- Sportbooks have started to post futures betting odds for the 2021 NFL Most Valuable Player.
- Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes is a sizable favorite over the rest of the field at +350.
- There are 11 other players priced at +2500 or lower.
No matter the sport, everyone understands the basic concept of the most valuable player. The award isn’t intended to honor the best player in the sport, rather the player that provides the most value to his team. They can be one and the same but they don’t have to be. One good way of thinking about it–if a specific player was not on their team how good would they be?
The NFL is obsessed with controlling every detail of their product which makes it odd that despite their micromanagerial ways the league doesn’t have an official MVP award like the National Hockey League’s Hart Trophy or the National Basketball Association’s Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Instead, third parties–typically professional groups of sportswriters–have voted on and given most value player awards. The Associated Press MVP award has been selected every year since 1957. The Pro Football Writers Association of America has done so every year since 1975. The Sporting News has selected their version of the MVP since 1954 and between 1970 and 1979 selected a separate MVP for the AFC and NFC.
At this point, the Associated Press MVP is considered the most prestigious and as such is considered the de facto NFL MVP Award. One thing that hasn’t changed regardless of the organization giving the award is the dominance of quarterbacks specifically and offensive players generally. Only two defensive players (Alan Page and Lawrence Taylor) and one special teams player (Mark Mosley) have won the AP MVP Award. Quarterbacks have won the last 8 MVP Awards and 11 of the last 12. There’s usually a good deal of competitive clash over the world which is why there has only been one AP MVP Award given unanimously–to Tom Brady in 2010.
Something that is important to keep in mind: it is impossible to predict which player will win the MVP Award. There are simply too many variables, too many moving parts to make that viable. As with other types of sports betting what we can do is find the value. Take value based positions and you’ll see that the winners take care of themselves and you turn a profit.
FINDING THE VALUE IN NFL MVP FUTURES ODDS
One thing you’ll see over and over when handicapping futures odds is that the favorite is seldom a good betting value. That is the case this year with Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes priced at +350. Mahomes is definitely a dynamic player that the Chiefs would be hard pressed to replace but when compared to the rest of the field–his closest competitor is Josh Allen at +900–he’s clearly overvalued. Mahomes won the MVP in 2018 but has not won it since. That’s not a huge surprise since there just haven’t been that many multiple time winners. Peyton Manning is the only five time winner of the award. Five players have won it three times: Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Three players have won it twice: Joe Montana, Steve Young and Kurt Warner. At some point, the voting membership begins to realize the high threshold for being a multiple MVP winner and it is at least considered when they fill out their ballots.
We’ll head to to the second name on the list–Josh Allen at +900. There’s much to suggest that he’s a viable play. The Bills reached the AFC Championship last year and should contend once again this year. Allen is widely regarded as the ‘difference maker’ on this Bills team. Using our ‘litmus test’ from above–it’s difficult to imagine the Bills reaching the Super Bowl with one of the backups on the roster at quarterback. There are already voters thinking about Allen in the context of a ‘Most Valuable Player’–last season he became the first Buffalo Bills player to receive a vote for MVP since Thurman Thomas in 1991.
The next two players on the list are intriguing–Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady both priced at +1400. Stafford is joining a new team and that’s a tough thing to assess until the season starts. Tom Brady is, of course, Tom Brady who most recently won the MVP in 2017. We’ll take a pass on Brady due in large part to the difficulty in repeating as Super Bowl champion.
Looking at the rest of the field–at least the rest of the field priced at +2500 or lower–there are a lot of tricky choices. Aaron Rodgers is the defending MVP and would be the first player to win back to back since Peyton Manning in 2008 and 2009. Given his tenuous relationship with the Packers–along with suggestions that he might retire instead of returning to Green Bay–there’s just no clue where he’ll end up at the start of the regular season. Dak Prescott, Justin Hebert, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Kyler Murray and Matt Ryan all have the ability to win but would have to have the right scenario unfold.
For that reason, we’ll take our first position on Josh Allen +900. He’s clearly the backbone of the Buffalo Bills and they’re a team trending upwards knocking on the door of a potential Super Bowl bid. After that, we’ll look at some higher priced candidates and try to find some that offer good value. One ‘jumped out’ at me when reviewing the list and there’s no doubt we’ll find some others.