NFL
June 29, 2020
BY Calvin McAlee

10 Longshot NFL MVP Candidates That Could Totally Pay Off

The NFL MVP award is one of the more fun awards to look forward to every NFL season. Each year, stars set their sites on being the league MVP and putting together a historic season.

While players like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson — two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL — are the heavy favorites to win the second MVP award of their short careers, there are plenty of players out there who are certainly capable of claiming this season’s MVP award.

If you remember just last year, Jackson was an incredible longshot to win the award. The Ravens quarterback entered the 2019 campaign with 50-1 odds that he'd win the MVP, according to Caesars Sportsbook. 

Who could be this year's Jackson? There are plenty of candidates — from former MVPs to stud running backs to fierce pass rushers. 

Here is a list of the 10 best longshot NFL MVP candidates that are capable of winning the MVP and giving you a nice payout in the process.

*Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Davante Adams: +15000

Do you know how many wide receivers have won the MVP award in league history? None. Not a single one. There have been some amazing seasons from the best wide receivers in NFL history — including Calvin Johnson, Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss and others — and none of them have ever been able to claim the title of MVP.

Davante Adams is arguably the best wide receiver in the game right now. Not only is Adams supremely talented, but he has another going for him: Opportunity. 

Adams could lead the league in targets in 2020 as the Green Bay Packers neglected to add much at pass catcher this offseason — Devin Funchess just doesn't really get the juices flowing — a position that desperately needed an infusion of talent.

It would take a monumental effort from Adams to become the first receiver to win the award. However, if Adams can play all 16 games and continue to be the main focal point of this offense, a 120+ reception, 1,500+ yard, 12+ touchdown season could be possible.

He would also need a lot of luck on his side. If Adams is going to be in the MVP discussion, he'll be hoping that the league’s quarterbacks all have good-but-not-great seasons.

It is unlikely that a wide receiver will win the award this year, sure, but if you want to gamble on one, Adams is the best choice at 150-1 payout.

Aaron Donald: +7500

Defensive players also have a hard time winning an MVP. While not as bad as wide receivers, a defensive player has only won the award twice in NFL history. Lawrence Taylor was the last to do so in the 1986 season. However, if one player is going to end that drought, the smartest bet right now is arguably the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald.

The durable 29-year old has missed just two games in his career. In 94 career contests, he has 72 sacks and 15 forced fumbles. 

He tallied 20.5 sacks two seasons ago, and if he wants to actually win the award, he'll have to break Michael Strahan's sack record of 22.5. 

Donald would also need to flirt with the single-season forced fumble record of 10, get 30+ tackles for loss and add in some other big numbers in categories like QB hits, tackles and score a defensive touchdown or two. 

It is a tall task but if you want to bet on any defensive player this season, Donald at 75-1 is your best bet.

Philip Rivers: +6000

For the first time in what will be 17 seasons, Philip Rivers finds himself wearing something other than a Chargers uniform. Now with the Indianapolis Colts, a change of scenery may be just what Rivers needs at this stage in his career. Rivers has regularly put up big statistical seasons in his career, but it’s the lack of clutch wins that have been his kryptonite.

With a new team, Rivers may be able to start putting together some wins on an Indianapolis team that is a sleeper to take the AFC South. And if Rivers has any chance of winning the award, the Colts will have to be a playoff team.

Another important factor for Rivers is that he's started every single game since he was anointed the Chargers' starter in 2006. For you mathematicians, that's 224 straight games, so health shouldn't an issue for the aging passer.

If Rivers can lead the Colts to an AFC South title and put up another big statistical year, he will absolutely be in the MVP conversation. The only thing is, he needs to lower his interceptions, having unfurled single-digit interceptions in a season just twice in his career. 

Saquon Barkley: +5000

Running backs have seen more success in past MVP races than wide receivers, but they still don’t win the award all that often — at least not in recent years. Since 2007, only one running back has won the MVP award: Adrian Peterson in 2012.

Prior to the turn of the century, running backs were no stranger to the award but now in a pass-heavy NFL, the award is typically a quarterback's to lose.

Saquon Barkley is one of the top running backs in the league. His mix of size, speed and strength is as good as any other back in the league. He is part of a young New York Giants’ team that will look to him to be the focal point of their offense again this season.

Quarterback Daniel Jones, aka Danny Dimes, should be in for a big leap this season and that will benefit Barkley. Not only is Barkley a great running back, but he is one of the best receiving backs in the league.

If a running back is going to win the MVP in today’s NFL, he will have to do it through the air and the ground. Barkley can do both as well as anyone in the league.

If Jones can establish himself as a serious passing threat, then Barkley can find more room on the ground as teams will start to respect the pass more. Barkley's potential MVP season could look a something like this: 1,300+ rushing yards, 800+ receiving yards and 15+ touchdowns. 

And in Jason Garrett's conservative run-first offense, Barkley will have a great shot to be the first running back to win MVP since AP. 

Josh Allen: +5000

After going 10-6 in his second season, the Bills are looking to improve again this season and maybe even claim the AFC East title now that Tom Brady is out of the division. If that happens, Allen could certainly make a leap into the MVP conversation 

The Bills' passer completed just 58.8% of his passes in 2019, which will hopefully go up as he improves. 

While it's clear Allen isn't the most accurate passer in the league, he adds a ton of value in the running game. Like Jackson, Allen provides that dual-threat ability that could give him video-game numbers, which will only help his MVP campaign. 

Allen has rushed for 1,141 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons. Reaching 1,200 yards like Jackson did last season is highly unlikely. However, if he can reach the 4,000 passing yards and 700 rushing yards, that would give him 400 more combined yards than what Jackson had last season when he won.

The hard part for Allen will be racking up as many touchdowns as Jackson did. Allen hit pay dirt 29 times last season so if he can bump that number up to 35 or maybe even 40, then he very well could win this year’s MVP award. 

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Allen as the next dual-threat MVP, especially with the acquisition of Stefon Diggs.  

Matt Ryan: +5000

The first of two players on this list who have won an NFL MVP award, Matt Ryan is a solid betting option this season at 50-1. Ryan won the award in 2016, and like Rivers, he's also a durable quarterback, having missed just three games in his career. 

Ryan has an incredible 1-2 punch at wide receiver with two former Alabama pass catchers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Hayden Hurst replaces Austin Hooper at tight end, which might not necessarily be a downgrade for the Falcons. 

Despite not having the deep receiving options that Kyler Murray or Josh Allen has, Ryan is still an excellent bet for MVP this season. He has the experience and certainly the talent as well. 

In a season where big numbers will be needed, it isn’t hard to imagine Ryan coming close — or maybe even surpassing — his 2016 numbers of 4,944 passing yards and 38 touchdowns.

Christian McCaffrey: +5000

Yes, we talked about how rare it is for a running back to win the MVP, especially in today’s pass-happy NFL. While that is true, if any non-quarterback is going to win the MVP this season, the best option is easily Christian McCaffrey.

The former Stanford back became just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000+ rushing and receiving yards last season. He broke the record for most receptions by a running back with 116 and he had the third-most yards from scrimmage (2,392) by a player in a single season in NFL history. Oh, and he had 19 total touchdowns.

While Lamar Jackson was the clear-cut MVP last season, McCaffrey had as good of a case as anyone to compete with him for that title. It is hard to imagine that he can continue to improve his stats yet again this season. However, if he can, it'll be tough to not award him the MVP award.

Having Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback should be a nice boost for McCaffrey as well. As the best receiving back in the NFL, he should see plenty of targets from Bridgewater, who elects to take safer and shorter throws as opposed to high-risk deep-balls. Also, Bridgewater is a much better quarterback than Kyle Allen, so this should help give McCaffrey more space in the run game.

Unfortunately for McCaffrey, Carolina isn’t expected to be a very good team again this season. Although, if he can break his own receptions record (again), notch 1,000+ yards in both rushing and receiving yards (again), crack the 20+ touchdown mark and break Chris Johnson’s mark for most yards from scrimmage in a single-season (2,509), then the MVP could very well be his.

Considering McCaffrey plays nearly 94% of snaps, he should have more opportunities to put up numbers than any other non-quarterback in the NFL. At 50-1 odds, McCaffrey is your best non-quarterback bet to win MVP this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo: +4000

Jimmy Garoppolo continues to be underappreciated, especially by the bookmakers. At 40-1 odds, Jimmy G is a solid longshot option to shock the football world and find a way to win this year’s MVP.

While Jimmy G enjoyed a stellar defense in 2019, it's unlikely that they'll be able to repeat that success. The 49ers traded away one of their best players in DeForest Buckner and the secondary won't play at nearly as high of a level. 

That all means more passing for the man who famously threw just eight passes in the NFC Championship Game demolition of the Green Bay Packers. 

While Jimmy G's MVP hopes took a hit when Deebo Samuel went down with a broken foot, there's still a lot to like about the Niners' signal-caller. Their play-action offense is the best in the NFL and helps open the field up for Garoppolo. The 49ers have the best tight end in the NFL in George Kittle, and they added a first-rounder in Brandon Aiyuk. The Niners should also have an improved offensive line with the acquisition of Trent Williams. Not to mention, they'll have offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan calling plays. 

Jimmy G will need to cut back on his 13 interceptions and improve on his 27 touchdowns last season. However, considering that was his first full season as a starter, an improvement should be coming, especially if you consider the offense he's in. In his second season with Kyle Shanahan, Matt Ryan elevated his game and won MVP in 2016. 

The 49ers will be out for blood this season after falling short in last year’s Super Bowl. It isn’t hard to imagine Jimmy G putting up 4,500+ yards, 30+ touchdowns and fewer interceptions in 2020.

Aaron Rodgers: +3000

The other former-MVP winner on this list, and one of the few to win the award multiple times, Aaron Rodgers once again is a solid betting option for MVP. He isn’t a huge longshot, but at 30-1 odds, Rodgers is perhaps the most likely of any player on this list to win the MVP this season.

Motivation has seemed to have been an issue for Rodgers in recent seasons. That, and a lack of talent in the receiving game outside of Davante Adams. 

Aaron Jones is an excellent receiving option out of the backfield. Tight end Jace Sternberger is expected to be a big part of the offense this season and wide receiver Allen Lazard is rumored to be gelling with Rodgers very well. That's a lot of no-namers, so the emphasis will be on Rodgers to elevate the play of his teammates.

Let’s not forget, the Packers drafted quarterback Jordan Love with their first pick in this year’s draft. If that doesn’t light a fire under Rodgers, then nothing will. What seemed to be a lack of effort recently should be out the window this season.

A hungry and aging Rodgers now knows that he is on a short leash in Green Bay as the future is already there to replace him. Looking to show not only the Packers but all of the NFL that he is still one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, the rest of the NFL should be afraid to face Rodgers this season.

Kyler Murray: +2500

Speaking of dual-threat quarterbacks, Kyler Murray is another great longshot to bet on for MVP. We're using the word longshot loosely as he has the best odds of anyone on this list. The former Heisman winner could certainly be adding some more hardware to his trophy case this season, especially in that high-octane Kliff Kingsbury offense.

One of the most improved teams in the NFL, the Cardinals added one of the best wide receivers in the league this offseason in DeAndre Hopkins

The Cardinals have greatly upgraded their receiver core after trotting out the likes of Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson. 

Not only does Murray have plenty of weapons to throw to, but he is also an excellent runner — with 544 yards last season. Another big asset for Murray is his defense. Unlike Garoppolo, Murray doesn’t have an excellent defense behind him. While that may sound like a bad thing, that may actually be a good thing, MVP-wise.

Murray and the Cardinals will need to put up a lot of points this season, which means a lot of stats. Finding ways to win with a below-average defense will make Murray look even better than what just his stats say. 

While a poor defense is good for putting up stats, it's bad for winning games. And the Cardinals might be a year away from being a true playoff contender, meaning Murray might be a better bet in 2021. 

Photo: Getty Images / Lines.com Illustration