NFL MVP best bets: Stafford will shine in 1st year with Rams
In recent years, the NFL MVP market has been an absolute gold mine. Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Lamar Jackson (2019) both cashed after dealing at 100-1 at one point before the season, while Josh Allen nearly did the same as a 66-1 long shot a year ago before giving way to Aaron Rodgers.
This year's field doesn't feature as much long shot upside as in past seasons, but there are still clear values worth targeting. Here are the odds to win the 2021 NFL MVP (100-1 or shorter) with our best bets on the board:
Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams (+1500)
If every player were priced equally, Stafford would be my outright pick for MVP. That's how confident I am that the longtime Lions quarterback will succeed in an offense Sean McVay has spent all offseason crafting around his skill set.
Talent has never been an issue for the former No. 1 pick, who played like a dark horse MVP contender in 2019 before missing the final eight games with injury. That was one of just two seasons since 2011 in which Stafford didn't throw for at least 4,000 yards. He's almost sure to do so this year with the most complete receiving corps he's ever had.
The Rams spent two first-round picks upgrading from Jared Goff to Stafford, and they'll surely give him every opportunity to prove them right, especially with a depleted running corps. If Stafford plays how he has his entire career, this is a 13- or 14-win team, which would give him the narrative boost needed to solidify his MVP case.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks (+1800)
I've been skeptical of the Seahawks and count the team among my biggest fades entering the year - which may seem counterintuitive to then bet Wilson to win MVP. In fact, it's just the opposite. If Seattle wins 10 games once again, it'll be because of Wilson's unbridled brilliance under center.
Wilson has been priced as a midseason MVP favorite in each of the past two seasons, and he looked like a lock to win it in 2020 after starting 5-0 with 1,502 passing yards and a 19:3 TD-to-INT ratio. He cooled off down the stretch, but we've seen that type of upside from Wilson, whom some felt deserved to win the 2019 MVP award over Jackson.
Wilson has been knocking on the door for too long to be the eighth-best candidate in this year's field. He entered last season at +800 and deserves a price much closer to that this time around.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins (+6000)
Remember when the public faded Jackson heading into his first full year as a starter because of a few shaky performances as a rookie? That's what this feels like with Tagovailoa, who was a star prospect out of Alabama and enters his first season as a full-time starter with a team built for him to succeed.
The former top-five pick was a star in college before a serious hip injury cost him an entire offseason in 2020, which can't be overstated when evaluating his numbers as a rookie. Now he's healthy and has enjoyed months of preparation within an offense that should be much more explosive after adding Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle - who both ran a 4.3 40-yard dash - in the offseason.
The Dolphins' defense is among the more underrated units in the NFL, so if Tagovailoa hits his stride as a sophomore, Miami will make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The MVP market overlooks a first-time starter in a promising situation (Mahomes, Jackson, Allen) every single season - don't miss out on this year's version.