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HomeSportsOne MVP selection for every NFL team, featuring Davante Adams, T.J. Watt,...

One MVP selection for every NFL team, featuring Davante Adams, T.J. Watt, Ja’Marr Chase, and more

Entire offseasons are dedicated to dissecting, praising, and dismissing NFL quarterbacks.

It’s understandable. Only four times in the last 25 years has a quarterback not won league MVP . There have been 33 Super Bowl MVPs at quarterback, with the next closest position group being the wide receivers at eight. Not to mention the market for quarterbacks approaching astronomical levels of wealth.

But while quarterbacks get all the attention, a team’s season is made on much more than what happens behind center. Which non-quarterbacks are the MVPs for their respective NFL team in 2024? The Athletic’s beat writers compiled their picks and explain how those players could make a significant difference this season.

Marvin Harrison Jr., wide receiver

Running back James Conner is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season and is among the more underrated backs in the league. Defensively, safety Budda Baker is a difference-maker and a great example of how the game should be played. But if the Cardinals are to make a jump — as many expect they will — it will be because of Harrison, their talented first-round selection. Is it fair to pick a rookie as non-QB MVP? Probably not. But during summer workouts, almost everyone agreed Harrison is not your typical NFL rookie. Expectations are high. All he has to do is deliver. — Doug Haller

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Drake London, wide receiver

In London’s two years in the NFL, the Falcons quarterbacks (a rotating combination of Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, and Taylor Heinicke) ranked 28th in the league in completion percentage (61.8), 27th in passing touchdowns (34), 22nd in passer rating (83.7), and 21st in EPA per dropback. London has led Atlanta in receiving each year since being drafted eighth overall in 2022, but he hasn’t topped 1,000 yards in a season yet, maxing out at 905 yards. He only has six career touchdown catches, too. London is hopeful the addition of Kirk Cousins can help him change all that. “Let’s just say I have a bad taste in my mouth,” London said. “I have to go out there and ball, that’s it. I know what I can do.” — Josh Kendall

Derrick Henry, running back

Lamar Jackson has never had a dynamic force in the backfield like Henry, the 30-year-old who comes to Baltimore with a penchant for inflicting punishment on defenders and breaking long runs. Assuming Henry has a seamless transition into the Ravens offense, he should open up space for Jackson and create favorable matchups for the team’s wide receivers and tight ends. Like Roquan Smith on the defensive side, Henry is a force multiplier. If he becomes the piece that helps the Ravens get past Kansas City and to the Super Bowl, he’ll go down as one of the better free-agent signings in team history. — Jeff Zrebiec

Terrel Bernard, linebacker

Oh, who on the 2023 roster could possibly replace Tremaine Edmunds? Still just 19 years old when the Bills drafted him 16th overall in 2018, Edmunds wore the green dot that opening day, started all 82 games he played, and eventually became a captain before joining the Chicago Bears as a free agent. Then came Bernard, who didn’t just fill the void but overflowed it with splash plays. After starting once as a rookie, his sophomore campaign led the Bills with 143 tackles, along with three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, 6 1/2 sacks, and 10 tackles for losses. But his value was most realized in his absence. An ankle injury kept him from dressing for the narrow playoff loss to Kansas City in the playoffs. Had Bernard been on the field instead of A.J. Klein, Buffalo probably wins. — Tim Graham

Derrick Brown, defensive end

The first-round pick from 2020 piled up a record 103 tackles in 2023, the most by a defensive lineman since 1994 when the stat was first tracked. The breakout season led to a Pro Bowl berth and a lucrative extension for the former Auburn star. However, for Brown to be considered one of the league’s truly elite defenders, some believe he has to become more of a pass-rushing force (after eight sacks in his first four seasons). “You can look at the sacks. You can look at the pressures. I don’t really care,” Brown said in December. “If you don’t see I’m a game-wrecker, then I don’t know what to tell you.” — Joseph Person

Montez Sweat, defensive end

This would be a best-case scenario. Sweat is the highest-paid player on the team and tasked with sparking its biggest weakness from last season — rushing the passer. Even though he joined midseason, Sweat still led the Bears with six sacks. He would benefit from more help along the line, but he’s now familiar with the system, and Matt Eberflus knows how to best employ him. That should be a concern for opposing QBs. What the Bears need to do a better job of is finishing opponents after three disastrous blown leads in 2023. Sweat can be that closer. — Kevin Fishbain

Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver

The re-calibration of Joe Burrow’s weapons didn’t just add versatility to the new pieces offensive coordinator Dan Pitcher can play with; they also augment the one he’s played with the longest. The position-less nature of the rest of the receiver and tight end group allows the Bengals to move Chase around more and dial up more explosive plays from different alignments. While his overall usage might not go up, the aggressiveness of his targets should and sets up for the three-time Pro Bowler and 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year to enjoy his best season yet. — Paul Dehner Jr.

Myles Garrett, defensive end

This is an obvious one, regarding Garrett’s talent level and what the Browns need from him. It’s been hard to put real expectations on the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year because Garrett makes the difficult look easy — and because anything short of 15 sacks and multiple games wrecked would qualify as a disappointment. 2023 was probably Garrett’s best season because it was his most complete, and sometimes he dominated when it didn’t show up in the box score. The Browns need more of that, and Garrett seems capable of delivering. — Zac Jackson

Micah Parsons, linebacker

Some might suggest CeeDee Lamb, but this one is really not up for debate. Since Parsons put on a Cowboys helmet, only the Kansas City Chiefs have had more regular-season success. Dallas has won 12 games each of those three seasons. Parsons is arguably the NFL’s best defender. But like many others on the team, he hasn’t played his best when it has mattered most in January. If Parsons can stay healthy and be at his best late in the season, he has the talent to be the difference-maker in Dallas finally making a deep playoff run. Most believe the Cowboys go as Dak Prescott goes, but a case could be made for Parsons actually being the driving force. — Jon Machota



Is Micah Parsons-Malik Hooker drama a sign of looming issues for Cowboys?

Pat Surtain II, cornerback

There is no questioning Surtain’s talent. In just three NFL seasons, he’s been named to two Pro Bowls, was a unanimous first-team All-Pro selection in 2022, and was named an all-rookie performer the season prior. The real question for the Broncos is whether they can create the kind of pressure on quarterbacks that forces teams to test Surtain more often. Surtain has been everything the Broncos have asked and more since taking him with the No. 9 overall selection in 2021, and he has a chance to become the league’s highest-paid corner sometime within the next year. — Nick Kosmider

Frank Ragnow, center

You could throw a dart at this Lions roster, and your odds of it landing on a quality non-QB MVP would be high. Some obvious answers include Amon-Ra St. Brown, Aidan Hutchinson, Alim McNeill, Alex Anzalone, Brian Branch, Sam LaPorta, Penei Sewell, Detroit’s running backs — all worthy candidates. But I’m going with Ragnow. He’s arguably the best center in the league, and Detroit’s offense simply isn’t the same without him. He’s highly knowledgeable, helps Jared Goff navigate defenses at the line of scrimmage, keeps him upright, and creates interior lanes for David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. That’s value across the board. — Colton Pouncy

Jaire Alexander, cornerback

Alexander has made two All-Pro second teams and is still only 27 entering his seventh year in the league. After a rocky 2023 campaign that saw him miss nine games to injury and one to suspension after a string of incidents both in the private and public eye, he appears locked in with a new staff around him. If defensive back specialist and new coordinator Jeff Hafley can get Alexander to stay on the right track, there’s no reason why he can’t make another All-Pro team while leading Green Bay’s defense. — Matt Schneidman

Will Anderson, defensive end

The Texans have several candidates worthy of consideration: Left tackle Laremy Tunsil’s production is vital for C.J. Stroud’s success. Stefon Diggs could help elevate the offense, and another new face — running back Joe Mixon — also could prove extremely valuable and ease pressure on the quarterback. But Anderson has a slight edge heading into his second year. As a rookie, Anderson proved highly disruptive, racking up 22 quarterback hits and seven sacks. Look for that sack total to spike in 2024 as he becomes an even greater tone-setter for Houston’s defense. — Mike Jones

Jonathan Taylor, running back

Last summer, Taylor’s public contract dispute bled into the season until he finally landed a three-year, $42 million extension that officially kicks in this season. Taylor has missed 13 games combined due to injury over the previous two years, but in his last healthy season in 2021, he took home the league rushing title. If the 25-year-old can get back to playing at an All-Pro level, it would make life much easier on second-year QB Anthony Richardson and significantly increase the Colts’ chance of ending their three-year playoff drought. — James Boyd

Josh Allen, defensive end

Allen became an elite playmaking pass rusher last season with a career-best 17 1/2 sacks, and he’ll need to pace their defense again for the team to take another step forward. If Trevor Lawrence and the offense don’t have to win a track meet every week, it’ll take a lot more pressure off that side of the ball, which would be massive after a mistake-prone 2023 season. Allen can’t do it all by himself — that much was proven last year — but this defense needs him to be its MVP if it will have a chance to be a top-10 unit. — Jeff Howe

Chris Jones, defensive tackle

Even with a roster featuring quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, Jones is a core reason why the Chiefs are in the midst of a dynasty. At 29, Jones is in the prime of his career and one of the league’s best pass rushers, who can pressure the opposing quarterback from the interior or the edge. In the past two seasons, Jones was double-teamed on 70 percent of his pass rushes as an interior defender, the highest rate in the league, according to Next Gen Stats. He still ranked second in the league in pass rush win rate, trailing only Aaron Donald. This offseason for Jones has been smooth compared to last year when he held out of everything — the offseason program, training camp, and even Week 1 — before rejoining the team on a revised one-year deal. His production should improve from last season — 10 1/2 sacks, 29 quarterback hits, and four pass breakups — to ensure the Chiefs’ defense remains a strength. — Nate Taylor

Davante Adams, wide receiver

The obvious answer would have been Maxx Crosby. The defensive end has been the team’s MVP the last three seasons, even beating out league-leading rusher Josh Jacobs in 2022, and he somehow gets better every year. This offseason, the Raiders gave defensive tackle Christian Wilkins $83 million to take some double-teams off of Crosby. But … we’re going with Adams in what is essentially a contract year for him. He will have to carry the offense with quarterbacks Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew scaring no one and Jacobs playing for the Packers now. Adams is still the best route runner in the league, and the Raiders may have enough weapons where he can’t be double-teamed. Of course, the wild card (Vegas … hello) here is rookie tight end Brock Bowers becoming option 1, and the Raiders ultimately deciding to move on without Adams next year. Wait, can I change my answer? — Vic Tafur

Davante Adams (17) is in the third year of a five-year, $140 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

Khalil Mack, linebacker

Mack is coming off, perhaps, the best season of his career. Beyond the career-high 17 sacks, he was a dominant force in the run game. If last year was any indication, Mack has plenty left to give as he enters his age-33 season. He is highly motivated to claim the one NFL achievement that has evaded him: a Super Bowl. His 2023 tape was awe-inspiring in both the superhuman flashes and the consistency of performance. He was the team’s MVP in 2023, quarterback included. And while he might not match his counting-stat production from last season, I think he will impact that game similarly, especially if Joey Bosa stays healthy. — Daniel Popper

Kyren Williams, running back

The significant caveat here is that Williams must stay healthy through an entire season — he could not do so in the first two years of his career. Yet in 2023, despite missing four games to injury, Williams was the second-most productive rusher in the NFL behind Christian McCaffrey. When Williams was on the field, the Rams’ EPA per play shot up into the top 5 in the league, and head coach Sean McVay was able to deploy a wide variety of zone and gap concepts with him. It would be easy to pick veteran receiver Cooper Kupp, who needs a comeback year in a big way, or young star receiver Puka Nacua. But I believe NFL teams will throw the kitchen sink at the duo trying to defend them, where it’s simply hard to stop a punch in the mouth courtesy of Williams and the run game. — Jour


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