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5 Alternative NFL MVP Candidates

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton likely has the MVP award sewn up, but these other NFL stars have proven worthy of discussion for the award.

The general consensus among those who followed the NFL season this year, including us here at SQ, believe that the NFL MVP will be Cam Newton (and deservedly so). But just because Cam has it sewn up doesn’t mean there are not plenty of deserving candidates who have proven to to be incredibly valuable to their teams, to the point of making a case for Most Valuable Player. 

To begin with:

Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson was an incredibly valuable member of the Jaguars this year, leading the team with exactly 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in just his second season. 

In his first year, Robinson had 548 yards and only two touchdowns, and his improvement is directly parallel to the improvement of his quarterback. Fellow sophomore, quarterback Blake Bortles threw for about 1,500 more yards this season than in his rookie season, which means Robinson’s 900-yard improvement accounted for a majority of Bortles’ additional yards this year. Bortles also threw for 24 more touchdowns this year, with exactly half of that improvement accounted for by his top target Robinson.  

It is rare that a player on a 5-11 team can have such a marked impact on his team, especially at the wide receiver position, but this is the case for Allen Robinson. The former Penn State star is a huge reason for the improvement of Blake Bortles, and thus a huge reason for the improvement of the Jaguars as a team. Jacksonville will look to compete next year in the woeful AFC South, and Robinson’s contributions to this team are a reason he has a case for most valuable player.

Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

Berry, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December 2014, is nearly everybody’s pick for Comeback Player of the Year. His output was fantastic at the safety position this year for Kansas City, earning him First Team All-Pro honors along with Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. But considering his recovery, his production and leadership on a Kansas City team that has won 11 in a row is nothing short of absurd.

Berry is both the emotional and physical leader of a Kansas City defense that posted a shutout in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this year, including four interceptions of poor Brian Hoyer (one of which went to Berry). Berry has been a key to the improvement of the defense as a whole.

Berry has overcome all odds to have an unbelievable season for a legitimate championship contender, and for this reason he deserves to be in the conversation for most valuable player.

Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders

Mack recently became the first person in the history of the NFL to make First Team All-Pro at two different positions, OLB and DE. First ever. This historic accomplishment is enough to put him in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, but what Mack has done in only his second NFL season is enough to move beyond that. 

With a whopping 15.0 sacks, including five in one game (against the Denver Broncos, no less), Mack proved his worth as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. As a linebacker, he was often trusted to fill gaps and make second level tackles in the open field in the running game, which he did admirably, recording 12 tackles for a loss this season. When you add two forced fumbles and 77 tackles, Mack had a season that was truly worthy of consideration for the NFL’s most valuable player award.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson won his third career rushing title this season, with 1,485 yards. He had seven games in which he ran for at least 100 yards, including 203 yards in a game at Oakland in November. Peterson was one of the only bright spots on a Vikings offense that managed to be in the bottom five in the NFL in total yards per game, and was second to last in passing yards per game. 

Peterson, with 11 rushing touchdowns, was the only Viking other than Teddy Bridgewater who accounted for more than five touchdowns. With 222 more yards receiving for Peterson, this year was a return to form for the 2012 NFL MVP. With over 1,700 total yards, Peterson was the only Minnesota skill player that accumulated at least 750 total yards. He out-gained the next Viking by nearly 1,000(!) yards. 

While this has not been his best year, this career resurgence for Adrian Peterson was an enormous boost to the Vikings. Without him, it is doubtful that the Vikings would have made the playoffs this season, let alone win the NFC North. The Vikings won every game in which Peterson ran for more than 100 yards, and they lost the three games where he ran for fewer than 50 yards. Peterson most certainly deserves to be in the discussion for the MVP award.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

Now, if we use the dictionary definition of “Most Valuable Player,” it does not necessarily mean the player who contributed the most to his team’s successes, but rather the player who has the greatest impact on the success or failure of his team. Jordy Nelson, who has not played a single game all season due to a torn ACL, fits this bill. 

Nelson, who was Aaron Rodgers‘ top target for about four seasons before his injury this year, had 1,519 receiving yards last season. This year, the Packers’ leading receiver was James Jones, who they brought in as a free agent after Nelson’s injury, and he was more than 600 yards short of Nelson’s total from the previous season. Nelson’s loss has also hurt Randall Cobb, who was once thought to be nearly on the same level as Nelson. Cobb saw his yards reduced by 400, his touchdown total cut in half, his yards per catch down almost four yards, and had nearly 30 fewer receiving first downs this season. This is likely due to the lack of Nelson, who would usually draw the primary focus of the opposition’s secondary.

Nelson’s absence has also negatively affected Aaron Rodgers. This season, Rodgers had his lowest yard total in any full season as a starter, with 3,821 yards. He also had a career low in yards per attempt, and had a completion percentage nearly three full percentage points lower than his previous career high. Nelson has clearly demonstrated his value to his team, and perhaps more so than any other player in the NFL this season.


With all of this being said, Cam Newton is the NFL MVP this season. His stats and the Panthers’ 15-1 record is more than enough to ensure that. But that doesn’t mean these other candidates don’t deserve to have their candidacy for MVP discussed. 

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

SQuiz
Where did Eric Berry play college football?
Created 1/13/16
  1. Missouri
  2. Tennessee
  3. Florida
  4. Texas Tech

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