you sure one of these guys really has the potential to leap into the hallowed list of MVP names, though? The one that goes down in history, that likely puts them on a Hall of Fame trajectory? Only three eligible players who have won MVP since 1988 are not enshrined in Canton (though Matt Ryan and Cam Newton may join them). Is anyone above a Hall of Famer?
is Matt Ryan headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
is Cam Newton?
— Brandon Anderson (@wheatonbrando) August 30, 2023
The uncertainty draws my eye to Jordan Love and Desmond Ridder.
We already know Cousins, Carr and Goff are mid. No one wants to see that bust in Canton. At least with Love and Ridder, we don't know yet. Green Bay and Atlanta have intriguing, talented rosters with plenty of upside in soft, winnable divisions. If the NFC is wide open and the Packers or Falcons end up a top-2 seed, could Love or Ridder be a long-shot MVP candidate? Maybe. Would they win? I doubt it.
I won't stop you from sprinkling on an NFC long shot — I've got my own to come — but it's very unlikely to hit. I think MVP really comes down to one of the 12 guys below.
Three Clear No Bets — For Now
Deshaun Watson +3000
I like the Browns a lot. They're my division favorite, and Watson was a clear top-five QB his last healthy, full season. He's theoretically in his prime and his metrics before last fall's disaster make him a perennial MVP candidate. Now he'll play with by far his most talented teammates ever.
Say Cleveland goes 13-4 and wins the AFC 2-seed. Watson racks up 4,900 yards and throws 43 TDs, leading the league in both categories, and adds 500 yards and eight scores on the ground too. Is he MVP?
I don't think so, and I don't think you do either. That gross feeling you get thinking about betting on Watson is the same feeling voters would have before casting their ballots. This is a good reminder that MVP is not won on paper, but by human voters. Watson would have to lap the field to win it.
Aaron Rodgers +1600
Aaron Rodgers has won 12+ games five times in his career, and he won MVP in four of those five seasons. He has five other seasons with 10 or 11 wins, and this feels more like that.
Rodgers turns 40 in December with one real receiver and a shaky offensive line. History says he's a threat to win MVP until he submits his retirement papers, but even if you believe, you absolutely cannot buy that ticket now. The Jets start out against the Bills, Cowboys, Patriots, Chiefs, Broncos and Eagles.
The number will get longer before it gets shorter.
Joe Burrow +750
Joe Burrow is currently second favorite at +750, and that's a mistake.
Burrow finally practiced Thursday, a signal that he could be ready for Week 1 after all, but there's still no guarantee that he'll suit up, let alone be healthy. Cincinnati starts against Cleveland and Baltimore, and the Bengals could find themselves in a hole quickly if Burrow is not 100%.
Even if Burrow had a pristine bill of health, I couldn't make him any better than fourth or fifth favorite. He's very much in that Drew Brees or Philip Rivers range right now, consistently really, really good around 4,500 yards, 35 TDs, and 10-to-12 wins, but not quite that extra little juice to be at the top. He's a vote getter, not a winner, so far. The Bengals also have a brutal schedule late.
I truly think any one of these final 12 quarterbacks could win MVP, but you absolutely should not bet on these three right now.
I Can Imagine It, But I Can't Bet It
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins +2200
You can make the case that Tagovailoa was already in the MVP picture last fall before the injury — in fact I made the case and bet it myself. He led the league in EPA per play deep into the season and was unbeaten his first eight healthy games with a stat line that paced to 5,200 yards and 40 TDs.
Unfortunately, seasons aren't eight games, and those other nine matter, too. Tagovailoa has missed four games in consecutive seasons and is a serious risk with his concussion history and his rag-doll size. He struggled mightily late in the season against a string of tough defenses and faces a killer schedule this year, including three great defenses in his own division.
The risk is high with Tagovailoa, but it's not just him. You're also taking on the risk of oft-injured LT Terron Armstead as well as both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, since Miami could crumble with a major injury to any of those four. It's not impossible, but there's just too much that has to go right to bet it.
Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars +1700
Trevor Lawrence has the benefit of unknown upside — and playing in the one terrible AFC division. We've seen sophomore leap MVP seasons from Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Maybe this is effectively a sophomore leap year for Lawrence after a throwaway rookie season with Urban Meyer?
Jacksonville is largely running it back with one huge addition offensively as Calvin Ridley gives Lawrence the WR1 he's lacked. We've seen Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen leap into MVP contention with a star WR addition. The Jaguars are very pass-heavy, and there's a path to a heap of wins in a soft division.
But MVP is a team award. Can Jacksonville's roster support an MVP campaign? I'm not convinced. The offensive line is in the bottom-quarter of the league, and the defense is just as bad. That could mean plenty of shootouts and Lawrence stats, but you still have to win games. Jacksonville also has a couple super-negative scheduling quirks, thanks to a multi-week England trip midseason.
If Jacksonville does have a great season, it'll almost certainly have to be because of a Lawrence leap into MVP contention, but I think it's too early for this team.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens +1600
Voters like repeat MVP winners, but the question is whether Jackson belongs on that hallowed list of repeat MVPs or if he's on the list of guys to get one top-three finish and then never make it back. As Jackson's career plays out, it's starting to feel more like the latter.
Jackson has played only 12 games each of the past two years, though he's still 45-16 lifetime as a starter, a 12.5-win pace lifetime in the NFL. This year is a big test to see how much elite ball is left in the tank with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken set to completely revamp this offense and unleash a spread passing attack.
Baltimore still has a good line, and Jackson has the best receivers of his career. A boost in volume could mean a big uptick in counting stats. But Jackson has also seen a troubling 2.7% interception rate the last three seasons and eats a ton of sacks, so increased passing volume could mean a spike in turnovers and even more big hits on sacks. It could also limit what's made Jackson so special thus far if Monken limits the designed runs.
Then again, more passing could also unleash Jackson as a scrambler, with scrambles typically higher +EV than designed runs, so that could boost his EPA and advanced metrics back from middling to among the league's best if this works. It might! We'll have a better idea in a few weeks.
For now, it's all too theoretical to feel confident betting on.
Justin Herbert, Chargers +1200
I expected Justin Herbert to be my MVP pick all summer, but I just can't get there. Everyone's excited for the new offense under Kellen Moore, but I worry that the improved scheme could help the Chargers win but hurt Herbert's numbers.
Moore's offense is efficient but much more balanced, and the old Chargers offense had Herbert passing all game. He approached 700 attempts each of the past two seasons for around 5,000 yards even with all the dump-offs. I'd expected those attempts to drop by 50 or more, which means Herbert might actually end up with worse counting stats, and that's a tough sell to voters.
And for all that talent, Herbert still needs to win pundits over. His advanced metrics haven't measured up — not even top 10 in cases like EPA — and he has a tough path to a top-2 seed, starting with the fact that he's in Mahomes's division.
Herbert might win one someday, but it still feels early. He's far too short at +1200.
The AFC is a bloodbath. We're seven QBs deep and didn't even get to Mahomes or Josh Allen yet. Let's go ahead and do that now.
The Right and Clear Favorite
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs +600 (FanDuel)
The fact that I don't even need to make Mahomes's MVP case speaks for itself.
Mahomes is the best player, the defending MVP and Super Bowl MVP. He has a top-five line and the best coaching staff and leads the best offense. In five seasons as a starter, Mahomes has won 12 games, finished top-three in EPA, led a top-two DVOA offense, and made the conference championship all five years.
He's pretty good.
But will he win MVP a second straight year? Only five players in NFL history have won consecutive MVPs, and just six have won three altogether. Are we sure voters are ready to elevate Mahomes to that elite all-time group at age 28?
Voter fatigue is real, and we just saw it cost the best player in basketball a repeat MVP trophy with Nikola Jokic. Mahomes doesn't just have to beat all the other players — he has to beat himself, too, and it's hard to be so much better than what you just did that the voters can't find a new, more exciting choice.
Kansas City is breaking in two new offensive tackles, so that could make life tricky early. The schedule gets very difficult late in the season, right when voters may be looking for another option. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is gone. Travis Kelce is the only reliable weapon, and he turns 34 in October.
Perhaps most importantly, there's no real narrative here. Voters want to tell the story of a season. What's the Mahomes story? Ho hum, Mahomes is great, what else is new?
Patrick Mahomes is absolutely the favorite to win MVP. His number is probably even too long at +600, in theory. If you only want to make one MVP bet and want the ticket most likely to cash, it's Mahomes, and it's an easy choice.
But voter fatigue is real and there's a reason guys don't repeat. I'm betting on history and looking elsewhere in 2023, but I may add Mahomes to my portfolio later.
The Top Two Contenders to the Throne
Josh Allen, Bills +850 (DraftKings)
Josh Allen might truly be more valuable to his team than any other player in football.
Allen is the Bills offense. Stefon Diggs is pretty great, but this entire attack is built around what Allen can do with his arm and his legs, and that's last year's No. 2 DVOA offense. Allen consistently puts up around 4,500 yards and 35 TDs, and he's won double-digit games four straight years. He's pretty much always going to be in the MVP conversation and already has two top-three finishes.
That distinction alone makes Allen unique. There's a long list of guys with only one top-three MVP finish who never returned — Carson Wentz, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Chad Pennington, Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb this century — and most of those names never even got another vote. But once you get a second top-three, basically everyone this century not named Drew Brees eventually got that MVP.
Allen will probably win an MVP eventually, but is he actually too valuable to Buffalo?
This dude has to do everything for 17 games, and it wears on him as the season drags on. Allen's physical play hasn't cost him game time somehow — he hasn't missed a start in four years — but he plays hero ball even through injury and that often kills the metrics and racks up turnovers. His 14 and 15 interceptions the last two years would be the second most interceptions by any QB MVP this century.
Odds history says that guys with odds this short to start the season don't usually win MVP unless they're in that Mahomes tier. I think Allen's actually the most valuable player, but he might be too valuable to win it.
Buffalo has a super soft opening two months. I'd love to bet on Josh Allen to be the first-half MVP. Instead, I'll use his presence in this race to buy value elsewhere these next two months and expect Allen to wear down again late against a tough back nine.
Jalen Hurts, Eagles +1200 (FanDuel)
We know Hurts can win MVP because he probably would've won last season, had he not gotten injured in December. Hurts led the Eagles to a 14-1 record and the 1-seed, adding 3,701 passing yards and 22 TDs to 760/13 on the ground. He was a weapon by land and by air, and his unstoppable Tush Push became the play of the season and consistently changed games.
Hurts plays behind the league's best line with an elite WR duo in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. The defense may take a step back, but that may just mean more passing numbers to those stud WRs. MVPs go to winning quarterbacks, and you can make a good case that Hurts has the best path to a 1-seed of any quarterback. He's the one NFC quarterback in my top nine. The Eagles rode a soft conference to the Super Bowl last year. If they make that same push, Hurts should be in the MVP conversation again.
History doesn't often repeat itself though.
There are myriad reasons the Eagles will likely regress some in 2023, in part because you only get that one perfect dream season once. That's true for the team and it might be true of Hurts, too, since history says you usually only get that one top-three MVP finish.
Hurts has gotten injured late in both seasons as a starter, and it makes sense that a player with such a physical style of play would wear down late. But the rushing value is a core part of Hurts's case. The passing numbers really don't measure up and won't match the top passers unless he adds another 50 yards and a TD a game. The volume hasn't been there, even if the excellence has.
An MVP bet on Hurts is largely a bet on Philadelphia's roster and on the weak NFC allowing the Eagles to pile up wins again. The case for Hurts goes wins, running value, then passing.
Hurts just doesn't fit the historical MVP profile, and I'm worried he'll start to wear down right as Philly hits a brutal stretch on the schedule against the Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, then Cowboys again.
If you want to build an MVP position around the weakness of the NFC, Hurts is a must-add at +1200. But history is against Hurts repeating last year's run — and I think there's a much better NFC value.
My Preseason MVP Best Bet
Dak Prescott, Cowboys +2500 (Caesars)
Think of Dak Prescott as this year's Jalen Hurts.
The best place to look for an MVP candidate is the QB of the team you think will contend for the 1-seed. Dallas is my 1-seed in the wide-open NFC. If Prescott is the QB of the team that wins the most games, and he's the quarterback of America's Team, he will absolutely be in the MVP race.
On the one hand, Prescott has never had an MVP year. He's only gone over 30 TDs or topped 11 wins once each. On the other hand, if you really only get one shot at this, maybe this is his shot.
The underlying numbers are there. Prescott has a career 7.6 YPA, and he's consistently on pace to pass around 600 times a season and should pass more in Mike McCarthy's pass-heavy offense. Prescott also saw his TD rate leap to over 6% the past two years, and you often need that TD spike in an MVP year.
The interceptions have never been an issue before last season and are not a concern. Outside of the turnovers last year, Prescott had an incredible 0.358 EPA per play, second to just Mahomes and far ahead of the rest of the field. Turnovers count! But Prescott was outstanding in the many other plays, and he should be even better with Brandin Cooks opposite CeeDee Lamb in a new scheme that's built to this team's strengths, getting quick, accurate passes to receivers on the move in space.
You want narrative? How about the Cowboys losing Ezekiel Elliott and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore but somehow getting better by subtraction right as it's clearer than ever that this is Prescott's team? As if being QB of America's Team on a 1-seed wasn't enough.
MVP is a team award, and considering the team context and the wide-open NFC, I put Prescott right in the mix with Allen and Hurts as the top contenders to Mahomes' crown. That makes him an absolute bargain at +2500, and it makes him the one MVP ticket I absolutely have to have going into the new 2023 season.
But if you've been paying attention, there's one other name — another NFC name — I have to sprinkle too.
The Long Shot I Can't Help But Nibble
Brock Purdy, 49ers +5000 (DraftKings)
I'm a glutton for punishment. Trey Lance was my long shot in this column last fall at +5000, and silly old me, I bought another Lance ticket this spring so I guess I've got Prescott insurance now.
I just can't stop betting on Kyle Shanahan quarterbacks.
EPA is a great in-season predictor of MVP finish. Look at Shanahan's quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo finished third in EPA per play last season, and Purdy was sixth as a rookie. Garoppolo finished fifth in EPA in 2021, ninth in 2019 and first in 2017, with injuries the two other years. Matt Ryan led the league in 2016 EPA. Oh, you forgot Shanahan was the offensive coordinator the year Ryan won MVP? The man is a QB machine.
The case for Brock Purdy as 49ers QB is that he's an upgrade on Garoppolo; a version of the former 49ers QB with an ability to create off-script and a willingness to look for the big play. If that's the case, does it mean an even better version of Garoppolo and a push for No. 1 in EPA?
In the six games Purdy played most of last fall, his stats projected to 3,700 yards and 37 TDs. He threw at least two TDs every game and is 8-0 lifetime when he takes at least half of the snaps. He has the best weapons in football and one of the most talented defenses, and he's been given the keys to the best, easiest QB job in football.
Shanahan is 43-17 with either Garoppolo or Purdy starting in San Francisco, a 12.2-win pace. If Purdy is good, the 49ers coast to 12 wins, maybe more. He could easily be the QB on a 1-seed, and the metrics last season — 8.1 YPA and 7.6% TD rate — suggest he could push for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs.
Can I interest you in a narrative?
You're telling me voters won't get romantic about Mr. Irrelevant shockingly grabbing a job, leading his team unbeaten to the NFC Championship, injuring his elbow so badly he couldn't even throw a pass there, returning from injury early seven months later, and leading Joe Montana and Steve Young's franchise to 14 wins and a 1-seed as the new Tom Brady?
You wanted an MVP sleeper in the NFC, right? How about the guy at 50-1 playing the most important position on the team that's won its last 12 games when it actually had a quarterback on the field?
Look, I'm not even a Purdy believer. But if I'm wrong and this dude is for real, then this ticket is badly mispriced for a team with as good a shot as any at the 1-seed. Play the number, not the draft slot.
If you want to build an MVP portfolio, playing Prescott +2500 and Purdy +5000 together gives you an effective +1622 ticket, implied 5.8% on what could very well be the NFC 1- and 2-seed QBs.
If you add Hurts too, you can lock up all three QBs from the NFC's three best teams by far for an effective +641 ticket, implied 13.5%. Considering the NFC is 50% of the league, that's not bad odds at all.
But if you want just one MVP ticket with the best preseason value, one guy who could hit big as the quarterback of America's Team, coming soon to a 1-seed near you, there's really only one choice:
Dak Prescott +2500.