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NFL Draft

Best Bets For 2021 NFL MVP Award

  • The Draft Network
  • May 27, 2021
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We have more BetOnline odds for the people. We’ve gone through plenty of offseason awards, team totals, and other interesting topics so far, but it’s time we got to the big one: MVP. 

Betting MVP is trickier than it should be. We know it’s going to be a quarterback—13 of the last 14 winners were—and thanks to the work of Pro Football Focus’ Kevin Cole, we also expect it to be the quarterback of a double-digit winning team who makes the playoffs, usually by winning their division. But due to how much heat there is on the MVP market, even in the offseason, the numbers are smarter than they are for other markets. That won’t stop us, though. I have two bets I still like for their prices. Both I’d just take as fliers, but if you want some skin on the MVP game, these are the names for you.

Baker Mayfield (+3300)

I’ll open with this: I don’t watch Baker Mayfield and think he’s talented enough to be a top-five quarterback next season. I simply don’t think he has the consistency as a passer, and it’s not like he plays in a particularly pass-heavy offense. But he sure fits our approach here. He’s a quarterback, he’s expected to take a step forward in the second year of the offense under head coach Kevin Stefanski, he’s on a potential division-winning team, and it’s not hard to build out a narrative on his rise either; he’s the savior of Cleveland, plays with his heart on his sleeve, et cetera.

It’s the offense he plays in that’s the biggest draw here. Despite his struggles as a pocket passer, Mayfield was sixth in EPA/play last season, behind MVP candidates like Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen. That’s to the credit of a play-action-heavy approach, which gives Mahomes wider windows deeper down the field than most offenses afford. With a focus on play-action rollouts and heavy boxes to force single-high defenses, Mayfield’s second-half surge as a passer—bad weather games notwithstanding—largely rode the wave of Stefanski settling into the best offense for Mayfield, not Mayfield elevating the Stefanski offense. That isn’t to Mayfield’s detriment; more so to Stefanski’s credit. 

If he can do that again, Mayfield will deliver another stretch of efficiency and explosive play; maybe even for 17 games. Throw in an improved defense, and Cleveland has a chance to win the AFC North. Even if their quarterback is just a cog in the machine, Mayfield will receive tons of credit—quarterbacks always do, and Stefanski already won Coach of the Year last season—and will push for the MVP award.

Russell Wilson (+1800)

Take the entire Mayfield argument, and instead make the quarterback really, really good, and there’s the Russell Wilson argument.

Well, it’s not that simple. The Cleveland Browns have a better angle on their division than the Seattle Seahawks have in the NFC West, where the Los Angeles Rams might win, the San Francisco 49ers might win, and the Arizona Cardinals might win. This division is amped up this year, and all it takes is a rash of bad luck to move the Seahawks off of the race. But through nine NFL seasons, Wilson has won fewer than 10 games only once, and the Seahawks have never finished worse than second in the division. In the seven-team era for the playoffs, a 10-win season, and a second-place finish in the NFC West should be more than enough to land Wilson and Seattle in the playoffs. 

After enduring the entire life cycle of a Let Russ Cook/Dear God Russ Please Stop Cooking, there was some frustration from head coach Pete Carroll and Wilson, which led to the firing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (which may be good news?) and the acquisition of guard Gabe Jackson (definitely good news). Seattle’s new offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, is a branch of the Sean McVay tree and should bring a greater commitment to pre-snap motion and play-action passing, which would help the Seahawks access the middle of the field behind the linebackers—an area Wilson doesn’t generally love to throw. Gerald Everett, the big free-agent signing of the Seahawks’ season, and D'Wayne Eskridge, the big draft pick, are both passing game weapons. There’s reason to believe, even if the Seahawks run the ball more, that Wilson is going to be a more effective passer this season than he was last—especially down the stretch.

I’m not betting on a rookie in Trey Lance, so that gives me Wilson at +1800, Matthew Stafford at +1400, and Kyler Murray at +2000. If I’m going to wade into the waters of an NFC West bet, Wilson is my take.

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