Welcome back, my friends, to another edition of Palsgrove’s Points. For this week’s issue, it’s time to take a look at the current landscape of the NFL, specifically the MVP race. There isn’t a clear favorite right now for the award, which makes it one of the most intriguing races we’ve seen in a while. And because there is no clear favorite, it leaves the door open for some non-QB options for the first time in seasons. Enough introductions, let’s count it down from five to one for my picks to win MVP.
5. Jalen Hurts — Brotherly Shove Expert, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts is the perfect quarterback for the city of Philadelphia. Not in the usual way Philly likes its athletes, which is feisty, boisterous and a villain, Hurts is perfect for the city in his humility and his inability to be shaken by anything. He’s the signal-caller for a 10-2 Eagles team that has been on an incredible run through two seasons, and it’s his ability as a passer, rusher and leader that’s allowed the Eagles to elevate this roster to the level of a Super Bowl contender.
2023-24 hasn’t been Hurts’ best season in the league, but he’s worked his way into MVP contention just by staying consistent and playing within himself. I don’t believe he’s the most deserving candidate, which is why he’s No. 5 in these rankings, but his individual successes coupled with a 10-2 Eagles team make a very quality argument.
4. CJ Stroud – Human Jug’s Machine, Houston Texans
CJ Stroud, the rookie QB out of Ohio State, has already cemented himself as one of my favorite players in the NFL, and he’s been in the league for 13 weeks. Not to pat myself on the back, but Stroud was my No. 1 ranked QB in the 2023 NFL Draft, and it’s been very kind of him to prove me right.
There’s a saying that I love when talking about quarterbacks: “A rising tide lifts all ships.” Stroud is that rising tide. Last season, the Texans had the second worst record in the NFL at 3-13-1, which is how they secured Stroud with the second pick in the draft. In their 3-13-1 season, Houston had the second worst offense in the league, averaging only 283.5 yards per game, just three more than the LA Rams, who boasted the worst offense in the league. After adding Stroud, a new head coach named DeMeco Ryans and a litany of talented hidden gems, the Texans have improved to the sixth best offense in the league by yardage.
The majority of those yards for Houston come out of the hand of Stroud, who is currently leading the entire NFL in passing yards with 3,540 yards (as of time of publishing). Along with yards, Stroud is also tied for eighth position in the league in passing touchdowns thrown, and that becomes even more impressive if you consider that he’s throwing to a pass-catching unit of guys who were pretty unknown heading into this season.
3. Christian McCaffrey — God’s Perfect Man, San Francisco 49ers
There is no marriage of scheme, talent and ability as perfect in football as the union of Christian McCaffrey with the 49ers’ offense of Kyle Shanahan. When I watch CMC, there isn’t one thing that really stands out as his number one skill — like Tyreek Hill’s speed, which we’ll discuss later in this column — but that’s because McCaffrey does literally everything at an All-Pro level. Speed? He’s got it. Catching ability out of the back field? 10 out of 10. Power as a runner and his ability to power through tackles? Top-tier.
McCaffrey was traded to the Niners in a mid-season exchange with the team that drafted him, the Carolina Panthers; so when you’re looking at his stats over the span of a whole season, that season stretches from week seven of the 2022-23 season to week six of the 2023-24 season. In that pseudo-regular season, CMC ran for 1,299 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Oh, and that’s not counting the playoffs, where he ran for 238 yards and two touchdowns over three games.
But MVP is a single-season award, and it doesn’t stretch across seasons like those stats do. Well, in that case, McCaffrey has the most rushing yards in the league with 1,032, which is 191 yards more the No. 2 rusher (Derrick Henry). The gap from McCaffrey to Henry, from one to two, is the same size as the gap from Henry to Jerome Ford, the backup to the injured Nick Chubb and the holder of the 17th most rushing yards in the league this season.
“But Aaron, yards don’t really matter that much, touchdowns matter more. … You kind of need points to win games,” you might say. And I hear you — because touchdowns are the reason McCaffrey is where he is in my rankings. Not only did he boast an insane 17 straight games with a touchdown, which had never been done before, but he’s currently second in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 12. However, if you tack on his five receiving touchdowns, he yet again leads the league. He’s the best player on the best team in football, and that should be all the case you need.
2. Dak Prescott – America’s Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Let’s get this over with. Allow me to preface with a disclaimer. I detest the Dallas Cowboys. Every failure of theirs fills me with joy. Every loss brings a smile to my face. So, to see them having one of their best seasons in recent memory, accompanied by a possible MVP season from Dakota Prescott? I want to puke. But I’m a professional, so I’m able and willing to set my biases to the side long enough to admit that if there has to be a quarterback to win the MVP this season, that quarterback should without a doubt be Prescott. Oh my goodness, that hurt me to write.
Prescott is having the best season in the NFL both statistically in the win column and per the eye test of any QB in the league. There isn’t a single quarterback that makes me think, “Oh yeah, he’s really good,” after each drive, save Prescott. Allen has too many picks and isn’t winning as much as an MVP should. Hurts has yet to have a performance that has blown me away and doesn’t really pass the eye test. Stroud isn’t doing it at the same level as Prescott, and don’t get me started with Brock Purdy.
Prescott leads the NFL in touchdown passes this season with 26, and his only receiver of true note is CeeDee Lamb. He’s also been able to sling the ball while limiting his picks to just six, which tied for second for the least interceptions of any QB’s in the top eight in passing touchdowns. Oh, and he’s also fifth in passing yards while keeping his completion percentage above 70 percent.
1. Tyreek Hill – A Literal Cheetah with hands, Miami Dolphins
It’s time for a non-quarterback to win an MVP for the first time since Adrian Peterson in 2012. It’s been more than a decade, and that’s because, truth be told, quarterback is the most valuable position, not just in football, but in sports in general. But in a season where there isn’t a clear favorite at QB (most sportsbooks have Prescott, Hurts and Purdy tied for most likely to win), this is the perfect year to award the MVP to the best wide receiver in the NFL and one of the (or maybe the) best players in the sport.
The Dolphins are 9-3, and most of the credit for those wins can be placed on the shoulders of Hill. Not only is he having the best statistical season in the league (we’ll get to that later), he single-handedly changes what any defense facing the Dolphins has to do just by stepping onto the gridiron. The last time I witnessed a player with a gravity of this magnitude — where he could step onto the playing surface and the entire game changes automatically — was Stephen Curry in his back-to-back MVP seasons. Hill is that type of player. His field-tilting speed forces a defense to adjust in ways that can stretch them thin, which Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel is an expert at taking advantage of. And if a team doesn’t truly adjust for Hill? Well, look at what happened to the Commanders in Week 13.
Let’s talk stats. Hill is leading the league in both receiving yards (1,481) and receiving touchdowns (12), all while averaging over 123 yards per game. If he maintains that average, that means he would end the season with 2,091 yards, which would be the most in NFL history. Oh, and he leads the league with 24 plays of 20+ yards.
There has never been a WR with a better case for MVP, expect for maybe Calvin Johnson in 2012, which is also the year Peterson won it. This is Hill’s year. The Dolphins are a powerhouse; he’s breaking records left and right, and he deserves to have this outlandish season punctuated with the most coveted individual award in the sport. I rest my case.
Palsgrove is the asst. sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X