On NFL Thursday this week, we once again are reminded about the corruption and greed in the sporting world, sadly. The vote winner of both MVP awards is a confirmed cheater that the NFL still allows to play, for some reason—oh yeah, money! We get it: Business is business, but it doesn’t mean consumers have to buy it. And we will not. So, we have an open field today for this analysis.
Who did we decide to give our MVP Award to? Read on to find out …
2017 MVP: Tom Brady (original AP & PFWA), Carson Wentz (revised)
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones topped the NFL in both sacks (17) and quarterback hits (33), so he becomes a possible candidate right out of the gate, since no defensive player averaged more than 10 tackles a game during this regular season. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue led the league in forced fumbles (6) while registering 12 sacks and 23 QB hits. Not a bad season there, either.
With no one intercepting double-digit passes, either, this looks about it for the defensive players. Alas, Arizona posted an 8-8 record to miss the NFC playoffs by two victories, while the Jags did 10 games and the AFC South Division. So there’s that for Ngakoue to be a legitimate MVP candidate.
Onto the QBs, as we usually do next: Four non-cheating players topped 100 points on the rating system, so we will start with them. The best passer in the NFL was Kansas City Chiefs veteran Alex Smith (104.7), followed by New Orleans Saints legend Drew Brees (103.9), Philadelphia Eagles phenom Carson Wentz (101.9), and Los Angeles Rams youngster Jared Goff (100.5). All four teams won division titles, so all QBs become instant MVP possibilities.
Running backs had a relatively down year, with no one surpassing 100 yards per game. In fact, no runner topped even 1,350 rushing yards for the season, which is a sign of those times we’ve been harkening since the mid-1980s. The pass is now the thing in the NFL, and teams generally stopped giving the ball to one guy to carry 350 times during the season. We are sure there will be some RBs in the scrimmage-yards assessment below, however.
Only one receiver topped both 100 receptions for the year and 100 yards per game, on average: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (101 catches for 1,533 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 fumbles). Other players shone in one category or another, but Brown was the best … even with those turnovers, which pretty much eliminates him from our MVP discussion.
When it comes down to scrimmage yards, two RBs stood out: Rams workhorse Todd Gurley (2,093 yards with 19 TDs and 5 TOs) and Steelers dynamo Le’Veon Bell (1,946 yards with 11 TDs and 3 TOs). They immediately become MVP candidates in this pretty dull season for standout players.
So, who do we have to look at now? One defensive player, four quarterbacks, and two running backs. We have to eliminate the two teammates (Goff, Gurley), which may not seem fair, but it is what it is since they had each other to feed off.
Now, bring on the comparatives for our 5 finalists:
- Ngakoue: QB Blake Bortles (84.7 QB rating), RB Leonard Fournette (1,342 total yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs), WR Keenan Cole (748 total yards with 3 TDs and 2 TOs)
- Smith: RB Kareem Hunt (1,782 total yards with 11 TDs and 1 TO), WR Tyreek Hill (1,242 total yards with 7 TDs and 2 TOs), tight end Travis Kelce (1,045 total yards with 8 TDs and zero TOs), sixth-best AFC defense (339 PA)
- Brees: RB Alvin Kamara (1,554 total yards with 13 TDs and 1 TO), RB Mark Ingram (1,540 total yards with 12 TDs and 3 TOs), WR Michael Thomas (1,245 total yards with 5 TDs and zero TOs), fifth-best NFC defense (326 PA)
- Wentz: TE Zach Ertz (824 total yards with 8 TDs and 1 TO), RB LeGarrette Blount (816 total yards with 3 TDs and 1 TO), WR Alshon Jeffrey (789 total yards with 9 TDs and zero TOs), WR Nelson Agholor (775 total yards with 8 TDs and zero TOs), second-best NFC defense (295 PA)
- Bell: QB Ben Roethlisberger (93.4 QB rating), WR Brown (1,533 total yards with 9 TDs and 4 TOs), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (917 total yards with 7 TDs and zero TOs), fifth-best AFC defense (308 PA)
Despite barely-average players on offense as a whole, the Jags scored 417 points to finish second in the AFC for scoring, while leading the AFC in scoring defense (268 PA). The defense was clearly good all around Nagkoue, since his numbers aren’t mind blowing in any way. Jacksonville also did play in a bad division where it was the only team to finish with a positive scoring margin, as well.
Smith had tons of help in Kansas City, of course, and while we give the QB credit for pulling all the right strings at the right time, it’s not really an ideal spot for a league MVP—especially without mind-numbing statistics. Yes, Smith tossed just 5 INTs in 15 games, so he kept his mistakes at a minimum, but with that supporting cast, all he had to do was get them the damn ball.
Brees also ran a loaded offense, although the Saints played in the toughest division in the league where three teams finished with double-digit wins to make the postseason. However, the defense was “good enough” clearly to complement that crazy-good offense, so it’s hard to make the MVP argument here.
With Wentz, we see a QB distributing the ball evenly around a lot of average players, none of whom could be described as “great” … Yes, the Eagles had a good defense, but it wasn’t stellar, by any definition. In comparison to Smith and Brees, though, this was a true magician QB running the offense to its maximum production without any stars on it—except perhaps the quarterback himself.
Bell had a good-to-great supporting cast in Pittsburgh as well, and we tossed Brown from the MVP discussion due to the turnovers, but he still was a yardage machine. Toss in the other components there, and the Steelers are a lesser version here of the Chiefs and the Saints: A highly functioning team with a lot of great players.
That really leaves us with Ngakoue and Wentz: Nothing about Ngakoue’s season jumps off the charts at us, while Wentz posted an 11-2 mark in his 13 games before injury while tossing 33 TDs and just 7 INTs in 440 passing attempts. He clearly had the least to work with here, and he should have been the MVP. Toss in his 299 rushing yards on just 64 carries, and he helped out his own cause with his legs.
Our guess is he probably would have been if not for the injury he suffered that cost him three games at the end of the year. We feel pretty confident in this one, all controversy aside.