Dark Horse Candidates to Win 2019 NFL MVP

Max Staley
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The NFL MVP should probably be renamed the most valuable quarterback award, though admittedly "MVQ" doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Still, a quarterback has won the award in 11 of the last 12 seasons, with the lone exception being Adrian Peterson in 2012.

While it's fair to expect a quarterback will take home the position's seventh-straight trophy, the winner might not be who you're thinking. With that in mind, here are three dark horse MVP picks based on the odds provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.

3. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers (+4400)

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Last year was truly the tale of two seasons for Cam Newton. The 2015 NFL MVP averaged 236.6 passing yards per game and threw 15 TDs to just four INTs over his first eight contests. He also tacked on 342 rushing yards and four TDs during that same span. However, Newton dealt with a shoulder injury and never returned to form over his final six games (he missed the last two weeks of 2018). During that six-game span, Newton's yards per game actually increased (250.3 passing yards), though his efficiency plummeted. He threw just nine TDs to nine INTs, and his passer rating fell from 100.8 to 85.9. Last season was Newton's first with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator, and he proved how dangerous he can be when healthy in this system. If he manages to stay on the field, Newton has a chance to add a second MVP to his trophy case.

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans (+3400)

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With the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson has a chance to dominate the AFC South for the foreseeable future. Watson recovered quite nicely from the ACL injury that ended his rookie season after seven games, playing all 16 contests in 2018. Now fully healthy, Watson has an outside shot at an MVP award if he plays more like he did in 2017. As a rookie, Watson tossed 19 TDs through 7 games, good for a TD percentage of 9.3 percent. For reference, Patrick Mahomes' TD percentage was 8.6 in his record breaking 2018 season. If we project Watson's six starts in 2017 across a full season, he would've tossed 48 TDs, the fifth-highest mark of all time. It's a small sample size, and likely an unsustainable rate, but there's reason to expect Watson's passing volume will increase. With Lamar Miller out for the year, the Houston Texans will likely need to lean on Watson as a thrower. If he answers the call, and plays more like he did in 2017, Watson could find himself in the MVP conversation.

1. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams (+3200)

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If you're one of the 98.2 million people who watched Super Bowl LIII, this pick could come as a shock. Jared Goff completed 19 of his 38 passes for 229 yards, including the game-losing interception that sealed the New England Patriots' victory. However, there is actually reason for optimism. For one, the Rams were No. 8 in the NFL with 459 rushing attempts, but that number could regress due to the uncertain health of Todd Gurley. Additionally, Goff was far more effective over the first 11 games of the season, 10 of which came when Cooper Kupp, who tore his ACL in Week 10, was on the field. Over his first 11 starts, Goff averaged 322.5 yards, 2.4 TDs and 0.5 INTs per game. If projected out to 16 games, that's a pace of 5,159 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine INTs. Certainly MVP caliber. After the team's Week 12 bye, however, Goff's production cratered, averaging 228.2 yards, 1.2 TDs and 1.2 INTs per game over his final five contests. With Kupp now healthy, and a potential uptick in passing attempts coming, Goff has a chance to make a run at the MVP.

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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.