Everything comes in threes, right? In each of the last two years, a young quarterback with long odds has taken home the Most Valuable Player trophy. Patrick Mahomes (as low as +10000 opening odds; +5500 at Bovada) took it home in 2018, while Lamar Jackson (+10000 opening odds at Westgate) snagged it last year.
So, if the rule of 3 persists, who will be the upstart surprise this year? Obviously this is a complete guessing game, but I have a few guys from the 2018 and 2019 drafts who intrigue me. All odds are from CBS Sports via William Hill Sports Book.
The Not-So-Long Shots
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (+2500)
Murray fits all the criteria—an immensely talented young quarterback with an exciting skill set on a team ripe for improvement—except for, well, the whole long shot part. Sure, there are seven guys with better odds than Murray, but at +2500, he doesn’t fit the trend of absolute shockers winning MVP. It almost feels like his odds are only this short because of how well he fits the mold of Mahomes and Jackson. Under Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals will air it out a ton just as Texas Tech did when Kingsbury coached Mahomes, while Murray is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks behind Jackson. It’s a shame about the odds, really, because Murray would have been my easy choice based on his individual talent and team potential.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (+4000)
We’re starting to get there in terms of long shots. I honestly like Allen’s case better because you trade slightly less talent for a more proven team and far better odds. A lot of people like to take jabs at Allen for his inaccuracy, and that’s definitely an issue, but he has a cannon for an arm and is another elite rushing quarterback. With Tom Brady switching conferences, the AFC East is Buffalo’s for the taking, too. Team success plays just as big a role in voting as player stats. Player stats are actually where I have my doubts about Allen. The Bills are a run-first, defensive-minded team. It’s unlikely they’ll score enough for Allen to post gaudy numbers. He had 29 total touchdowns last year. In their MVP seasons, Mahomes had 52 and Jackson had 43 (in 15 games while sitting a number of fourth quarters). Allen is talented and should have one of the best records in the league, but he may struggle to post the sexy stats needed for a trophy.
A Hope and a Prayer
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (+10000)
With Jones, you’re betting almost entirely on an offensive explosion along the lines of the 2019 Ravens and 2018 Chiefs. And honestly, it’s not the worst bet. In less than a full season’s work, Jones showed a propensity for big plays. Surrounded by Saquon Barkley, a good receiving corps, and what should now be a stout offensive line, there’s potential for him to even improve on last year’s pace. The play calling should be better, too. I wasn’t a big fan of Pat Shurmur as a coach or play caller, so Jason Garrett returning to the role of offensive coordinator could benefit everyone. Unfortunately for Jones, the chances of this team being good enough for him to win MVP are slim. Pretty much every one of his weapons battled injuries last season and the defense has a long way to go before it’s playoff-ready. Betting on Jones is betting on the Giants offense to go full supernova this season.
Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins (+15000)
Full transparency: my interest in Haskins is almost entirely based on the team rather than the player. Washington is a sleeper team of mine, largely because of their coaching hires. Ron Rivera has multiple Coach of the Year awards and an MVP winner under his belt, Scott Turner did a good job running the offense along with his dad in Carolina, and Jack Del Rio parlayed his success as a defensive coordinator into multiple head coaching gigs. Then there’s the depth chart featuring possibly the best pass rush in the league and some other intriguing pieces. Haskins showed promise towards the end of last year, so a breakout sophomore season is a possibility. I wouldn’t count on it, nor a great record from Washington, but at +15000, the chance of both makes Haskins a worthy flier.
The Golden Ticket
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (+12500)
I’m honestly shocked Lock’s odds were ever this low. Unsurprisingly, some books have upped his odds to +6500. Regardless of what number you get him at, Lock is a fascinating bet. He fits the Mahomes/Jackson mold almost as perfectly as Murray, with good athleticism and an arm bested only by the Mahomes’ of the world. Lock and Denver have both gotten love this offseason, and for good reason. A team that won four of its last five games added an exciting draft class, made shrewd trades for impactful veterans, and will return Bradley Chubb from injury. Inserting Lock into the starting lineup was a big reason for the late-season surge, and his new weapons only inspire more confidence for a big year. And with Vic Fangio coaching, we know Lock will be supported by an excellent defense. However, as we saw last year with the Browns, offseason hype doesn’t always translate into success, and the aforementioned Shurmur calling plays is slightly disheartening. There’s always going to be risk in the NFL and betting, though. Lock presents the best chance for bettors to recreate the Mahomes and Jackson magic.
Who’s your pick of the five? What about guys like Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Gardner Minshew and Jarrett Stidham? Sound off in the comments.