Super Bowl MVP Picks: The Longshots Our Experts Love
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Mecole Hardman
- Julian Edelman won last year's Super Bowl MVP award at 20-1 odds. What are the non-quarterbacks with the best shot in Chiefs vs. 49ers?
- A panel of our NFL experts picked their favorite Super Bowl 54 MVP longshot bets, featuring seven players with 30-1 odds or longer.
- Hint: Wide receivers and defensive players were popular picks.
The current favorites to win the Super Bowl 54 MVP award are the usual suspects: Patrick Mahomes (+110), Jimmy Garoppolo (+250) and Raheem Mostert (+850), among others in the teens and 20-1 range.
But let’s have a little fun and talk about some longshots providing value at their current high prices. Below our staff highlights their favorite bets at 30-1 or below and why those players have a legitimate shot to cash.
Collin Wilson: Richard Sherman +8000
A cornerback has not won Super Bowl MVP since the Cowboys’ Larry Brown had seven tackles, two passes defensed and two interceptions in Super Bowl 30. Quarterback Neil O’Donnell of the Pittsburgh Steelers did his best to stay away from Deion Sanders at the benefit of Brown. Defensive players have won Super Bowl MVP in four of the last 19 events, including guys like Von Miller and Ray Lewis.
Sherman is the highest-graded corner in the league, per Pro Football Focus. His matchup against Sammy Watkins will be an attempt to chop the field in half for Patrick Mahomes. San Francisco’s ability to shut down the Kansas City offense would be viewed as the most valuable part of the game, and a few pass breakups and interceptions may get Sherman to the window.
Evan Abrams: Kendrick Bourne +20000
In our Super Bowl MVP draft (coming soon), I took Patrick Mahomes with the sixth pick at +110 odds (+125 in a few shops); on the way back, I took Kendrick Bourne as my longshot. At 200-1 odds, the “slot” receiver for the San Francisco 49ers has caught my attention.
Let’s start with the Chiefs defense: Their pass defense has actually played very well against top receivers, but not so much against the slot and fourth wide receivers in bigger sets:
- vs. No. 1 WR: 3rd in NFL
- vs. No. 2 WR: 7th in NFL
- vs. Other WRs: 21st in NFL
If what you are looking for is a proof point in terms of targets recently … well, as we all know, Jimmy Garoppolo has just 27 pass attempts in two playoff games, and the 49ers haven’t trailed for a single second in the playoffs. Bourne has a reception in both playoff games, including a touchdown against the Vikings. At 20-1, I will also be taking a stab at Bourne for the first TD.
Sean Koerner: Emmanuel Sanders +6600
The MVP market is a bit tricky to handicap, as there are few data points we can use to come up with some rough odds. However, taking an underdog in this market requires a bit of game theory and thinking outside of the box.
We’ve seen four wide receivers win Super Bowl MVP over the past 20 years. And you could argue that the six WRs and TEs have a realistic shot at an MVP-like performance between the 49ers and Chiefs. That comes out to roughly 30-1 odds for an average WR/TE in this matchup. I would say Tyreek Hill, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Travis Kelce are more likely to have big games. However, Sanders has the upside and a unique path to an MVP performance.
Sanders threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert in Week 14. We saw Sanders throw a 28-yard touchdown last year, too. And it’s typical to see a higher rate of trick plays in the Super Bowl — teams have two weeks to game plan, and there’s no reason to hold back any plays for fear of tipping off a future opponent.
All that to say, I think we could see Kyle Shanahan dial up a trick play involving Sanders in which he attempts a pass for a big gain and/or a touchdown. In that scenario, he would be taking away from Jimmy Garoppolo’s odds in a sense, as it’s a unique way for a WR to have a big game while not helping out his QB.
I admit this scenario is much less likely than a 45-1 chance, but it’s at least realistic enough with Sanders to give him sneaky value.
He also has the upside in the traditional sense, as he had a 7/157/1 receiving game for the 49ers earlier this season. They traded a third- and fourth-round pick to get Sanders in order to win now. Don’t be surprised if they design a few explosive plays that make him worth the 45-1 price.
John Ewing: Terrell Suggs +20000
This isn’t 10,000-to-1 odds, but it is in the neighborhood.
Suggs is 37 years old and in his 17th season in the league. The former Raven is past his prime, but there is a world in which he lifts the Pete Rozelle Trophy.
The biggest factor working in Suggs’ favor is playing time. A lot of the longshots have little chance to see the field. Not Suggs. He has played at least 50% of the defensive snaps in 13 of the 17 games he has played in this season.
If Kansas City gets a lead — and I expect the Chiefs to win — then Jimmy Garoppolo will be forced to throw it, which will create more opportunities for sacks, fumbles and defensive scores. If Suggs finds himself in the right place at the right time, he could create big plays that win KC its first Super Bowl in 50 years and cash this longshot MVP ticket.
Travis Reed: Mecole Hardman +8000
One thing you are always worried about when taking an offensive player is the number of touches he is expected to get. Since Tyreek Hill returned from injury, the largest number of targets Hardman has seen in a game is four.
But Hardman is a guy who could win MVP with just four touches or even fewer. I agree with Koerner’s point about trick plays in the Super Bowl, and given that the defense is going to have its eyes on Kelce and Hill, Mecole could be the one to slip past the defense and get a long touchdown pass.
Couple that idea with the fact that Hardman also returns kicks for the special teams unit; I see a scenario where he could wind up with a couple of touchdowns, one of which does not include Mahomes (which is key). In that situation, he could snag the MVP with only a handful of touches at a longshot price.
Matthew Freedman: Hardman +8000
If the Chiefs win the Super Bowl and Patrick Mahomes isn’t the MVP, then the award will likely go to someone who managed not to be outshined by the quarterback — maybe someone who was able to put up numbers without relying on Mahomes for all of his production. And while that logic would seemingly lead me to a defensive player, I just don’t see a Chiefs defender winning this award, so I’m going with Hardman.
In the regular season, Hardman led the team with seven touchdowns, and he’s explosive enough to turn any touch into a long score. Perhaps most importantly, he can contribute as a kick and punt returner and a runner.
What if Mahomes has a mediocre game, but Hardman excels as a returner, breaks off a long run on a jet sweep, has five to six receptions for significant yardage and scores two touchdowns on his various opportunities? He could have a real shot at winning MVP, especially if some of his big plays come in key moments.
Chris Raybon: Fred Warner +15000
With the 49ers potentially employing a low-volume passing attack and perhaps also featuring a committee backfield, I think that targeting players on their defense for value is sharp. Even though bigger names like Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman have shorter odds, I think Warner has the best chance of any Niners defender to win MVP.
During the regular season, Warner led the team in tackles (118), finished second in passes defensed (9) and tied for the most sacks among non-front four defenders (3.0). He also forced three fumbles and took his only interception of the season 46 yards to the house. And he never comes off the field: Over the last seven games, he’s missed a grand total of two snaps.
Whereas players like Bosa and Sherman are confined to affecting the game via sacks or interceptions, respectively, Warner is always around the ball and has the ability to make impact plays in every facet.
Stuckey: Tyrann Mathieu +10000
Believe it or not, 20% of all prior Super Bowl MVP awards have gone to non-offensive players. Four defenders have won it since 2000 (Ray Lewis, Dexter Jackson, Malcolm Smith, Von Miller). Overall, of the 54 former MVPs, we’ve seen four LBs, two DEs, two safeties, one corner, one defensive tackle and a returner/corner/receiver hybrid in Charles Woodson.
How can a defender win MVP? It likely would take a defensive struggle where no offensive player really stands out with one particular defender on the winning team shining with a few huge plays — think strip sacks and pick 6s. (Remember Panthers-Broncos Super Bowl 50, when Von Miller won it.)
So, if you want to guess who the next defender might be to win Super Bowl MVP, you might just want to take a long shot with a player who will be on the field for a majority of snaps, as turnovers can be quite random and fluky.
And who better to create a few game-changing turnovers than Honey Badger, who just has such a knack for always being around the ball? He will be facing an offense that loves to run the ball and throw over the middle of the field, which is where he’ll be. Jimmy G has been known to be a little careless with the ball at times, and Mathieu could certainly take advantage.
I wouldn’t take this under 50-1, which I’ve seen at some books. If you can’t find something in the 75-1 range by the time you bet (Mathieu is currently 100-1 at MGM), take another defender who will be on the field for a ton of snaps at a much better price… someone like Fred Warner, who Raybon mentioned above.