By: Allen Erickerson
With only two weeks left in the regular season, the most valuable player (MVP) in the NFL will soon be determined. With this post, I will give you my top-three front runners, and cases for why each of them deserve the honor. If you’re looking for me to make a case for Tom Brady, you can stop reading at any time, because it will not happen. He’s played out of this world so far this season; but I refuse to condone rewarding a player who was suspended for breaking the rules. Here are my MVP candidates for the 2016 NFL season.
Front Runner: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals. Why are people considering Ezekiel Elliot as an MVP candidate, but not mentioning David Johnson? The Arizona running back has been the best all-purpose back in the NFL, this season. Elliot has put up phenomenal numbers as a rookie, 1,902 yards from scrimmage, and 14 touchdowns. However, he’s had his struggles holding on to the football, with 5 fumbles, and he’s doing this work behind, perhaps, the greatest offensive line ever assembled. David Johnson, on the other hand, has 1,938 yards from scrimmage, 17 touchdowns, only 4 fumbles, and a miserable offensive line that allows three and a half sacks per game. It’s easy for all of the sports writers out there to be excited about Elliot. After all, it’s been quite some time since the cowboys were relevant, and they have a lot to be excited about. However, Zeke is not the MVP of the Cowboys, let alone the National Football League. He’s not even the most valuable running back; that title belongs to David Johnson. Of course, David Johnson’s name isn’t being thrown out there in most MVP talks, because let’s face it, the Cardinals are an awful team. With a record of 5-8-1, it’s hard to reward any player on that team. But without Johnson, his ability to stay healthy, and most importantly, be an every-down running back in the NFL, this team wouldn’t have won a game all season, which includes 2 games each against the lowly San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams.
Close second place: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders. Like most MVP candidates, the statistics are great with Carr. 3,705 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a quarterback rating (QBR) of 95.2, all top-5 in the league. What makes the best case for Carr is who he’s winning with, and how he’s getting it done. After all, this is the most valuable player, not the best player. Carr has led the Raiders to seven come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter, this season alone; and he has the Raiders sitting atop the AFC West for the first time in over a decade. Ask Khalil Mack, he will tell you that the Raiders quarterback is more than deserving. Without Carr, the Raiders are a .500 team, at best. With Carr, they’ve clinched a playoff berth, and are a win away from clinching a first-round BYE, and a division title. If they win out, and the Patriots lose another game, then the road to the Super Bowl from the AFC will run through Oakland. The best thing about Carr is that his brother, David, was a bust, which lead to many believing Derek would be too. Hence why there were 3 quarterbacks selected before Carr in the 2014 NFL draft. Bridgewater took a step back with an awful injury this preseason, and his playing career is up in the air because of it. Bortles is seemingly losing his job in Jacksonville, and the other is Johnny Manziel, we know how that ended up. Carr plays with a chip, which is why he’s a great player to follow. Don’t let that fool you, this isn’t a feel good story, all of the praise he is receiving, is warranted.
Last, but not least: Matty Ice (Matt Ryan,) QB, Atlanta Falcons. If you go by the numbers alone, then most would argue Matt Ryan is more deserving than the aforementioned Carr. With 4,336 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a QBR of 114.8, his numbers are better than DC’s. That being said, I believe that Matt Ryan is a little bit like Joe Flacco, in a sense that he is overvalued. When the Ravens won their last Super Bowl, the defense was impenetrable. Flacco, miraculously strung together three of the best games we’ve ever seen out of a quarterback, which gave him leverage to say “pay me.” Which the Ravens did, and since then, it’s been mediocre Flacco for the last four seasons, nowhere near worth the money he’s being paid. Matt Ryan is not mediocre, like Flacco, but he is overvalued. Without Matty Ice, the Falcons would, more than likely, still carry a winning record this season. With the weapons on the Falcons offense, I strongly feel that it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to turn around and hand the ball to Davonte Freeman or Tevin Coleman. On top of the running game, there are stud receivers all around him, Mohamed Sanu is a phenomenal number two receiver. Taylor Gabriel has established himself as one of the best slot receivers in the league today, Justin Hardy and Austin Hooper have made timely catches all season, and there’s a guy named Julio Jones who’s okay too. The one argument that can be made to separate Ryan and Carr, is that Matty Ice is working with a patched up defense full of young, developing players, and veterans like Dwight Freeney, who’s been playing since Bill Clinton’s presidency. Carr has the superior defense, and Matt Ryan and the Falcons beat Carr and the Raiders in week 2 this year. All those things aside, I feel like Ryan is a big piece in the Falcons puzzle, but not as valuable as Carr or David Johnson.