Breaking down the competition for the NFL MVP award tends to be a relatively simple process. With almost no exceptions, that race is a fairly simple one, limited to top-tier quarterbacks on elite teams.
The AP Offensive Player of the Year race is a little more wide-open. Quarterbacks have taken home the award in three of the last four years, but it has also gone to running backs 10 times since 2000.
The usual suspects of the top quarterbacks hold the six highest spots in the betting odds on FanDuel Sportsbook, but the conversation starts to get a lot cloudier after that. Here are three players with longer odds that could be real threats to win the award in 2019.
3. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (+3000)
That top-six QB group mentioned above all carry odds of +1600 or lower, putting Matt Ryan in a distinctly different tier, despite his impressive numbers. Ryan finished third in the NFL in passing yards (4,924) in 2018, sixth (4,095) in 2017 and second (4,944) when he won the award in 2016. He's still throwing to one of the NFL's best wideouts in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley has had a full NFL season to develop, and Devonta Freeman is back in the fold after missing most of the 2018 season. In a loaded offense, it wouldn't be a surprise if Ryan joined Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to win the award twice.
2. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (+5000)
James Conner ranked 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage despite being limited to only 13 games in 2018. He was on a 16-game pace for 1,810 yards, which would have elevated him to fifth. He was also one of only five backs to play over 80 percent of their team's offensive snaps when active, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the last teams to feature their lead RB in a true workhorse role. Conner is tied for only the ninth-best odds at the position even though he is in a great spot to finish much higher than that in touches. Adding in the fact that those touches come in what should be a potent Pittsburgh Steelers' offense, a high touchdown total could help make his case even stronger.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (+4000)
Ezekiel Elliott seems to be discounted due to his contract concerns, but recent reports from Jay Glazer indicate that Zeke is expected to be re-signed before Week 1. There are some other prop bets that don't seem to be factoring in a Zeke holdout as strongly — at +550 he has the second-best odds to lead the NFL in rushing. The Dallas Cowboys are always willing to feed him the ball, leading the NFL in attempts in two of his three seasons, and they also ramped up his receiving work with 95 targets in 2018. His 381 touches led the league. The real potential of finishing first in both touches and scrimmage yards could point to Elliott being underrated for this award, sitting in a four-way tie with only the fifth-best odds among RBs and the 17th-best odds overall.
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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. 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.