Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes are Way Out Front in MVP Race


Drew Brees has roared to the lead in the MVP race. Patrick Mahomes is still very much alive. Anyone else will need a major surge or major collapse by those two to win the award.

Keep that in mind as those, bored with the current state of affairs, adopt arguments for others based on the flavor of the week.

Several years ago, I looked at which team and individual categories, both efficiency and totals, best predicted the league MVP. Pass attempts by themselves, for example, is not a good indicator. Neither is completion percentage or interception rates (some MVPs were near the top but plenty of others weren’t on the interception leader board).

I’ve updated it and the seven categories in question aren’t even all equal, but the winner tends to be in the top five, and often near the top, in each. Those categories are Team Wins, Team Points, Total TDs (rushing and passing), Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, Passing TD Rate, Passer Rating, and Yards per Attempt.

Within those categories, Team Wins is often a key indicator. Now, some QBs on the best teams don’t put up gaudy numbers and aren’t candidates, but often the league leader in wins and points, especially if leading in both, will carry the award. In fact, no winner in the last decade has been outside the top 5 in team winning percentage, and almost every MVP has had a first round bye.

Here is the weighted average in these key categories this year:

Drew Brees has shot in the lead, as the Saints lead the league in points and wins, and he is in the top two in every category except YPA. Mahomes is still lurking there with the lead in touchdowns and TD rate, and could still finish near the top of the league in team record and points.

Jared Goff is the next in the rankings, but does not lead in any individual category, and is likely to split votes with his running back, Todd Gurley. Philip Rivers is also lurking with a profile that would fit on the outside of MVP range. Andrew Luck is garnering attention now and will run away with Comeback Player of the Year, but other than raw touchdowns he does not fit an MVP profile. The Colts basically need to win out to get him in the conversation.

Here, by the way, is how the MVP has ranked in these categories (weighting them from most important (team wins) to least (YPA):

This is your reminder that in 2011, Rodgers led in every single key category and yet there were people arguing things like Tim Tebow and that Matt Flynn’s performance in Week 17 should cost him the award.

You have to go all the way back to 2009 to the last time this didn’t successful pick the top quarterback in voting (In 2012, Manning won all-pro but Adrian Peterson is the only non-QB to win MVP in that span). That year, by the way, should have gone to Drew Brees instead of Manning, and if it is close this year, I suspect Brees will get his award. Right now, there doesn’t even need to be a sentimentality factor for Brees as he is the favorite over the final month.