Non-quarterback MVP should be a real award in the NFL. Seriously.
I’d love to be a contrarian and bang the keyboard for a safety to win the actual MVP one year, but the boring take — that quarterbacks are the only players deserving of MVP consideration — is also the correct one. The value and variance of the QB position outpaces every other spot on the field by such a wide margin that the most valuable quarterback is almost by definition the most valuable player.
So we need to find a new way to credit the other playmakers on the field. And while it won’t be an award handed out at the NFL Honors, that won’t stop us from filling out a ballet for the NFL’s top five non-QB MVPs through Week 10. And you might notice a certain running back getting actual MVP consideration is missing from the list.
Let’s jump in, starting with a Pittsburgh pass-rusher making his presence felt all over the field.
Had J.J. Watt stayed healthy, this top spot might have come down to a pair of brothers. But T.J. is living up to his last name on his own.
The Steelers’ pass-rusher ranks fifth in the NFL in sacks this season with 9.5, but he leads the league in pass rush win rate (32%), the rate at which he beats his defender within 2.5 seconds using data from NFL Next Gen Stats. That means he’s causing disruption at a higher rate than anyone else, even if it doesn’t end in a sack.
Watt also ranks second in the NFL in EPA+, in which we credit a positive defensive play’s expected points added to the defender who shows up in the play-by-play (tackle, sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, pass defensed or interception). He is behind only Jamie Collins Sr., who made three fairly fluky interceptions that skewed the numbers. It’s a crude measurement but one indicative of how many valuable plays Watt — who also has forced four fumbles this season — has been involved in.