Position Power Rankings  

 

Aaron Rodgers leads list of top 10 MVP candidates

Print

Every week, Chris Wesseling will roll out the power rankings for one specific NFL position or attribute.

So far, we have covered running backs, safeties, red-zone threats, throwing arms, quarter-pole surprises, quarter-pole disappointments, franchise cornerstones, players deserving of Pro Bowl consideration, best free-agent pickups, biggest free-agent flops and top rookie classes.

This week, we turn our attention to the top MVP candidates through mid-November:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers' early-season R-E-L-A-X admonishment may be overdramatized by now, but it did put the onus on his own shoulders for a turnaround. Since then, the Packers' only hiccup was a loss at New Orleans in which Rodgers' hamstring injury was the deciding factor. They have jumped out to leads of 30-3, 45-0, 38-3 and 42-0 in four home games during that span, averaging 39.4 points over the past two months. Coach Mike McCarthy insists Rodgers is a "much better player" than he was during the 2011 MVP season that set the NFL record for passer rating. In other words, Rodgers is playing quarterback at a higher level than it has ever been played.

2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: It's no coincidence that New England has been undefeated since Gronkowski recaptured pre-injury form in Week 4. Over the last three years, Tom Brady has orchestrated the most prolific offense in the league whenever the best tight end of his generation has been at peak strength. Without Gronkowski, the Patriots are nothing special.

3. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans: The first defensive lineman with four touchdowns since 1948, Watt has stuffed the box score like no defensive player we have seen -- although his historic 2012 season is eerily similar, minus the scores. Watt's total of 67 sacks, hits and hurries is 30 more than the next best 3-4 defensive end, per Pro Football Focus. Through 10 games, his 28 quarterback hits are already more than any other player recorded for the entirety of the 2013 season. We have never seen a game-wrecker of Watt's prodigiousness.

4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots: The Pats are averaging a league-high 40.5 points per game since the organization was handed a rallying cry in the form of a 41-14 shellacking at Kansas City in Week 4. When established franchise quarterbacks struggle for a stretch, it's almost always in response to a decline in surrounding talent. Can we agree to cease and desist the wrong-headed practice of denouncing all future Hall of Famers as "washed up" or "in decline" every time they hit a slump?

5. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones' squad owes its 2014 success to a road-grading offensive line and a bruising tailback on pace for 448 touches and 2,422 yards from scrimmage. In a league that places less emphasis on the running game with each passing season, Murray has 49 more attempts and 282 more rushing yards than the next-closest back -- while breaking records held by legends such as Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson.

6. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Manning's numbers aren't far off last year's record-breaking campaign. Although he is once again among the NFL's premier quarterbacks, the caveat is that he has been outplayed by Brady and Shaun Hill in two of the past three weeks.

7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts' defense gets bullied by quality opponents. The offense lacks any semblance of a consistent rushing game, but still ranks first in total yards thanks to Luck's league-leading aerial attack. Once again putting the team on his shoulder, Luck is on pace for 5,420 yards and 45 touchdowns while leading the NFL in pass attempts and first downs.

8. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Charles was the best player on the field in the Week 11 victory over the Super Bowl champions. He and Travis Kelce are the lone playmakers on a ball-control offense that is still waiting on its first touchdown by a wide receiver -- despite winning seven of the past eight games. Charles has found the end zone and topped 85 all-purpose yards in six of those victories.

9. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are leading the NFL in rushing by more than 20 yards per game while Lynch looks as quick and powerful as ever. The Seattle ground attack set a franchise record with 350 rushing yards in Week 10 and followed up with 204 in Week 11. With a random passing game lacking possession receivers and red-zone weapons, the mercurial Lynch is the only bankable weapon remaining since the Percy Harvin trade. For all of the speculation about Seattle moving on from Lynch in 2015, I'll believe it when I see it.

10. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions: Tate almost singlehandedly kept the offense afloat for a month with Calvin Johnson nursing a high-ankle sprain. Beyond ranking third in receptions and sixth in receiving yards, Tate has shown a penchant for game-changing plays in clutch situations. The Lions would be on the outside of the playoff hunt looking in if not for the Tate signing in March.

Honorable mention: Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Calais Campbell, Justin Houston, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews Chiefs-Raiders and reacts to the drama in D.C. as well as Adrian Peterson's suspension. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Print