NFL Betting: 5 MVP Targets

Patrick Mahomes is favored to repeat as the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2019. Is he worth a bet at those odds?

Despite the annual debate as to just how the "valuable" is defined in the title, there is little doubt that being crowned the NFL's Most Valuable Player is one of the pinnacles of any players career. It is an acknowledgment of excellence over the past season of football and recognizes the deeds of the best player in the entire league.

FanDuel Sportsbook has released odds for potential winners of the 2019 award. There are some obvious candidates, especially given the fact that some of the greatest players in NFL history are still plying their trade in the league in the coming season. A whole host of names offer considerable value for those interested in a flutter. Here, we'll dig into two front runners, two other players who offer up value as possible winners of the prize, and one whose current odds make him a player I would suggest fading.

We'll start with the man who took the prize following the 2018 season -- Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes

FanDuel Sportsbook odds: +600

Mahomes took home the award last season after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdown passes for the Chiefs, deeds which saw him gain the MVP vote from 41 of the 50 voters. Drew Brees received the remaining nine, giving him an unprecedented fourth runner-up spot in the voting. Mahomes was the first Chiefs player to receive even a single vote since running back Priest Holmes back in 2003.

Mahomes' overall production was driven by superb efficiency, based on numberFire metrics. Mahomes led the NFL in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back with 0.39, ahead of Brees (0.35) and Philip Rivers (0.30) in second and third place.This led to the Chiefs' offense leading the NFL in Adjusted NEP per play, at 0.26.

Peyton Manning was the last player to win back-to-back MVP awards, taking home the trophy following the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He was also the last quarterback to throw at least 50 touchdowns in a season, and one of only three players all-time to achieve this feat. The odds are stacked against Mahomes repeating this in 2019, but he remains at the head of a talented offense tethered to one of the best offensive minds in the NFL at present in Andy Reid, and a team among the favorites to win the Super Bowl at the end of the season.

He'll have to overcome the potential loss of one of his key playmakers in Tyreek Hill, and he's set to face the hardest strength of schedule in terms of opposing defenses (according to Sharp Football), but still quarterbacking one of the league's best teams after turning in a historic season, there is no reason to suppose Mahomes' name won't be first on the ballot paper when the voters meet.

Carson Wentz

FanDuel Sportsbook odds: +1600

Carson Wentz was considered a front runner for the MVP during the 2017 season, as he led the Philadelphia Eagles to an 11-2 start to the year, before severely injuring his knee against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14. As it happened, he finished with just two votes, finishing behind Brady and Rams running back Todd Gurley. It was the first MVP vote for an Eagles player since Donovan McNabb was runner up in 2000.

Wentz trailed only Brady and Rivers in terms of Passing NEP per drop back in 2017 with a 0.25 mark. Upon his return in 2018, Wentz was not quite the same player and managed only 0.16 in this metric. Ten other players achieved better.

However, there is hope that Wentz will, at last, be fully fit and healthy by the time the 2019 season starts and the Eagles have certainly gone out of their way to provide him with every opportunity to succeed. His near legendary (in Philadelphia, anyway) backup Nick Foles is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, cementing Wentz as THE guy for the Eagles. Already boasting Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles now have DeSean Jackson and JJ Arcega-Whiteside into their midst, not to mention rookie running back Miles Sanders.

With that level of talent surrounding him and the Eagles sitting as favorites to win the NFC East, Wentz should be in line for a few more than just two votes for the MVP prize.

Ezekiel Elliott

FanDuel Sportsbook odds: +3400

I don't want to be the guy who says that running backs don't matter, but you have to agree that the MVP voters haven't placed too much importance on them over the last few years. A running back hasn't taken the award since back in 2012, when Adrian Peterson's 2,097 rushing yards were enough for 30.5 of the 50 votes to secure the award. But it must be acknowledged that Ezekiel Elliott has been in the frame for the trophy in the past. He garnered six votes back in his rookie season in 2016.

Despite playing at a position that is becoming vilified for its short shelf life, you can't argue with Elliott's production since entering the NFL.

Category Total Rank
Rush Attempts 867 1st
Rush Yards 4050 1st
Rush Touchdowns 28 3rd
Yards from Scrimmage 5247 1st

There is little doubt that the Cowboys will continue to make Elliott the featured player in their offense, despite stating that they will be looking to sort out Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper's contracts before getting round to Elliott's. However, FanDuel Sportsbook has the Cowboys over/under for wins in 2019 at 9, second in their own division behind the Philadelphia Eagles. Therefore, there must be some doubt as to whether the Cowboys will be truly in the hunt for the NFC East crown, and as a result for the Super Bowl.

Not making it to the postseason has pretty much been a guarantee of a player not winning the MVP trophy. Only two winners played on teams that did play in that season's playoffs. The last of these two came back in 1973 when OJ Simpson's 2,003 rushing yards were not enough to secure a playoff berth for the Buffalo Bills. The only other winner who stayed at home during the playoffs was Johnny Unitas in 1964.

9 wins was good for an NFC Wild Card spot last year though, so with these long odds the potential for missing the playoffs isn't too much of a red flag to overcome.

Aaron Donald

FanDuel Sportsbook odds: +8000

If the MVP voters haven't had much time for running backs, then they can certainly be accused of almost ignoring defensive players altogether. Granted, J.J. Watt was runner up in 2014, finishing behind Aaron Rodgers with a hearty 13 votes. But this award has been taken by a player on the "other" side of the ball just twice, and not since 1986 when Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants won it. The only other winner was Alan Page of the Minnesota Vikings after the 1971 season.

It is hardly adequate to say that Aaron Donald is dominant on the defensive side of the ball. His numbers since entering the NFL speak for themselves.

Tackles for Loss971st
QB Hits1491st

Donald's 20.5 sacks in 2018 were the seventh-most in a single season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Coincidentally, they are the exact same number as Taylor recorded back in 1986. Donald has been, quite simply, a quarterback's worst nightmare.

Donald has taken the Defensive Player of the Year award in each of the last two seasons, but has not received a single vote for the MVP.

Given how much the NFL, and all it's fans, love and celebrate the great offensive plays and players, the odds are stacked against defensive players when it comes to this award. But if anyone is going to make the voters sit up and at least consider voting for a defensive player, then Donald has to be seen as a favorite to do so, and with +8000 betting odds you don't need to think he has a particularly big chance for this bet to offer some value, as that line implies only a 1.2% chance of him winning

And now wrapping things up, a favorite that may be heavily-targeted, but that you're going to want to steer clear of:

Tom Brady

FanDuel Sportsbook odds: +1000

It is not inaccurate to describe Tom Brady as a perennial MVP candidate. He has received at least one MVP vote in nine of his 19 NFL seasons and has taken home the trophy three times. His victory in 2017 made him the oldest player to win an MVP in any of the big four US sports, beating Barry Bonds by a matter of months.

Brady did not, however, receive a vote in 2018, due to what some might say was something of a down year for the future Hall of Famer. He posted his lowest yardage total in a 16-game season since 2014, which was also the last year he amassed fewer yards per game. His touchdowns also came at their lowest rate since 2013. Granted, these numbers were still 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns, coming in at 272.2 yards per game and a 5.1% touchdown rate. But for Tom Brady, they were slightly disappointing.

The New England Patriots are likely to still be among the challengers for the Super Bowl come next February, and as a result, the leader of their offense is likely to receive a fair dose of attention. But Brady no longer has his favorite target in Rob Gronkowski and has a receiving group notable for its lack of star power. It shouldn't be forgotten that during the 2018 NFL Playoffs the Patriots put a lot of the heavy lifting onto their running game, and in particular Sony Michel.

It's not unreasonable to think that the Patriots might see this as the way to go moving forward, while not asking their 42-year-old quarterback to do it all. If this is the case, then Brady's odds are not long enough to offer any value.