2020 NFL MVP Longshots You Should Consider

Photo: Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Finding an attractive longshot MVP is harder than you’d think—not for a dearth of options, but for a glut of them. Four of the last five MVP winners had odds worse than 30-1, which serves as a nice cutoff point for our favorites against our longshots. Ten players currently have MVP odds at +3000 or lower, all of them quarterbacks.

It’s worth noting here that a contributing factor to the recent run on surprising MVP winners is a sudden surge in young MVP winners. As Kevin Cole covered for PFF, Lamar Jackson’s 2019 win, Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 win, and Carson Wentz’s near-2017 win have skewed the market for bettors to chase budding quarterbacks. Kyler Murray, the next expected second-year explosion, was eliminated from our dark-horse candidate list by his +2500 odds.

Our remaining list of candidates, as measured by the current odds at DraftKings, goes as such:

  • Baker Mayfield (+3300)
  • Josh Allen (+5000)
  • Saquon Barkley (+5000)
  • Derrick Henry (+5000)
  • Christian McCaffrey (+5000)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo (+5000)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (+5000)
  • Matt Ryan (+5000)
  • Matt Stafford (+5000)
  • Jarrett Stidham (+5000)
  • Philip Rivers (+6000)
  • Dalvin Cook (+6600)
  • Kirk Cousins (+6600)
  • Daniel Jones (+6600)
  • Cam Newton (+6600)
  • Drew Lock (+7000)
  • Aaron Donald (+7500)
  • Derek Carr (+8000)
  • Sam Darnold (+8000)
  • Jared Goff (+8000)
  • Ryan Tannehill (+8000)
  • Teddy Bridgewater (+10000)
  • Joe Burrow (+15000)

Immediately, I’m going to remove the non-quarterbacks, as betting on a non-quarterback to win this award is a losing proposition at almost any value—and I’m knocking rookies as well, as a rookie has never won the MVP award. This is the real sample we’re working from here. 

  • Baker Mayfield (+3300)
  • Josh Allen (+5000)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo (+5000)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (+5000)
  • Matt Ryan (+5000)
  • Matthew Stafford (+5000)
  • Jarrett Stidham (+5000)
  • Philip Rivers (+6000)
  • Kirk Cousins (+6600)
  • Daniel Jones (+6600)
  • Cam Newton (+6600)
  • Drew Lock (+7000)
  • Derek Carr (+8000)
  • Sam Darnold (+8000)
  • Jared Goff (+8000)
  • Ryan Tannehill (+8000)
  • Teddy Bridgewater (+10000)

On this list, three names jump out—all with generally different odds, which is nice. I’ll hit all three here.

The biggest bet I’d place on any of these longshots would go on Matthew Stafford, who was wicked good for the Lions in 2020. Among starting quarterbacks last year, Stafford was fifth in the league in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A), which is one of the best metrics we have for individual quarterback efficiency. Above him were Lamar Jackson (MVP), Drew Brees (record-setter), Patrick Mahomes (Super Bowl Champion), and one other guy. We’ll get to him later.

It’s tough to say that the Lions got better on offense, which is where some concern can creep in. They made the early investment in the draft on a running back in D’Andre Swift, and their big-money spend in free agency was on offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who is arguably a downgrade on Rick Wagner at right tackle. Meanwhile, they’re hoping one of their middle-round picks on the interior of the line—Jonah Jackson in Round 3 and Logan Stenberg in Round 4—can account for the departure of Graham Glasgow.

However, what really matters for this passing attack is Stafford and his supersized weapons, and those remain. Stafford led the league last year in the percent of his passing attempts that were contested, as well as in intended air yards. He threw it downfield and into coverage, and let Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay do their work. His profile as a passer was similar to other slingers like Jameis Winston and Ryan Tannehill, but he’s more accurate and risk-averse than both, which winnows down on the negative ramifications of such a play style. During the eight-game stretch of healthy Stafford last year, both Jones and Golladay were in the top 20 in yards per reception.

The change to a play-action, deep-shot attack under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell did wonders for Stafford last year, and if he’s healthy over 16 games, that should be reflected in his production. Of course, an MVP must play on a winning team; a playoff team. The Lions are far from destined for dominance in a thick NFC North this season, but it is worth noting, they had some ugly luck last year in the win-loss column and should have won both the Kansas City and Green Bay games to finish 5-2-1 under Stafford. It remains to be seen if Matt Patricia can keep the defense afloat, but the Lions are squarely in contention for the division title, largely because of Stafford’s success as a passer under Bevell. As such, he’s the horse I want to back.

The other two longshots I like are far deeper cuts, but I see value on both of their lines. The first is the player who led the league in ANY/A last year when he started: Ryan Tannehill. Far be it from me to say that Tannehill is a great quarterback, or was the most valuable player on his team last year, but it’s a quarterback award and Tannehill’s going to be the starting quarterback on the likely AFC South division winners.

Tannehill’s numbers are absolutely due for a regression, but he’s got great weapons and a great line, so long as Tennessee can account for the loss of Jack Conklin at right tackle. At +8000, I don’t see how Tannehill is less likely to win the award than Jones (wasn’t good last year!), Newton (who may not even start!), Cousins (who is basically Tannehill North), or Lock (I mean Lock is kinda fun as a totally insane dart throw. If you want to bet him, sure, why not?).

The other deep cut is the last dude on this list: Teddy Bridgewater. And why not? Joe Burrow was not supposed to win the Heisman and the LSU Tigers were not supposed to win the National Championship—how could they? Then Joe Brady showed up, they started slinging the pill around the yard a little bit, and Burrow put together one of the greatest seasons in all of college football history. If Bridgewater feels extremely unlikely to you at 100-1 odds, Burrow had 200-1 odds for the Heisman when books first opened back in the spring of 2019—and many books had Jackson at that value in the spring last year.

Of course, you’re putting faith in Brady to take the NFL by storm the same way he did college football, which is so much harder when the talent disparity is much smaller, everyone has already seen you put it on film at least once before, and now they know your name and your game. Bridgewater will also have to become more willing to push the ball downfield than he has shown across his career, but this is also the offense with the most space that he’s ever played in.

It will take a lot for Teddy to win it, but that’s what makes him the longshot.