On Thursday the finalists were announced for a number of NFL awards, including Most Valuable Player.
Within seconds, the arguing began.
The debate about the MVP this season is a fascinating one, given the five finalists and how voters will get to the idea of value. Is the “quarterback of the best team” the most valuable player? If so, then Lamar Jackson has a very strong case. Is the “most productive player on the best offense” the most valuable player? If so, then Christian McCaffrey has a very strong case. Is there room for an argument for the most efficient player? That leads us to Brock Purdy.
Five incredible players, five fantastic seasons, and five cases to be made.
Here are the five finalists for the NFL’s MVP award, ranked by likelihood of winning.
5. Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The MVP case for Brock Purdy starts here: He was the starting quarterback for one of the NFL’s best teams, and was one of the most efficient players in all of football this season. According to RBSDM.com, Purdy had an average of 0.360 Expected Points Added per Play this season, higher than any other quarterback in the league.
Dak Prescott came in second, with an EPA/Play of 0.262.
Furthermore, Purdy posted a Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) over 5.4%, the best in the NFL.
The case against Purdy? It starts with context. He has an incredible group of talent around him — including an MVP finalist in Christian McCaffrey — and has Kyle Shanahan putting him in a position to be successful. When trying to find the single most valuable player in the game today, having a teammate among the finalists is a tough hurdle to overcome.
And frankly, that applies to McCaffrey as well.
There may come a time where an argument like the one for Purdy carries the day, but this is probably not that day.
4. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott seems destined for a career of under-appreciation, much like Tony Romo. Being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys naturally leads to extreme pressure, but despite this Prescott flourished in 2023 in a way we haven’t seen him before.
Leading the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns, Prescott also set career highs in completion percentage, passer rating, and TD/INT ratio. The ending to the Cowboys season may have been a letdown, but their failings as a team had nothing to do with the man under center.
There are other quarterbacks more worthy of the MVP in 2023, but if nothing else this should lead to Prescott being appreciated more as truly one of the Top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL who is routinely rated too low.
3. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
Bills QB Josh Allen had somewhat of a rollercoaster year. The turnovers and a middling record led to the firing of then-offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, but from there Allen led the Bills on a rampage through the league up until being ousted by Kansas City again in the playoffs. Despite the turnovers, Allen still finished second in EPA/play per Sumer Sports, while also being first in total Rushing EPA. Add 44 total touchdowns on top of that and you see why he’s a compelling MVP candidate.
Above everything else, though, Allen dragged that team to the playoffs. A Bills team that was dead in the water at 6-6 took Kansas City to the brink in a home playoff game. He became the engine behind their resurgence, and that could get him a bunch of MVP votes.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers
It takes a lot for a running back to be in contention for MVP in the modern NFL, but if anyone is worthy of the award it’s Christian McCaffrey. The 49ers would still be a good team without CMC, but there’s no way they would sniff the NFC Championship game without him.
The best all-purpose threat in the NFL, McCaffrey finished the 2023 season with 1,459 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, 564 receiving yards, and 7 receiving touchdowns. He’s the glue that makes this offense work, and the ever-present threat of him breaking through for a home run touchdown, or picking up the hard-yards for a first down means he has to be accounted for on every down. This opens up the offense for the rest of the Niners weapons, and makes everything tick.
Can McCaffrey win MVP? Probably not. The award has become synonymous with “best quarterback,” however there’s a really strong case to be made here. It would be surprising if a non-QB won, but not if McCaffrey did.
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
The case for Lamar Jackson is simple: he is the engine of the best team in the NFL while laying at a higher level than he did when he won unanimous MVP. Jackson has the Baltimore Ravens with the best record in the NFL and on the cusp of their first Super Bowl appearance since 2012. Jackson might be ninth in EPA per play and 11th in total rushing EPA, but when you watch the Ravens play, and the force that Lamar plays with, it’s clear that he is on another level than he has been in previous years. He’s completing passes at a higher rate than he was in any previous season, and has combined 25 total touchdowns with only nine turnovers (seven interceptions, two lost fumbles).
Jackson has also been a key reason why Baltimore has such a great record against teams over .500. In games against said teams, Jackson threw 15 touchdowns to only six interceptions. He has taken his game to a completely higher plane of existence this year, and with the Ravens stepping up to his level, he’s the favorite to win MVP.