NFL MVP: Predicting the Top 8 Candidates for 2012-13 NFL MVP

John HickeyContributor IIFebruary 5, 2012

NFL MVP: Predicting the Top 8 Candidates for 2012-13 NFL MVP

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    It’s at least theoretically possible that someone other than a quarterback could win next year’s NFL MVP award.

    After all, it has happened before. As recently as the 2005 and 2006 seasons, running backs won the award back-to-back, Shaun Alexander of the Seahawks and LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers.

    But since no one other than a running back or quarterback has won the award since 1982 when Redskins’ placekicker Mark Moseley took home the award, forgive us if we focus on runners and throwers as we look toward the MVP one year hence.

8. Eli Manning, QB, Giants

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    The Giants saw Eli Manning move into the ranks of elite quarterbacks as he got them back to the Super Bowl this year.

    He could go further next year, what with a top-rank crew of wide receivers and tight ends.

    As important as quarterbacks are to the franchise, they need quality around them, and Manning’s crew is just getting better.

7. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars

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    Jacksonville saw Maurice Jones-Drew leave the rest of the running backs in the NFL in the dust with 1,606 yards, more than 200 yards ahead of the competition.

    Jones-Drew will be just 27 next season, which is peak time for running backs in the NFL. Alexander was 28 when he won his MVP; Tomlinson was 27.

    And, besides, "MJD for MVP’’ just sounds cool.

6. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

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    If you are a numerologist, you wouldn’t like Dallas quarterback Tony Romo’s chances to make a push for the NFL MVP next season.

    After all, he’s had three seasons of 4,000 or more yards, and each of those has come in an odd-numbered year—4,211 in 2007, 4,483 in 2009 and 4,181 in 2011—and those have also been his best TD seasons with 36, 26 and 31, respectively.

    Putting superstition aside, however, Romo has spent a decade in the NFL, and if he’s going to make a push for the MVP, he may not have a better chance than this year with a Cowboys team that should be getting better.

5. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles

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    For Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy, things just keep getting better.

    He’s just 23, and he has gone from 637 to 1,080 to 1,309 yards in each of his first three seasons. He led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns and 14 gains of 20 or more yards.

    And he’s working with a team that, after a terrible start, played some top-flight football down the stretch.

    With the proper support from the rest of the Eagles roster, it’s easy to see McCoy adding to his numbers and push himself into the MVP talk.

4. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

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    The New England Patriots have already seen Tom Brady rack up two MVP awards, one in 2007 and then again in 2010.

    At 32, he’s still young enough to keep being competitive, and he is coming off his best year yet. Drew Brees threw for more yards and Aaron Rodgers won the MVP, but Brady’s 2011 season didn’t take a back seat to anyone.

    With the tight end-heavy passing attack that confounds defenses more used to defending against wide receivers, Brady heads into 2012 with an excellent chance to bring home a third MVP.

3. Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions

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    It may seem that Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford doesn’t belong anywhere on this list, but consider that at just 23, he’s coming off a 5,000-yard season.

    Consider, too, that the Lions are an up-and-comer in the NFC and that Stafford has lots of help in receiving yardage leader Calvin Johnson as the top wide receiver and emerging tight end Brandon Pettigrew to balance the attack.

    Stafford is good and going to get better. 2012 isn’t too soon to believe he could step in among the MVP-worthy in the NFL.

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

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    It’s difficult to image that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers could have a better season that he did in 2011.

    He averaged 9.25 yards per attempt and had a seriously brilliant 45-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Small wonder that he was a unanimous pick as the MVP this time around.

    Can he do it again? There doesn’t seem to be any reason that Rodgers, still just 28, couldn’t finish with at least a couple more MVPs before he’s done.

1. Drew Brees, QB, Saints

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    Did anyone have a better year than New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees in 2011?

    Probably not. After all, he threw for 5,476 yards, the second time in four years he’s rung up 5,000 or more yards in a season.

    More than that, he is at the helm of a strong New Orleans team that won 13 games and already is a power in the NFL.

    He’s never won an MVP award, but at 33, he is still young enough to get the job done.