Predicting the NFL's Top 5 MVP Candidates in 5 Years

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2020

Predicting the NFL's Top 5 MVP Candidates in 5 Years

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The National Football league is a constantly changing entity, and it doesn't slow down for anyone.

    Nine years ago, Cam Newton was the freshly minted No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Five years ago, he was about to embark on an MVP campaign. Now, he's floating around the free-agent market awaiting a job offer.

    The reality is that today's up-and-comers can be tomorrow's superstars, but stardom doesn't always last. Five years from now, future Hall of Famers like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger—and perhaps Aaron Rodgers and Newton himself—may no longer be in the league. Younger players will rise to take their spots at the top of the proverbial mountain.

    The aforementioned players likely won't be in the MVP conversation five years from now, but it's worth wondering who might be. Here, we'll ponder exactly that.

    We'll run down five players who could and should be considered MVP contenders heading into the 2025 season, based on factors like on-field ability, past production, surrounding talent and potential franchise trajectory.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

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    Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is at least a year away from being drafted, but if his talent level matches the hype, he should be a viable MVP candidate by the end of his fourth pro season.

    "One area scout who covers Clemson already told me Lawrence is the best sophomore quarterback since Peyton Manning," Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller wrote in late April.

    Manning was a five-time MVP and earned that award for the first time in his sixth season.

    While the Manning comparison is a bit premature, Lawrence does appear to be one of the cleanest quarterback prospects in recent memory. Physically, the 6'6", 220-pound passer is an offensive coordinator's dream. With a rare combination of size, athleticism and arm talent, he'll likely be one of the league's next big stars.

    Landing in a stable situation will certainly help Lawrence become more than just a star. However, an MVP-caliber player can lift a franchise just as well as a great team can push an individual toward MVP status.

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    While the NFL MVP has largely become a quarterback award—the last non-quarterback to win it was Adrian Peterson for the 2012 season—there will likely be exceptions in the future.

    New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas is the sort of non-quarterback who could be viewed as the league's most valuable weapon in 2025, especially since he won't have Drew Brees throwing him the ball anymore.

    In four pro seasons, Thomas has caught 470 passes for 5,512 yards and 32 touchdowns. If he catches 118 passes for 1,378 yards and eight touchdowns—his current per-season averages—from Taysom Hill or another as-of-yet-unproven quarterback, he would definitely be in the MVP conversation.

    The Saints may still have head coach Sean Payton calling the offense, so such a scenario isn't unrealistic.

    While Thomas will be 32 in five years—on the older side for a receiver—that wouldn't age him out of the conversation. Julio Jones, for example, is 31 and just wrapped a 1,394-yard, six-touchdown campaign.

    Exactly no one should be surprised if Thomas becomes the first wideout in league history to be named Most Valuable Player.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson might be the most consistently underrated future Hall of Famer we've seen in recent memory. Though he annually has some of the most impressive statistics in the NFL, he's rarely mentioned as a legitimate MVP candidate.

    Wilson has never even been a first-team All-Pro despite passing for 29,734 yards with 227 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions in eight seasons. He's also rushed for 3,993 yards and has never thrown more than 11 picks in one campaign.

    Five years from now, Wilson's steady stream of greatness may be more appreciated than it is currently. He'll be one of the elder statesmen of the NFL at 36 and will be out of the shadows cast by quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

    Just as importantly, Seahawks pass-catchers like Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Will Dissly will still be in their playing primes five years from now.

    Wilson has an exciting yet safe style of dual-threat play—he's more than adept at avoiding direct contact—and that should have him as one of the league's most enthralling and productive players for another half-decade or more.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Chris O?Meara/Associated Press

    While we're on the subject of exciting dual-threat quarterbacks, now is a good time to mention reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore Ravens signal-caller had an incredible year in 2019, racking up 3,127 passing yards, 1,206 rushing yards, 43 total touchdowns and just eight turnovers.

    Jackson is only 23 years old, he's playing for one of the more consistent NFL franchises, and he will grow alongside young weapons like Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. He should remain in the MVP conversation for the next several years.

    However, future MVP campaigns may be led by Jackson's throwing shoulder and not quite as much by his legs.

    "I doubt if I'm going to be carrying the ball a lot going on in the future," Jackson told reporters in April.

    Expect Jackson the gunslinger to push for more MVP awards moving forward, though his elite scrambling ability will likely remain a weapon in his arsenal for the remainder of his career.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    While Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the reigning Super Bowl MVP—and he's just a year removed from winning the regular-season award, as well. Mahomes was also the early MVP favorite following the Super Bowl, according to Westgate SuperBook (h/t ESPN's Jamison Hensley).

    What's scary is that Mahomes is just 24 years old and three seasons into his pro career. If he isn't among the MVP favorites for the foreseeable future, it would come as a major surprise.

    The Chiefs are loaded with young offensive playmakers like Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Not only will Mahomes remain among the league's elite, but his supporting cast is likely to do the same.

    Mahomes has also started to build a reputation as a comeback artist. He helped overcome deficits in all three of Kansas City's 2019 playoff games, including Super Bowl LIV. There's as much value in overcoming adversity as there is in his impressive toolbox.

    "What Mahomes is doing at the NFL level is special," Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News wrote when asked to pick the best athlete he'd ever covered recently. "It will be exciting to see what he can accomplish if he stays healthy and the Chiefs continue to surround him with a dynamic supporting cast."

    Barring injury, you can probably go ahead and pencil Mahomes in as an MVP candidate for 2025.