Ranking the NFL MVP candidates through 15 weeks

With only two weeks remaining in the NFL’s regular season, debates about who should win the league’s MVP award are in full swing.

At this point in the season, there are five guys who still have a shot to win the NFL’s highest individual honor.

Listed below is how I would fill out my MVP ballot (if I had one). Feel free to disagree with my list and make your own, either in the comment section below, or you can interact with me on Twitter @BrendonWBaker.

5. Ezekiel Elliott – RB Dallas Cowboys 

Ezekiel Elliott and his quarterback, Dak Prescott, have been in the MVP discussion since they burst onto the NFL scene as rookies at the start of the season. The two rookie Cowboys have earned the praise heaped upon them, as they’ve led Dallas to a 12-2 record, which is the best mark in the NFC and tied for the best record in the NFL.

The Cowboys took a gamble in this year’s draft when they selected Elliott with the fourth overall draft choice, a move that’s unheard of in today’s pass-happy NFL. But Elliott has proved to be worth his high selection in the draft. Through 14 games, the rookie from Ohio State has rushed for 1,551 yards and 13 touchdowns on 310 carries.

Elliott is currently sixth on the all-time rooking rushing yardage list, 257 yards behind Eric Dickerson, who set the record with 1,808 rushing yards in his rookie season in 1983. Elliott is averaging 110.8 rushing yards per game this season, and it’s not crazy to think he could break Dickerson’s 33-year-old record.

There’s no debating Elliott has had an outstanding rookie season, but I can’t put him any higher on my MVP ballot than fifth because I can’t justify a running back winning the award for most valuable player, when there’s four quarterbacks ahead of him, in a sport where quarterback is far and away the most valuable position.

I also have to give at least some of the credit for Elliott’s success to the Cowboys’ offensive line.

4. Dak Prescott – QB Dallas Cowboys 

The first quarterback on my ballot sitting ahead of Ezekiel Elliott is the man who hands him the football, Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott.

Just like Elliott, Prescott has surprised everyone with an outstanding rookie season. Drafted by the Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Prescott was picked to sit behind the team’s starting signal caller, Tony Romo.

But when Romo suffered a back injury in the preseason, Prescott was thrust into action as the starter.

Prescott has played better than anyone expected he would coming into the season, accounting for 20 touchdowns, 3,418 yards, and a quarterback rating of 103.2, against just four interceptions. Perhaps what’s most impressive about Prescott’s play is how unflappable he has looked all season.

He makes smart downfield throws and doesn’t turn the ball over, and when the situation dictates he can scramble and make plays with his feet. The 23-year-old out of Mississippi State has played well beyond his years this season, and he’s helped turn the Cowboys from a 4-12 stinker of a team last year, to a 12-2 juggernaut this season. That’s a turnaround worthy of MVP consideration.

3. Derek Carr – QB Oakland Raiders 

The Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr is another young quarterback who has helped turn around one of the NFL’s iconic franchises. Carr has 25 TDs, 3,705 yards, and a rating of 95.2, against six picks.

Thanks to Carr and wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, the Raiders are one of the most electric and fun offenses to watch in the NFL. Carr spreads the football around to multiple different targets and he can push the ball down the field, throwing for an average of 264.6 yards per game.

The Raiders are a fun young team and with Carr at the helm, they appear to be poised for success for years to come.

2. Aaron Rodgers – QB Green Bay Packers 

Too often in sports, fans forget that the MVP award stands for most valuable player, and instead they crown the most outstanding or best overall player as the MVP.

There’s a strong argument to be made that Aaron Rodgers means more to his team than any other quarterback in the league.

Take Rodgers off the Packers, and it’s scary to think about what the team might look like without him.

This season, with an offensive line that’s not nearly as good as the Cowboys’ or Raiders’ lines, Rodgers is completing 64.9 percent of his passes, and has thrown 32 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

But the strongest signal of Rodgers’ value this season came a month ago when he said the Packers, who were sitting at 4-6 at the time, could run the table and make the playoffs. I didn’t believe him, I thought they were finished. But here they are, 4-0 since Rodgers’ declaration, and in control of their own destiny to win the NFC North with two games to play.

1. Tom Brady – QB New England Patriots 

As much as I want the award to go to Rodgers, I can’t ignore the stellar play of Tom Brady this season.

Since coming off a four-game suspension to start the season, Brady has guided the Patriots to a 9-1 record, and he has put them in the driver’s seat to be the AFC’s number one seed in the playoffs.

Keeping in mind he’s played four fewer games than the rest of the guys on this list, Brady has posted 22 touchdowns, 3,064 yards, and a rating of 109.7, with only two interceptions to his name. He’s putting up those ridiculous numbers with guys you and I’ve never heard of playing wide receiver.

The Patriots are playing better than any other team in the NFL right now, and they look to be on their way to another Super Bowl title. A big reason for New England’s success is Tom Brady.

 

 

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