NFL Betting Futures: Who Has The Most Value Among The Most Valuable Players?

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When the 2018 NFL MVP odds were first released, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, an unproven almost-rookie, opened as a 100/1 long shot. There were 24 other quarterbacks given shorter odds than the guy who would go on to throw for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs while leading his team to a 12-4 record.

If only you could go back in time and bet a paycheck or two on Mahomes, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not how this sports betting thing works. And Biff’s sports almanac only covers the years 1950-2000.

Betting on an NFL MVP without the use of a time machine and a cheat book involves a whole lot of projection: Which teams will excel, which players will put up huge numbers, and ultimately, which player will put up the best numbers for an elite team without having some teammate so similarly spectacular that voters are split on where the credit lies.

We’re still more than two months away from the first kickoff of the 2019 season, but it’s never too early to explore betting futures. All of the New Jersey online sportsbooks have posted their MVP odds, so we’re helping you with some comparison shopping, dissecting the odds offered by FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, and PointsBet, and trying to identify whether there’s an under-the-radar option who might become this year’s Patrick Mahomes.

The favorites

Before we tackle those under-the-radar guys, let’s look at the MVP candidates on everyone’s radar. All three of our selected NJ sportsbooks agree that these nine players — all quarterbacks — are the only players who warrant odds under +2000:

 FanDuelDraftKingsPointsBet
Patrick Mahomes+600+500+400
Andrew Luck+900+1000+800
Drew Brees+1000+1000+800
Tom Brady+1000+800+1000
Aaron Rodgers+1200+1100+1000
Baker Mayfield+1500+1400+1400
Carson Wentz+1600+1000+1300
Philip Rivers+1700+1600+1800
Russell Wilson+1800+1200+1400

In addition to all being QBs, what these players have in common is that they play for teams with a reasonable chance of winning double-digit games. The last time a representative of a non-playoff team won the award was when some guy named O.J. Simpson, probably best known nowadays for recently joining Twitter, captured the honor in 1973.

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Entering his second full year as a starter, at age 23, Mahomes is the obvious favorite. FanDuel is easily the best book at which to back him, but even at 6/1, the value there is questionable. And consider this: Nobody has repeated as MVP since Peyton Manning went back-to-back in ’08 and ’09.

Aaron Rodgers, still considered by many to be the best active signal-caller, is intriguing at +1200, if you think he can stay healthy and if you think the Packers (6-9-1 last year) will be a playoff team.

Elsewhere, narratives abound: Andrew Luck was a feel-good comeback story last year and is positioned to build on that in 2019; Drew Brees and Tom Brady are both in their 40s and defying science, and Brees, the runner-up to Mahomes last year, has still never won this award; the same goes for veterans Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson, both of whom can be found as high as 18/1; Carson Wentz, a questionable investment at 10/1 but an intriguing option at 16/1, is free of Nick Foles’ shadow and nearly two years removed from the knee injury that ruined a probable 2017 MVP campaign; and Baker Mayfield is a sophomore starter helming the flavor-of-the-month Cleveland Browns.

As Mahomes and Wentz have recently proven, Year Two is perfectly realistic for a top QB prospect to become an MVP contender.

The other QBs

History says the MVP will be a quarterback, especially with the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league and with the rules protecting the man under center more and more each year. Only four non-quarterbacks have won the award this century, the last being Adrian Peterson in 2012.

So can someone be this year’s Mahomes? Here’s every projected starter for which you can make some semblance of a case:

 FanDuelDraftKingsPointsBet
Matt Ryan+2600+2200+2500
Ben Roethlisberger+3200+2500+4000
Jared Goff+3200+2500+3000
Deshaun Watson+3400+2800+2800
Jimmy Garoppolo+4000+2800+3300
Kirk Cousins+4000+4000+4500
Cam Newton+5000+4000+4000
Dak Prescott+5000+5000+6600
Matthew Stafford+5000+4000+5000
Mitchell Trubisky+5000+5000+5500
Lamar Jackson+6500+6600+7500
James Winston+8000+4000+5000
Marcus Mariota+8000+10000+10000
Nick Foles+8000+6600+7000
Sam Darnold+8000+5000+5000
Derek Carr+10000+10000+12500
Kyler Murray+10000+6600+7500

That chart includes medium shots and long shots, and the prices are all over the map. At 25/1, a clearly declining Ben Roethlisberger who lost two of his best weapons seems an insane player to bet on; even at 40/1 at PointsBet, the Steelers QB is a reach.

Cam Newton has done it before. Lamar Jackson is capable of putting up historic rushing numbers. Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo have shown flashes. 

Then there are the guys in and around that 2018 Mahomes 100/1 range. Sam Darnold is a lousy bet at 50/1, but if he’s the real deal and Le’Veon Bell is a game changer for the Jets, 80/1 might be worth a flyer. While there’s a high likelihood the Raiders will be a wreck once again, at 125/1 you can talk yourself into Derek Carr and all the nice new toys he has to play with.

No rookie QB has ever won the award — not even Kurt Warner, who would deserve asterisks anyway for winning in 1999 at age 28, but doesn’t qualify because he attempted 11 passes the previous season. Kyler Murray probably isn’t going to become the first, given that the Cardinals are projected for just five wins. But at 100/1, it might be fun to root for the no. 1 overall pick to put up crazy numbers.

The RBs

All four of the aforementioned non-QBs who have won MVP is the 2000s were running backs. So if by chance a non-QB is going to win in 2019, it’s probably going to be one of these guys:

 FanDuelDraftKingsPointsBet
Christian McCaffrey+3400+4000+5000
Ezekiel Elliott+3400+4000+5000
Saquon Barkley+3400+4000+4000
Alvin Kamara+5000+5000+4000
Le'Veon Bell+5000+4000+5000
Todd Gurley+5000+3300+3300
Melvin Gordon+6500+6500+8000
David Johnson+8000+8000+6600
Derrick Henry+8000+10000No odds

As always, do your odds-shopping due diligence and make sure you aren’t getting a modest +3300 payout on a +5000 player.

As elite pass-catching backs in this pass-heavy era, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and others might be worth considering.

Le’Veon Bell will be fresh after sitting out last season and will have a strong narrative if he leads his new team to the playoffs.

The one option to steer clear of here is Todd Gurley. The Rams rusher seems dramatically overvalued, even at +5000, for someone whose knee problems semi-sidelined him in the playoffs last season and who is the subject of serious “he’ll never be 100% again” speculation.

The other positions

You have to go all the way back to Lawrence Taylor in 1986 to find a non-QB/RB who was named MVP, and incredibly, no wide receiver has ever won the award. So keep your expectations in check if you plunk down a few bucks on any of these guys:

 FanDuelDraftKingsPointsBet
Aaron Donald+8000+6600+4000
DeAndre Hopkins+10000+10000+10000
Odell Beckham Jr.+10000+10000+10000
Antonio Brown+15000+10000+10000
Julio Jones+15000+10000+8000

At that +8000 FanDuel price, Aaron Donald, winner of the last two Defensive Player of the Year awards, might present some value.

All those big-name wide receivers, even the ones like Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown who are wearing new uniforms, are probably a waste of money; after all, if one of them tallies historic numbers, there had to have been a QB doing likewise on the other end of the passes.

For a WR to stand out in a single game, as Julian Edelman did to become Super Bowl MVP, is one thing. It’s hard to see it happening over a full season. The quarterbacks are the stars of this league. Pick one — or a few — that seem to present the best value. And no matter what, shop around and make sure you’ve found the best price.

Photo by Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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