ByPat Pickens

Feb 3, 2024

The 10 Least Valuable NFL MVPs Since 2000

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The NFL MVP Award voting process and race have become anticlimactic in recent years.

For about the past decade, the Most Valuable Player award has gone to the quarterback on the team with the best regular-season record. That isn’t likely to change in 2023, since Lamar Jackson’s likely MVP win is about the worst-kept secret in sports right now. (Jackson has occupied the favorite spot in NFL MVP odds lately.)

No non-quarterback has won the MVP award since Adrian Peterson in 2012, but just because we’re rewarding quarterbacks, does that mean we’re truly honoring players who add significant value?

With this in mind, we’ve determined the NFL’s 10 least valuable MVPs since 2002.

Methodology

For this exercise, we valued each player based on Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value, which was created as a metric by the site’s founder Doug Drinen.

For this post, the MVPs reference those who win the honor handed out by The Associated Press.

The Least Valuable NFL MVPs

Edit
RkPlayerYearAV
1Steve McNair, QB, Tennessee Titans200314
2Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers202115
3Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts200816
4Rich Gannon, QB, Oakland Raiders200217
Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle Seahawks200517
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts200917
7Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts200318
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots201018
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers202018
10Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings201219
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens202319
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos201319
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs202219
14Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots201720
15Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts200421
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers201521
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons201621
18Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers201422
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs201822
20Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots200723
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers201123
22Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens201925
23LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers200626

10. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (2023, expected)

  • Approximate Value: 19
  • Other MVP Candidates: Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers; Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers; Myles Garrett, DT, Cleveland Browns; Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys; CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys

Jackson’s second MVP will come as a result of leading the Ravens to the NFL’s best record. But his Approximate Value of 19 was the same as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and lower than Prescott’s No. 1 target, CeeDee Lamb.

Myles Garrett, who had 14 sacks, shared the AV lead with Prescott and was a finalist for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrates scoring a touchdown with wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrates scoring a touchdown with wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.

T-7. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (2020)

  • AV: 18
  • Other MVP Candidates: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams; Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

Rodgers’ MVP win was a foregone conclusion in 2020. He led the NFL in completion percentage and passing touchdowns while guiding the Packers to a 13-3 record and the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Still, his value was far less than that of Aaron Donald, who posted a 24, tied for the best mark among any defensive player. Donald had 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, earning him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

T-7. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (2010)

  • AV: 18
  • Other MVP Candidates: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans; Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Brady was a unanimous selection for MVP by virtue of his 36-touchdown, four-interception campaign where he posted 3,900 passing yards while leading the Pats to the AFC’s top seed.

Still, Foster, who led the NFL with 101 rushing yards per game, finished with an NFL-leading 16 rushing touchdowns and led the league with an Approximate Value of 20.

T-7. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts (2003)

  • AV: 18
  • Other MVP Candidates: Ahman Green, RB, Green Bay Packers; Jamal Lewis, RB, Baltimore Ravens; Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs; Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens; LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers

The 2003 MVP award was all screwed up (more on that below). Manning won the first of his five MVPs by leading the NFL in completion percentage and passing yards (4,267).

Still, each player listed above had a better Approximate Value than Manning’s 18. Holmes scored a then-NFL record 27 touchdowns, Jamal Lewis finished with 2,066 rushing yards, and teammate Ray Lewis had 163 tackles, six interceptions, and 1.5 sacks, earning him Defensive Player of the Year honors.

T-4. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts (2009)

  • AV: 17
  • Other MVP Candidates: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans; Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets; Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Somehow Johnson didn’t even finish in the top five in 2009 MVP voting despite posting 2,006 rushing yards and an NFL-record 2,509 yards from scrimmage.

Revis led the league with an Approximate Value of 22 after posting six interceptions and 31 passes defended. However, he somehow finished runner-up to Charles Woodson for Defensive Player of the Year.

Manning also topped Rivers, who finished with seven fewer interceptions and five less touchdown passes.

T-4. Rich Gannon, QB, Oakland Raiders (2002)

  • AV: 17
  • Other MVP Candidates: Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs; Derrick Brooks, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins; Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Holmes led the NFL with 2,287 scrimmage yards and earned NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors. Brooks, who won the Defensive Player of the Year, had five interceptions and four defensive touchdowns that season, finishing with a league-best 23 Approximate Value.

But Gannon, who led the Raiders to the AFC West title and the Super Bowl, earned the honors with an NFL-best 4,689 passing yards.

T-4. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle Seahawks (2005)

  • AV: 17
  • Other MVP Candidates: Tiki Barber, RB, New York Giants; Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts; Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears; Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants

Alexander led the NFL with 1,880 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, helping the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl. But he finished behind Barber in all-purpose yards (2,360).

Manning, who had won the MVP the two seasons prior, probably fell victim to voter fatigue because the 2005 Colts were arguably the best team he quarterbacked. The runner-up had a higher AV (18) than the winner.

Umenyiora actually won the MVP award from the Pro Football Writers Association due to his 17 AV, and Urlacher won the Defensive Player of the Year with an AV of 18.

3. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts (2008)

  • AV: 16
  • Other MVP Candidates: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers; Cortland Finnegan, S, Tennessee Titans; Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens; Justin Tuck, DT, New York Giants; Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings; Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints; Matt Cassell, QB, New England Patriots

The 2008 MVP race was wide open, yet Manning won the award despite a substandard season where he finished sixth in the NFL in passing yards and fifth in touchdown tosses.

Brees, who won the Offensive Player of the Year award, didn’t even finish in the top eight in MVP voting but posted a 17 AV. Harrison, who won Defensive Player of the Year and posted the most memorable play of Super Bowl 43, co-led the league in AV with Finnegan, who had five interceptions and a touchdown.

However, Manning won the award after leading the Colts to a 12-4 record, despite the fact Indy finished as a wild card.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) frustrated after a incomplete pass in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports Nov 30, 2008; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) frustrated after a incomplete pass in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (2021)

  • AV: 15
  • Other MVP Candidates: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills; Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers; Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams; Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys; Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs; Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rodgers won a second straight MVP after throwing for 4,115 yards, posting a 37:4 TD:INT ratio, and helping Green Bay to a 13-4 record and the NFC’s top seed.

But Kupp, who was named Super Bowl MVP that year, was tied with Herbert, Parsons, and Mahomes in Approximate Value.

That group all trailed Allen, who threw for 4,407 yards and rushed for 763 more, finishing with a league-leading AV of 19.

1. Steve McNair, QB, Tennessee Titans (2003)

  • AV: 14
  • Other MVP Candidates: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers; Ahman Green, RB, Green Bay Packers; Jamal Lewis, RB, Baltimore Ravens; Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs; Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens

Remember all those players that Manning somehow bested for the MVP in 2003? Well, McNair somehow shared the award with Manning despite posting the lowest AV since Joe Montana won it with a 14 AV in 1990.

Tomlinson led all players with 2,370 scrimmage yards, and Green finished just off the pace with 2,250, posting a 20 Approximate Value.

Most Valuable NFL MVPs

While some prior NFL MVPs may not have truly lifted their team as much as others, there are plenty of well-deserving award winners as well.

Here are some of the most valuable players to win MVP honors.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers (2006)

  • AV: 26

Tomlinson set the record for Approximate Value in a single season when he broke the NFL record for rushing TDs (28) and posted 2,323 all-purpose yards.

2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (2019)

  • AV: 25

Jackson is widely considered one of the worst previous MVPs, but the numbers say otherwise. The Ravens QB had 3,127 passing yards, 1,206 rushing yards, and posted a 36:6 TD:INT ratio.

3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (2011)

  • AV: 23

Rodgers went 14-1 as a starter in 2011, throwing for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns to lead Green Bay to the NFC’s top seed.

4. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (2007)

  • AV: 23

Brady broke the NFL record for passing touchdowns (50) and led the league with 4,806 passing yards as the Pats went a perfect 16-0 in the regular season.

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Author

Pat Pickens

Pat Pickens is a seasoned sportswriter who has covered pro sports since 2013 for various websites, including The New York Times, NHL.com, Bleacher Report, Sportsnet.ca, USA Today, the Associated Press and many others. His debut book, titled "The Whalers" about the history of the NHL's Hartford Whalers, was released in October 2021.

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