NFL News & Analysis

Top Non-QB MVP Candidates: Justin Jefferson, Nick Bosa and more

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

• Justin Jefferson is on another level: The Green Bay Packers did limit the star wideout in Week 17, but his season overall has been nothing short of impressive.

• Micah Parsons, Tony Pollard getting it done for Dallas: The versatile edge defender and running back have excelled this season en route to 90.0-plus PFF grades.

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We are once again at the time of the NFL season when players and coaches are trying to make their cases for who deserves to win the individual awards.

While the MVP award is a value-based accolade, meaning it will likely go to a quarterback every season in the foreseeable future, if we removed the word “valuable” and, as a result, eliminated quarterbacks, these players would be our front-runners for the award based on PFF data.

WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings (PFF grade: 90.6)

Jefferson is having a terrific season, leading the NFL with 1,771 receiving yards. He is currently on pace to earn his highest single-season PFF grade, too. Even though he is only tied for fifth in the NFL with eight touchdowns, Jefferson once again leads the position in combined first downs and touchdowns (86), as no wide receiver has moved the chains more times than the former LSU Tiger. His value to the Vikings is evident in the team's 2-3 record when he has fewer than 50 receiving yards and 10-1 record when he tops that mark.

EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers (PFF grade: 90.9)

Bosa has been an elite pass rusher ever since entering the NFL and winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2019. However, he has managed to bring his game to a new level in 2022, as he is on track to earn the highest PFF grade of his career. He has thrived over the second half of the season, in particular, recording at least one sack in eight of his past 10 games and 11 in total over the span.

OT Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers (PFF grade: 93.4)

This list would not be complete without an offensive lineman, and there is no player in the trenches who deserves a mention here more than Williams. His excellence in run blocking, especially his dominance on the backside of zone runs, is a big reason Kyle Shanahan’s offense can be as successful as it is. It comes as no surprise that Williams' 93.5 run-blocking grade leads the NFL. He also ranks eighth among all offensive linemen with an 87.4 pass-blocking grade, having allowed just one sack all year.

DI Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (PFF grade: 92.0)

Lawrence might be the least talked-about player on this list amid a 2022 breakout season that has flown under the radar. Lawrence currently sports a 92.0 PFF grade despite not earning an 80.0-plus grade in any of his first three seasons. The Giants' defensive captain ranks second in total pressures among interior defenders (63) but is the lone nose tackle among the top 10 on that list. We have rarely seen a defender his size be this productive rushing the passer. As a result, his 92.4 pass-rushing grade ranks second in the NFL, behind only Myles Garrett.

WR Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins (PFF grade: 92.3)

Hill’s 2022 season was off to a historic start, as he was on pace to break the record for most receiving yards in a season. Since then, he's been the victim of the Dolphins starting three players at quarterback due to injuries. And the offense has been going through a slump even with Tua Tagovailoa behind center. As a result, Hill has failed to reach 100 receiving yards in five of his past seven games. But while his counting stats are down, he is still having a terrific season. His 92.3 PFF grade would be the highest season grade of his career, and his 3.32 receiving yards per route run in 2022 is by far the highest mark of any player in the league. No one else has gained more than 2.75 receiving yards per route run this season.

TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (PFF grade: 91.2)

Kelce deserves to be in contention for the Offensive Player of the Year award, and while his costly fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals might have eliminated him from that race, he has been back to his old self in recent weeks. The Chiefs tight end caught all 16 of his catchable targets against the Texans and the Seahawks in Weeks 15 and 16, surpassing 100 receiving yards in both games and earning 80.0-plus PFF grades. Kelce’s career could also reach new heights (pun intended) in the postseason, as his career-high 93.6 PFF grade from 2020 is not out of reach.

RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (PFF grade: 90.4)

The fact that Pollard has played only the 19th-most snaps among running backs this year basically eliminates him from this race, but the spark he keeps providing to one of the better offenses in the NFL demands a spot on this list. While he is never really mentioned as such, Pollard has a case to be called the most complete running back in the NFL after this season. He is the only player at his position to have earned 75.0-plus PFF grades in receiving (77.7), rushing (90.0) and pass blocking (77.5) in 2022. Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott complement each other in a way that brings the Cowboys' offense to a new level.

EDGE Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys (PFF grade: 91.3)

At one point, Parsons was the betting favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2022, but his inconsistency in the second half of the season has hurt his chances. While he has picked up 13 sacks on the season, he's recorded a sack in only seven of his 16 games. Regardless, his strong first half to the season and his unparalleled versatility — even if less frequently, Parsons can still line up as an off-ball linebacker and drop into coverage — earns him a spot on this list.


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