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The 2023 NFL MVP Race

The NFL MVP Award

Every year, on the night before the Super Bowl, the National Football League hosts the NFL Honors. The ceremony is used to recognize the season’s best players and staff by handing out the NFL MVP, Offensive
Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year awards.

The NFL MVP award is the crown jewel of awards for players like Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa, and Dak Prescott, who will never ever ever win a Super Bowl.

Rather, they hope to get their biggest trophy the night before at the NFL Honors Ceremony. This year, Dak and Josh Allen have their chance at the award.

Your 2023 NFL MVP Candidates

  • San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Brock Purdy
  • Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott
  • Buffalo Bills Quarterback Josh Allen
  • Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson
  • San Francisco 49ers Running Back Christian McCaffrey

This year’s candidates all made an appearance in the 2023 playoffs, and candidates Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey will be playing this weekend in Super Bowl LVIII. Regardless of their playoff and Super Bowl appearances, the NFL MVP award is an award based on regular-season performance.

This year’s favorite to win the MVP award is Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who led his team to the 1st seed in a competitive AFC Conference. Lamar Jackson is undoubtedly a special player and has even won the MVP
Award before, just a few years ago in 2019.

This year, though, his numbers don’t match up as well as you’d expect an NFL MVP’s to. Take a look at this graph representing the cumulative EPA of each of the NFL MVP candidates on a week-by-week basis.

Quick Side Note – An Explanation of EPA & Other NFL Performance
Metrics can be found here.

2023 MVP Candidates Cumulative EPA — Team Logo indicates that week’s opponent

Among the NFL MVP candidates, Lamar Jackson’s numbers do not impress.

In fact, there was even a point during the season where Lamar had a lower total EPA than 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (see week 5).

Not bad for a running back.

I understand that some of you reading this are just casual NFL fans or are unfamiliar with NFL analytics and that this graph might look like hieroglyphics to you. Because of that, I’ve taken the liberty to make a much
more simplified graph to represent these same statistics.

2023 Total EPA — Logo indicates team

With this graphic, it remains just as apparent that Lamar Jackson’s season has been sub-par for an MVP-caliber player.

A look back at MVP winners since 2010

In order to put this into perspective, look at some of the MVP winners in years past. Take Patrick Mahomes’ MVP season just last year. Mahomes finished the regular season with a total EPA of 175, the 4th-best total EPA
among MVP winners since 2010.

MVP Winners Total EPA Since 2010 — Logo indicates team

If Lamar Jackson wins this year’s NFL MVP award, he’ll have the lowest total EPA among MVP winners since 2012 and the lowest EPA of any quarterback who won the award since 2010.

He’ll also finish closer in total EPA to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson than the next closest quarterback.

The NFL MVP award, though, is not solely based on a player’s EPA throughout the season. There are a number of factors that go into what makes a player an MVP, but history shows that EPA can be a great indicator of who is the NFL’s most valuable player.

To show you this, let’s look at every MVP winner since 1999 and where they finished in terms of total EPA.

MVPs Since 1999

Since there have been four running backs who have won the NFL MVP award since 1999:

  • Marshaull Faulk in 2000
  • Shaun Alexander in 2005
  • Ladanian Tomlinson in 2006
  • Adrian Peterson in 2012

and it’s nearly impossible for them to finish towards the top of the league in total EPA (due to not seeing the ball nearly as much as a quarterback), we will only be examining QBs who have won the award.

Here is a list of every QB who has won the NFL MVP Award since 1999 and where they ranked in terms of total EPA:

  1. 1999: Kurt Warner, 1st
  2. 2001: Kurt Warner, 1st
  3. 2002: Rich Gannon, 4th
  4. 2003: Co-MVPs Peyton Manning, 1st and Steve McNair, 2nd 
  5. 2004: Peyton Manning, 1st
  6. 2007: Tom Brady, 1st
  7. 2008: Peyton Manning, 3rd
  8. 2009: Peyton Manning, 2nd (by 0.8)
  9. 2010: Tom Brady, 1st
  10. 2011: Aaron Rodgers, 1st
  11. 2013: Peyton Manning, 1st
  12. 2014: Aaron Rodgers, 1st
  13. 2015: Cam Newton, 5th
  14. 2016: Matt Ryan, 1st
  15. 2017: Tom Brady, 1st
  16. 2018: Patrick Mahomes, 1st
  17. 2019: Lamar Jackson, 1st
  18. 2020: Aaron Rodgers, 2nd
  19. 2021: Aaron Rodgers, 2nd
  20. 2022: Patrick Mahomes, 1st
  21. 2023: Lamar Jackson? 8th

Since 1999, the quarterback who won MVP has finished first in total EPA 70% (14/20) of the time, top two in total EPA 85% (17/20) of the time, and top 5 in total EPA 100% of the time.

If Lamar Jackson takes home the NFL MVP award, and he most certainly will, it’ll be the first time ever (since EPA has been recorded) that a QB has finished outside the top 5.

Lamar Jackson is an incredible player, among the best I’ve ever been able to watch, and is no doubt one of the most valuable players in the league. But was he the most valuable player in the NFL in 2023?


In my opinion, the player who did the most with the least this past year was Josh Allen. Josh Allen was a division winner, led the league in total touchdowns, and managed to finish in the top 3 in total EPA despite also leading the league in turnovers. All the more impressive considering the negative impact turnovers have on
your EPA.