By: Eli Grabanski
The MVP race is one of the most fun to watch in sports, as it leads to a lot of great debates throughout the season. In the 2018 NFL season, it was Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In 2019, it was Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Last year, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took home the crown. This article will look at the most likely player to win MVP at each of the key offensive skill positions – QB, RB, WR, and TE. Let’s dive in.
QB: Patrick Mahomes
The MVP of the NFL is almost always a quarterback. It makes sense since they are the leaders of the team and have the largest impact on each game. To be in the MVP conversation, a quarterback needs to put up efficient passing numbers and be on a winning team.
This is by far the toughest choice to pick a favorite of the skill positions since there are quite a few great options, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll go with the safest pick and say Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has had an incredible start to his career, completing 66% of his passes for 14152 passing yards (307.7 per game) and 114 touchdown passes (2.48 per game) in his first 46 starts. In addition, his team has consistently won since he’s been the starter, with the team going 38-8 in the regular season with him as their quarterback. He’s got a great supporting cast and coaching staff that make it easier for him to put up impressive numbers, and he’s also far enough removed from his previous MVP award (2018) for any semblance of ‘MVP voter fatigue’ to fade away. For all of these reasons, Mahomes should be the favorite to win the MVP award in 2021.
Other Notable Candidates: Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Ryan Tannehill
RB: Nick Chubb
Besides the quarterback position, the running back position has the next best shot at winning the prestigious NFL MVP award. To be the MVP as a running back, you usually have to put up 2000+ yards from scrimmage, play for a winning team, and have a strong narrative as to why you should win.
Based on these criteria, Nick Chubb seems like a phenomenal candidate to win the award. The Browns are slated to be one of the top contenders in the AFC after finishing 11-5 a year ago. The Browns are also a run-heavy team, with the team running the ball 495 times in 2020. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt are committed to running the ball, and running backs coach Stump Mitchell and offensive line coach Bill Callahan are among the best position coaches in the league. The Browns also have the #1 ranked offensive line according to PFF which should help open up running lanes for Nick Chubb to put up insane rushing numbers. All these situational factors, plus Nick Chubb’s elite ability to generate yards after contact and you have all the makings for a monster numbers year. Add in the narrative of the lowly Browns finally becoming a contender and you have the makings of a potential MVP season for Nick Chubb.
Other Notable Candidates: Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, Ezekiel Elliott, David Montgomery, Najee Harris, and Dalvin Cook
WR: Michael Thomas
For a wide receiver to win MVP, they need to be capable of putting up big numbers, play with multiple different quarterbacks (so the QB doesn’t take the award instead), and play on a winning team.
Of all the major wide receiver candidates for the MVP award, Michael Thomas probably has the best shot at this combination. The New Orleans Saints have a QB controversy going into the 2021 season, with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill fighting for the starting job. There’s a good chance that both make some starts at some point during the 2021 season. The Saints have been one of the best teams in the NFL in recent years and should be in the playoff mix once again. Lastly, Michael Thomas has shown the capability to put up massive receiving numbers in the past, including an insane 2019 season where he had 149 receptions on 185 targets for 1725 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He is absolutely capable of doing it again now that he’s healthy.
Other Notable Candidates: Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Calvin Ridley, Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Allen Robinson, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.K. Metcalf
TE: George Kittle
Realistically, a tight end doesn’t really have a shot for the MVP award. But just for fun, if a tight end were to win MVP in 2021, which would it be? Travis Kelce? Darren Waller? Kyle Pitts?
The tight end with the best shot to semi-realistically win MVP in 2021 would be George Kittle. Travis Kelce is capable of putting up huge numbers, but in any season where he’s an MVP candidate his quarterback, Patrick Mahomes likely is as well. Darren Waller is also capable of putting up big numbers, but there are concerns about his team winning enough games to be MVP.
Now look at George Kittle. Kittle is capable of putting up huge numbers like Kelce and Waller. His team is projected to make the playoffs. There’s a good chance that the 49ers play two different quarterbacks during the 2021 season considering they drafted Trey Lance 3rd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and they still have Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster – which means that the quarterback likely wouldn’t have the numbers to steal the award away from Kittle.
Other Notable Candidates: Darren Waller and Travis Kelce