Who will be your NFL team’s 2018 MVP? 32 way-too-early picks

Who will be your team’s most valuable player in 2018?

NFL Nation reporters make their way-too-early predictions for all 32 franchises.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


AFC EAST

Running back LeSean McCoy

If I sound like a broken record, it’s because McCoy has arguably been the Bills’ MVP since he arrived in 2015, and they might have to lean on him more than ever in 2018. With the quarterback job up for grabs among AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman and rookie Josh Allen, it would be going out on a limb to say that Buffalo will have a competent passing game. McCoy could have trouble running behind an offensive line that lost Eric Wood and Richie Incognito this offseason, but he figures to be a vital cog for another season in a rebuilding offense. — Mike Rodak

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Cornerback Xavien Howard

The easy choice is Ryan Tannehill, but the idea here is to get ahead of the curve on Howard before everyone else catches up to his potential to be a legitimate No. 1 shutdown cornerback. I watched him play arguably the best game of his career last December against Brandin Cooks, and those who study more of Howard’s tape relay that his final six games in 2017 stack up favorably against most NFL corners. Ask any defensive coordinator the value of a cornerback who can match up against an opponent’s best receiver, and they’ll tell you it’s invaluable. — Mike Reiss

Quarterback Tom Brady

The reigning NFL MVP will turn 41 on Aug. 3 and is coming off a Super Bowl LII performance in which he threw for 505 yards. While there is no guarantee that he will simply pick back up where he left off, the odds that will be the case in 2018 seem favorable. It helps that Brady appears to have an excellent supporting cast around him. — Mike Reiss

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson

The offense is in transition, especially at quarterback, so there are no obvious candidates on that side of the ball. Johnson, who received a massive free-agent contract with $ 34 million guaranteed, is the most accomplished player on defense and should be an ideal fit in the Jets’ press-man scheme. If he can revert to his ball-hawking days with the Rams — he had seven interceptions in 2015 — he’ll be a shoo-in for team MVP. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Quarterback Joe Flacco

Sure, the more popular picks would be running back Alex Collins, linebacker Terrell Suggs or even kicker Justin Tucker. But Flacco has more motivation to produce this season. The Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round, and Flacco needs to get out of his five-year rut if he wants to see that $ 18.5 million base salary in 2019. Here’s betting that Flacco plays inspired football. The last time he faced this type of pressure was in 2012, and he responded by being the Super Bowl MVP. No one is predicting that performance, but Flacco will be an MVP again — this time, the MVP of the Ravens. –Jamison Hensley

Wide receiver A.J. Green

Green described himself as having a “crummy” season in 2017 due to drops, turnovers and an ejection for fighting in a loss to the Jaguars. He still had 1,078 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, but he’s due for a bounce-back season. Green is arguably the best player on the team when he’s healthy, and he’s undoubtedly going to be Andy Dalton’s top target again. If the Bengals can bring their offense up from the cellar, Green will probably be in line for a routine good season. — Katherine Terrell

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor

In Buffalo, Taylor stayed on the field and didn’t throw interceptions. If he can start 16 games, avoid turnovers and win some games, he’ll give Baker Mayfield time to grow. That all will be immensely valuable to the Browns for this season and the future. — Pat McManamon

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell have won the past four team MVPs, as voted on by the locker room, but 2018 is set up for Roethlisberger to earn plenty of votes. He was one of the league’s hottest quarterbacks late last season, and with Martavis Bryant gone, Big Ben will be tasked with elevating the play of the supporting cast. While he’s motivated to win the franchise’s seventh Super Bowl, the quarterback also expects negotiations on an extension to commence next offseason. A healthy season with robust numbers always helps in a contract year. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Quarterback Deshaun Watson

Watson’s impact was evident last season, when the Texans went 3-3 in his six starts and 1-8 after he tore his ACL. If the Texans are going to be any good and contend for a playoff spot, it will be because Watson and the offense take another step forward. — Sarah Barshop

Quarterback Andrew Luck

Of course, this all depends on whether Luck is on the field. The organization — from owner Jim Irsay to the coaching staff to Luck — believes the Colts will have their franchise quarterback back. He has proved over and over again that he’s able to cover up roster flaws, even when he spent nearly two seasons battling his right shoulder injury. He’ll likely do the same thing in 2018 — as long as he plays — with the rebuilding roster. — Mike Wells

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey

Ramsey is just two seasons into his career, and he’s already a first-team All-Pro and regarded as one of the NFL’s best players. He draws the opponent’s top receiver each week and essentially takes away half the field, which makes going up against the Jaguars’ defense even tougher. Ramsey is headed for Darrelle Revis/Deion Sanders territory and could be even better because he’s bigger and more physical than either of them. — Mike DiRocco

Quarterback Marcus Mariota

This has to go to Mariota if the Titans plan to become true contenders. He is and always will be the most important Titan. Coming off his worst season as a pro, Mariota has increased pressure to live up to the role of franchise QB and show he’s worth the nine-figure contract extension he should command next offseason. The good news is Mariota is fully healthy this offseason and has many of the appropriate pieces around him to succeed, most notably a more progressive, creative offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur. — Cameron Wolfe

AFC WEST

Linebacker Von Miller

Case Keenum will certainly make his case to be the team MVP in what the Broncos hope will be an offense that pulls itself out of 2017 struggles. But Miller is at the peak of his powers, and they’ve set the table to set him free in the pass rush with the addition of Bradley Chubb and the return of a healthy Shane Ray. Ray, who had three wrist surgeries last season and finished with just one sack, is also in a contract year now that the Broncos did not engage his fifth-year option. All that together means Miller could threaten his career high in sacks: 18.5 in 2012. — Jeff Legwold

Safety Eric Berry

Good things always seem to happen for the Chiefs when Berry is in their lineup. They’ve made the playoffs in four of his five full seasons but missed in two of the three in which he was out with an injury or illness. — Adam Teicher

Cornerback Casey Hayward

The Chargers have several options to choose from, but with the arrival of first-round pick Derwin James, they should have one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL, and Hayward is the centerpiece. The Vanderbilt product’s 11 interceptions since 2016 are tied with Marcus Peters for tops in the league. With the return of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, along with the addition of second-round selection Uchenna Nwosu, the Chargers’ pass rush will generate plenty of opportunities for Hayward to make plays. — Eric D. Williams

Quarterback Derek Carr

Did you forget that he finished tied for third in league MVP voting in 2016? Sure, Carr regressed after signing that five-year, $ 125 million contract last season, but he also was coming off a broken pinkie on his passing hand and a broken right leg. Then he broke three bones in his back in Week 4 last season. Yes, Jon Gruden is in Oakland to jump-start Carr, who has two new weapons, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, to go with Amari Cooper, Jared Cook and Marshawn Lynch. “He’s got the right stuff,” Gruden said at the combine. “He’s going to be a great leader for us.” — Paul Gutierrez

NFC EAST

Running back Ezekiel Elliott

The Cowboys are operating under a Dak Prescott-friendly narrative to help their third-year quarterback, but nobody can help him more than Elliott. The running back led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, when the Cowboys went 13-3 in 2016. He ran for 983 yards in 10 games last season, missing six because of a suspension. Jerry Jones believes Elliott will be freed from the burden of suspension talk and look more like the runner he was in 2016. The Cowboys need that guy to control the tempo of the game and keep the offense in balance. The past two times they made the playoffs, they have been driven by the running game. They need to have that formula again in 2018. — Todd Archer

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

As long as Beckham is on the field, he’s the Giants’ best player. He’s coming off a broken ankle but is running and cutting without much restriction in training. The injury isn’t expected to have any long-term drawbacks, either. Beckham had at least 90 catches for 1,300 yards and at least 10 touchdowns in each of his first three NFL seasons. His return alone makes the Giants an exponentially improved team. — Jordan Raanan

Quarterback Carson Wentz

Wentz was a front-runner for league MVP in 2017 before he tore his ACL and LCL in December, and he intends to pick up where he left off as early as Week 1 against the Falcons. There could be a few bumps early as he gets re-acclimated, but Wentz should round into form before long and is motivated to taste the Super Bowl experience himself after being forced to watch from the sideline last season. — Tim McManus

Quarterback Alex Smith

Jordan Reed could be that guy, but the problem for him is staying healthy. The easy pick right now is Smith, and it makes sense for a number of reasons. He has helped settle a position that, despite having the same guy start for three years, was in a state of flux with all the contract talk. That will help in the locker room, as will Smith’s regular-guy demeanor. And if the Redskins become better at running the ball and stopping the run, they’ll need a QB who puts them in good spots. Smith is capable of doing more than just that, but his penchant for not turning the ball over fits well with the direction of this team. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky

The Bears upgraded their talent level on offense, but none of that matters unless Trubisky makes a giant leap in Year 2. Chicago’s entire offseason has been about Trubisky. Now it’s up to the former second overall pick to use these newly acquired resources and turn the Bears’ offense — ranked 30th overall in 2017 — into a respectable unit capable of competing with the likes of Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit. — Jeff Dickerson

Quarterback Matthew Stafford

Yes, this is the easy answer, but for the Lions, it’s also the correct one. Stafford has been the team’s MVP the past three seasons, and if Detroit is going to have success in 2018, it’ll again be because of the guy the Lions are potentially paying $ 135 million over the next five years. The offense is built around Stafford, and he’s not only the most valuable player Detroit has and one of the top two or three players on the team (defensive backs Darius Slay and Glover Quin being the others). He’s also the most indispensable. — Michael Rothstein

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is coming off the worst injury of his career as a starter — a broken right clavicle that cost him more than half of last season. But the last time he broke his collarbone (his left clavicle) in 2013, he won his second NFL MVP the following season, when he threw for 38 touchdowns and just five interceptions in a 12-4 season that ended in the NFC Championship Game. There could be some symmetry this season, with Rodgers poised for a run at matching Brett Favre’s MVP total. — Rob Demovsky

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

While this early designation could have been placed on a handful of players on both sides of the ball — particularly on defense, with safety Harrison Smith — if Cousins can take this team to the next level like the franchise expects, he’ll undoubtedly be the MVP by season’s end. Cousins has a host of playmakers at his disposal, and it’s his job to elevate their game. He did that not long ago in Washington with the likes of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. If he can bring that level of excellence to Minnesota, the Vikings will be in good shape for another deep playoff run. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Wide receiver Julio Jones

Jones continues to be arguably the most dangerous threat in the game when fully healthy. The addition of rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley as an explosive playmaker should make things easier on Jones, as opposing defenses won’t be able to devote all the attention to him. Jones looks to top 1,400 receiving yards for the fifth straight season. The Falcons just need to get him in the end zone more, after he had only three scores last season. — Vaughn McClure

Quarterback Cam Newton

Who else could it be? Teammates have been saying for years that “as Cam goes, so go the Panthers.” Well, the Panthers gave Newton a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner, a new wide receiver corps headlined by Torrey Smith and first-round draft pick D.J. Moore, and a new running back in C.J. Anderson to complement Christian McCaffrey. All the pieces are in place for Newton to possibly return to his 2015 NFL MVP form. — David Newton

Quarterback Drew Brees

The future Hall of Famer is no longer the obvious choice in this category after breakout seasons by defensive end Cameron Jordan, running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, wide receiver Michael Thomas and the entire offensive line that led the Saints back to the playoffs last season. Brees doesn’t have to do it all by himself anymore on this balanced roster. But it’s worth a reminder that the 39-year-old still can do it when needed, like he did in last year’s playoffs. I expect a return to something like 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. — Mike Triplett

Quarterback Jameis Winston

The Bucs need a lot of help on defense, but if Winston can protect the football and make smart decisions, he’ll be the team MVP. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bucs are 3-14 (.177 win percentage) when Winston commits two or more turnovers in a game in the course of his 45 career starts, compared to 16-17 (.485) in games in which Winston throws one or fewer picks. — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Running back David Johnson

The last time Johnson was healthy for the vast majority of a season, he put up league-MVP-caliber numbers and was the runaway team MVP when he ran for 1,239 yards and had 879 receiving yards while scoring 20 touchdowns in 2016. After missing the final 15 games last season, Johnson is healthy and poised to be the centerpiece of the Cardinals’ offense yet again. He’ll have a little help in the form of a fullback, so he won’t be taking as much of a beating as he has in the past, which will preserve his body and allow him to produce at an MVP-caliber level yet again. — Josh Weinfuss

Running back Todd Gurley

Gurley had a strong case for league MVP last season and will continue to be a big part of this offense. He led the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,093) and touchdowns (19) in 2017 while ranking third in touches (343) despite resting for the regular-season finale. He’s the backbone of the Rams’ running game but also a major focus of their passing attack. That isn’t expected to change. “I think what Todd did is he showed why he’s a complete back, and to take him off the field, he better be pretty tired,” coach Sean McVay said. It would be just as easy to make a case for reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, of course. — Lindsey Thiry

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers’ success will largely come down to whether Garoppolo can be as good or better than he was at the end of last season and deliver a return on the team’s massive investment in him. With Garoppolo under center, the Niners went 5-0 and improved in nearly every important statistical category. Now, he will have a full offseason in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense and an improved supporting cast. Expectations will be high, but if Garoppolo can meet them, he’s the easy choice for team MVP. — Nick Wagoner

Quarterback Russell Wilson

Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes last season and was in the running for league MVP while carrying an offense that couldn’t run the ball. The Seahawks still have two stars on defense in middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas, and Seattle made several moves this offseason geared toward fixing its broken running game. If those work out the way the team hopes, not as much will be on Wilson’s shoulders in 2018. Even then, it’s hard to imagine anyone being more valuable to the Seahawks than their quarterback. — Brady Henderson

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