NFL MVP power rankings 2023: Where Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Lamar Jackson sit vs. the field in Week 16

The NFL MVP race is heating up to end the 2023 season. While it’s not looking good for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to repeat and win the league’s most coveted individual player award for a third time overall, there are many strong candidates from QB and beyond.

After Week 15, 49ers’ second-year passer Brock Purdy has emerged as the odds-on favorite with three weeks left. Knowing that he’s dueling the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson at home in Week 16, he has a chance to make one more big (closing?) statement on Christmas night.

Here’s how Sporting News would rank the MVP candidates now while also being mindful of their latest betting odds:

(Updated NFL MVP odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)

NFL POWER RANKINGS: Cowboys, Steelers flop after blowout losses; 49ers, Ravens battle at top for Week 16

NFL MVP Power Rankings 2023

1. Brock Purdy, QB, 49ers (current odds: -230)

Purdy’s team has the NFC’s best record at 11-3. He leads the NFL in TD passes (29), TD percentage (7.6), yards per attempt (9.9), adjusted yards per attempt (10.6), yards per completion (14.2), passer rating (119.0), ESPN QBR (76), net yards per pass attempt (8.9) and net adjusted yards per pass attempt (9.5).

Given he leads all the most impressive categories at the game’s most important, “most valuable” position, it all adds up him to being the heavy favorite. It’s his award to lose down the stretch. If he stays hot vs. Baltimore’s strong pass defense, it would be all but over. If he plays just OK in even a loss, Purdy can close strong vs. the Commanders’ and Rams’ pass defenses to boost his numbers in the final two weeks.

2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, 49ers (+550)

Thanks to his trade from Carolina to San Francisco in the middle of last season,, McCaffrey has gone from oft-injured superstar on a middling franchise to a legitimate durable Hall of Fame candidate on a marquee winning club. McCaffrey leads the league in rushing yards (1,292), scrimmage yards (1,802) and scrimmage TDs (20) in his first full season with the 49ers.

Should he be needed to play in all 17 games, McCaffrey is on pace for 1,569 rushing yards, 2,188 scrimmage yards and 24 TDs. Although it’s been 11 seasons since a running back last won MVP — Adrian Peterson, with his 2,097-yard rushing effort for the Vikings in 2012 — McCaffrey profiles similarly to previous recent MVP RBs.

In 2000, Marshall Faulk posted 2,189 scrimmage yards and 26 total TDs for the Rams. In 2005, Shaun Alexander won the rushing title with 1,880 yards while also tallying 1,958 scrimmage yards and 28 TDs for the Seahawks. In 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson won the rushing title with 1,815 yards as part of 2,323 scrimmage yards and scored a still NFL-record 31 TDs for the Chargers.

For a running back to win MVP, he needs to have an all-time yardage and scoring season. It’s also gotten tougher now as all the metrics and analytics suggest an elite McCaffrey is still not as “valuable” to his team as a great Purdy. Historians considering who should win MVP will have those past RB winners in mind in deciding whether to admit McCaffrey into that now more exclusive club.

3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens (+525)

If it’s not either 49er, Jackson should be the next choice. He has a chance to cut into the perception that either Purdy or McCaffrey needs to MVP by being the best player on the same field with them on the road in Week 16. First, let’s compare what his 2023 full season statistical pace is with what he did starting 15 games in his 2019 MVP campaign:

Lamar Jackson 2023 projected final stats:

  • 3,770 passing yards
  • 66.3 completion percentage
  • 21 passing TDs
  • 9 INTs
  • 96.5 passer rating
  • 7.7 yards per attempt
  • 900 rushing yards
  • 6 rushing TDs

Lamar Jackson 2019 final MVP stats:

  • 3,127 passing yards
  • 66.1 completion percentage
  • 36 passing TDs
  • 6 INTs
  • 113.3 passer rating
  • 7.8 yards per attempt
  • 1,206 rushing yards
  • 7 rushing TDs

Much like Mahomes in 2022 vs. Mahomes in 2018, Jackson had the better overall season during his first MVP campaign, but his healthy play in a new more passing, less running offense has been superb in its own way. Jackson has been much more inconsistent than Purdy and McCaffrey, but he’s still carried his team to an 11-3 record. There might be a comfort level in voting for a Jackson second MVP, especially if Purdy vs. McCaffrey causes some split in the pro-49ers MVP voting.

4. Tyreek Hill, WR, Dolphins (+2000)

Hill sat out Week 15 vs. the Jets with an ankle injury, but he still leads the league with his 1,542 receiving yards and 12 receiving TDs. He’s still on pace for 1,898 receiving yards along with 15 receiving TDs. He’s likely out of the mix unless he can blow up toward 2,000 receiving yards and break the 1,964 mark set by the Lions’ Calvin Johnson in 2012.

But consider Johnson wasn’t even on the MVP radar then because Peterson was so awesome as a non-QB. Hill is still the best player in a terrific offense for an AFC Super Bowl contender and deserves more voting love.

5. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs (+2,500)

Mahomes is having the worst season of his young two-time MVP career by every metric. But that is still better than most QBs’ best season. He leads the NFL with 353 completions and is doing his best each week to adjust to a limited wide receiver beyond rookie Rashee Rice while go-to tight end Travis Kelce has started to fade a little with age. Mahomes should get a different level of respect for still looking strong in a frustrating grind of a winning season.

Dak Prescott

6. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys (+750)

Prescott is having a fine season in Dallas’ new offense but his big-game struggles against better teams has probably pushed him from former front-runner to middle of the pack.

7. Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles (+2500)

Last year’s runner-up isn’t having the same kind of statistical season either running or passing. But let’s also keep in mind that Hurts is playing hurt and sick and still had an amazing comeback stretch though what was a very tough heart of the schedule. He’s more the old-school MVP type for that vs. having the repeat modern numbers to get back near the top of the conversation.

Josh Allen

8. Josh Allen, QB, Bills (+800)

Allen’s odds may be surprisingly favorable given he has 14 interceptions and his team is only 8-6. But his physical passing and rushing presence is what allows them to adjust offensively and be more of a complete attack. He also is the main reason Buffalo is still in the playoff hunt.

9. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins (+3000)

Tagovailoa hasn’t had a great season against better teams and defenses. He also is off when not throwing a lot to Hill and Jaylen Waddle. As much as Miami has passing flash, its explosive rushing attack with Raheem Mostert and rookie De’Von Achane is the true foundational bread and better for their overall success playing defense-friendly complementary football.

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