After eight weeks of the NFL season, it’s a good time to take a look at some of the early frontrunners for MVP. In ranking my top ten candidates, I took into consideration both the player’s performance and that player’s importance to his team’s success.
- Matt Ryan, QB (Atlanta Falcons)
The veteran is enjoying his best season so far, and finds himself atop the league leaders in passing yards, even before his superb Thursday night performance. He is also second only to Tom Brady with a 119.0 quarterback rating. Ryan has figured out a way to improve his accuracy and limit his turnovers in a big way in 2016, after experiencing a couple of down seasons the last few years.
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Dallas Cowboys)
Not only is he the front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Elliott could very well take home the MVP award with the way he has played. Dak Prescott’s fantastic rookie season has garnered a good deal of attention in Tony Romo’s absence, but the Cowboys love to run the ball and Elliott has been the focal point of one of the NFL’s best offenses. He has averaged 114.1 yards per game on the ground, nearly 20 yards more than any other player.
- Derek Carr, QB (Oakland Raiders)
The resurgent Oakland Raiders are 6-2 and Carr is a huge reason why. Possibly the single most important player to his team’s success this season, the third year quarterback is fifth in the NFL in passing yards, while throwing 17 touchdown passes and just 3 interceptions. He just came off of a ridiculous game against the Buccaneers where shattered the Raiders’ franchise record for passing yards in a single game.
- Von Miller, OLB (Denver Broncos)
Miller has once again wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, with 8.5 sacks to show for it. Defensive players don’t usually win the MVP, but Miller is a special player, and the Broncos defense is so dominant with him leading it that he merits serious consideration.
- A.J. Green, WR (Cincinnati Bengals)
Green paces all players in catches and receiving yards, and would probably have a better chance of winning the MVP than Julio Jones if the Bengals were to make the playoffs. Andy Dalton is good, but isn’t having the MVP-caliber season that Matt Ryan is, which makes Green’s numbers stand out just a little more.
- DeMarco Murray, RB (Tennessee Titans)
The Titans are in the playoff mix in the NFC South, and they owe a lot of that to Murray’s bounce-back year. He has proven that last year’s terrible performance with the Eagles was just an anomaly, and the 2016 version of Murray looks much more like the player who led the NFL in rushing two years ago. Murray has been a force both running the ball and catching passes in the backfield.
- Julio Jones, WR (Atlanta Falcons)
As good as Matt Ryan has been, Jones makes him even better with his electrifying speed and ability to make acrobatic catches. Jones is the only player in the NFL with at least 30 catches and 20 yards per catch. He is the most dynamic player on the NFL’s best offense.
- David Johnson, RB (Arizona Cardinals)
Johnson leads all running backs in catches and receiving yards, while placing third in rushing yards. He has also run for eight touchdowns and accumulated a larger percentage of his team’s offensive yardage than any other player in the league. If the Cardinals are going to turn their season around in the second half, they will need Johnson to continue playing at a superstar level.
- Drew Brees, QB (New Orleans Saints)
Brees has been his usual self, completing nearly 70% of his passes and leading the league in passing yards per game. The Saints defense is awful and they will have to make the playoffs for Brees to be voted on as MVP, but if New Orleans does find its way into the playoffs after a rough start, it will most certainly be because of Brees, who keeps solidifying his case as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
- Lorenzo Alexander, OLB (Buffalo Bills)
The 33 year-old linebacker is one of this season’s best success stories. He was signed way back in 2005 by the Panthers as an undrafted free agent, but has spent most of his career as a special teams player for the Redskins, earning a Pro Bowl nod for his special teams work in 2012. However, he has elevated his game all the way to becoming the NFL’s sack leader through Week 8 with nine, and has actually doubled his career total this year. Alexander is one of the most important players on a good Bills’ defense that is in the middle of the playoff race.