NFL MVP race 2023: Ranking Purdy, Prescott, Allen, candidates

ByCourtney Cronin ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The NFL's Week 15 slate created a significant shake-up in the MVP race.San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was a co-favorite withDallas CowboysquarterbackDak Prescott to win the MVP award at +160 ahead of both teams' games, according to ESPN BET. Purdy threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns in the Niners' demolition of the Arizona Cardinals, which widened the gap between him and Prescott, who was held without a touchdown for the second time this season in a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

There's still time for even more change to take place with a handful of matchups between players high on the leaderboard. Purdy andBaltimore Ravenssignal-callerLamar Jackson go head-to-head on Christmas Day, while Prescott and the Cowboys travel to Miami in Week 16 to square off against quarterbackTua Tagovailoa and wide receiverTyreek Hill.

We asked a group of analysts -- Matt Bowen,Mike Clay, Courtney Cronin, Jeremy Fowler, Dan Graziano,Matt Miller, Dan Orlovsky, Jordan Reid, Aaron Schatz, Mike Tannenbaum and Seth Walder -- to vote on the top players in the MVP race. We used their rankings to determine how the field stacks up to this point.

Here's a look at who's in the top five with three weeks remaining in the regular season, along with some sleepers to keep an eye on. And to close it out, Walder picked someone flying under the radar in the race. (All odds are via ESPN BET.)

Jump to:

Top five| Just missed

Stock up | Stock down

Big question| Under-the-radar pick

1. Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers

2023 stats:3,795 passing yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, 76 QBR (138 rushing yards, 2 TDs)

Current odds:-215

Purdy leads the NFL in Total QBR, yards per attempt (9.9) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (29-7), and is second in completion percentage (69%) and passing yards. However, the knock against the 2022 "Mr. Irrelevant" has often centered on the dominant skill players he has at his disposal. Purdyadvocated for running back Christian McCaffrey to win the MVP award, but it's Purdy who is putting his teammates in the position to succeed by throwing with anticipation and timing.

Week 15 marked Purdy's seventh game of the season with multiple passing TDs and no interceptions. That's tied for the most such games by a player in their first or second season in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson went on to win the MVP award during the seasons in which they accomplished that same feat.

2. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

2023 stats:3,639 passing yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs, 72.7 QBR (212 rushing yards, 2 TDs)

Current odds:+650

As far as the MVP race is concerned, Prescott's one rough outing at Buffalo (21-of-34 passing, 134 yards, INT, 3.9 yards per attempt) caused his odds to take a considerable dip, though it's not something he can't recover from over the final few games. He faces Miami, Detroit and Washington (he threw for 331 yards and four touchdownsagainst the Commanders on Nov. 23) to end the season. The Cowboys locked up a postseason berth Sunday despite the loss to the Bills.

Prescott is No. 2 in passing touchdowns (28) behind Purdy, after leading the league entering Week 15, and he currently ranks second in QBR, fourth in completion percentage and fifth in passing yards. If he gets back on track this week, he could still challenge Purdy for the top spot.

3. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

2023 stats:3,541 passing yards, 26 TDs, 14 INTs, 69.7 QBR (398 rushing yards, 11 TDs)

Current odds:+1000

Since throwing for 339 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in an overtime loss at Philadelphia in Week 12, Allen has kept Buffalo's season alive in back-to-back wins against Kansas City and Dallas. Against the Cowboys, he recorded his 10th game with both a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown, which broke a tie with Kyler Murray (2020) for the most in a single season in NFL history.

Winning the AFC East was something that didn't seem feasible for Buffalo a couple of weeks ago. But if Allen can get his team there with wins over the Chargers, Patriots and Dolphins to end the season, the quarterback's MVP case will get stronger.

4. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

2023 stats:3,105 passing yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs, 60.8 QBR (741 rushing yards, 5 TDs)

Current odds:+450

This version of Jackson is not the same player who won the MVP in 2019. In a lot of respects, the quarterback is even better. Jackson has thrived in a new offense led by offensive coordinator Todd Monken and has guided the Ravens to an 11-3 record -- one game ahead of Miami for the AFC's No. 1 seed -- despite losing his top running back J.K. Dobbins (Achilles) and tight end Mark Andrews (ankle) to injuries.

Baltimore is averaging 27.4 points per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL, with a heavy burden placed on Jackson's shoulders. He improved his prime-time record to 15-4 with a Week 15 win over Jacksonville in which he threw for 171 yards and ran for 97 yards, his 23rd game with 75 or more yards rushing and at least one touchdown pass. That's 10 more games than any other quarterback in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

5. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins

2023 stats:1,542 receiving yards, 12 TDs

Current odds:+3300

Hill leads the league in receiving yards and yards per game (118.6) and has three games left to reach his goal of 2,000 yards after missing the Dolphins' Week 15 contest against the Jets because of an ankle injury. Whether he hits that number or not, Hill has been invaluable to Miami. It's apparent in the fact that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has averaged 3 air yards fewer per attempt when Hill isn't on the field.

In 13 games this season, Hill has been targeted 132 times, which he has turned into 97 receptions. He's the fastest player in the NFL and has consistently shown an ability to break games open on a 10-4 team that owns the No. 1 offense in several categories.

Just missed

Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers(+1200)

Purdy's endorsement of McCaffrey as the MVP is warranted. The running back just had 115 rushing yards, a team-high five receptions for 72 yards and three total touchdowns against the Cardinals. It was McCaffrey's 15th career game with at least one rushing and one receiving touchdown (tied for the most in NFL history), with four of those performances happening this season for the current NFC No. 1 seed Niners. With 20 total touchdowns, he is tied with the Dolphins' Raheem Mostert for the most this season by a running back.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (+2500)

The Dolphins quarterback is closing in on his first 4,000-yard passing season while reaching career highs in yards (3,921) and completion percentage (71%) -- both of which lead the NFL. In his first full game without Hill, Tagovailoa led Miami to a 30-0 win over the Jets and looked much better than the last time he faced New York (224 yards, TD, 2 INTs) three weeks ago.

Tagovailoa has scored 48.1% of his team's 52 offensive touchdowns (25) and helped the Dolphins create an offensive attack that ranks first in the league in points scored.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (+2000)

Mahomes is on pace to finish the 2023 season with career bests in completion percentage (67.4%) and rushing yards (334), despite totaling 3 rushing yards in his past two games and tying a career high for the most interceptions thrown in his career (13). The Chiefs quarterback had his first 300-yard passing performance since October in a 27-17 win over the Patriots that snapped a two-game losing streak.

Despite a frustrating season throwing to receivers who lead the NFL in drop percentage (6.3%), Mahomes is still among the league's best quarterbacks and has Kansas City in line to clinch its eighth consecutive AFC West title with a win in Week 16.

Also received top-10 votes:Eagles QB Jalen Hurts, Browns DEMyles Garrett, Texans QB C.J. Stroud, Cowboys OLBMicah Parsons, Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, Rams QB Matthew Stafford, Colts QB Gardner Minshew, Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield

Whose stock is up after 15 weeks?

Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams

Stafford has been on a steady tear since the Rams' Week 10 bye, leading Los Angeles to a 4-1 record since then and into the postseason hunt at 7-7 with current possession of the No. 7 seed in the NFC. His 21 touchdown passes are the 10th most, while his 62.8 QBR ranks seventh in the NFL. Though he's a long shot to win the MVP award, his play of late has his stock rising.

Whose stock is down after 15 weeks?

Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (+2000)

Hurts lost his position among the MVP leaders after the Eagles were outscored 75-32 by the 49ers and Cowboys, while not being able to muster an offensive touchdown in Dallas. The Eagles recorded their third consecutive loss in a 20-17 defeat at Seattle on Monday night when Hurts, battling through flu-like symptoms, threw two interceptions and had his lowest completion rate (54.8%) and passing yards (143) of the season.

Who is the season's second-half MVP?

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys quarterback has a 77.0 QBR (first in the NFL), a 68.4% completion rate (sixth), 2,306 passing yards (first) and 22 passing touchdowns (first) since Week 8. Before a forgettable loss to the Bills on Sunday, Prescott had seven consecutive multi-touchdown games with two total interceptions. The Cowboys' offense has averaged 41 points per game at home this season, but all four of their losses have come on the road.

Still, the performances Prescott has routinely turned in since the halfway point of the season strengthens his candidacy and has the Cowboys in line to potentially capture the NFC East division down the stretch.

Walder's under-the-radar MVP candidate

Micah Parsons, OLB, Dallas Cowboys

Parsons has a 36.7% pass rush win rate, blowing by the previous record (since 2017) held by Joey Bosa in 2017 at 33.7%. Parsons also has 61 pressures and might break his own record (also since 2017) of 74 pressures in a season. Even though the box score numbers aren't quite there (12.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble), we can't sleep on how incredible Parsons has been on a down-to-down basis.

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