Every NFL team’s MVP for the upcoming season

By Stuart Dick

Published: 17:10, 2 September 2021 | Updated: 15:36, 23 September 2021

The 2021 NFL season is closing in fast, every franchise is preparing for a first-ever 17-game regular season.

It has been a long seven months since Tom Brady lifted his seventh Super Bowl Championship, his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

By now, every team will hope to have built a roster that will allow them to contend in the post-season in January.

So we delved into said rosters to pick out those most important player for each of the 32 team’s most important player. Many of the names will be instantly recognisable, while others will be under-the-radar candidates to help their side’s quest to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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AFC North

Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)

  • Games played: 10
  • Madden rating: 77
  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and 2020 NFL Draft #1 Overall selection

It was an encouraging debut season for Joe Burrow, with single-game rookie passing records on the way. His season was cut short when he tore his ACL and MCL in a Week 11 clash with Washington, but he is expected to be back and could take a sophomore step forward for a Bengals team on the up.

Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)

  • Games played: 50
  • Madden rating: 91
  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player

The 2019 NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson has been a revelation since being drafted by the Ravens in 2018. He led the league in touchdowns in 2019 and set a record for rushing yards for a quarterback. His 2020 campaign was similarly spectacular, though his post-season record is now looking a little suspect at 1-3, so more will be expected if the Ravens are to get back to the Super Bowl in what looks a highly competitive division.

Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns)

  • Games played: 46
  • Madden rating: 96
  • Position: Running back
  • Back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2019 & 2020

Two-time Pro Bowler Nick Chubb has exceeded all expectations in his first two seasons with the Browns. His near 1,500-yard rushing season in 2019 was exceptional and although the running back was down on those numbers in 2020, he managed to score 12 touchdowns (four more than the previous season). Cleveland finally won a play-off game last season, and Chubb will play a key role if they are to return to the post-season in 2021.

T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh Steelers)

  • Games played: 64
  • Madden rating: 94
  • Position: Linebacker
  • 2020 NFL Sack leader (15)

T.J. Watt has improved year-on-year in Pittsburgh, and the two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler should have another big year in 2021. The pass rusher led the league in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits in 2020. Just don’t tell Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield that…

AFC East

Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)

  • Games played: 48
  • Madden rating: 88
  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2020 AFC Pro Bowler

Buffalo’s Josh Allen had a stunning 2020 season, flourishing under centre as he guided the Bills to a 13-3 season and a trip to the AFC Championship game. A Super Bowl appearance wasn’t to be for the Bills, however. The fell to Kansas City but look a team on an upward curve under head coach Sean McDermott, with Allen the key to their success in 2021.

Xavien Howard (Miami Dolphins)

  • Games played: 56
  • Madden rating: 91
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Two-time NFL Interception Leader (2018 & 2020)

Xavien Howard is an exceptional talent in the defensive backfield for the Miami Dolphins. He has led the entire league in interceptions in two of the past three seasons. In 2018, Howard recorded seven picks and 10 more in 2020. The only worry for the Dolphins is that Howard has requested a trade from the team this offseason but, as it stands, he will begin the season in Miami.

Stephon Gilmore (New England Patriots)

  • Games played: 131
  • Madden rating: 97
  • Position: Cornerback
  • 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Very few players have the man-to-man coverage skills of Gilmore, who earned the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and co-led the league in interceptions. A two-time first-team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, Gilmore has a plethora of honours through the first 10 seasons in the league.

C.J. Mosley (New York Jets)

  • Games played: 79
  • Madden rating: 84
  • Position: Linebaker
  • Four-time Pro Bowler (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)

The C.J. Mosley situation probably sums up the last few seasons for New York Jets fans. After five seasons in Baltimore with four Pro Bowl appearances, Mosley’s move to the Jets has been borderline disastrous. Groin surgery in 2019 and opting out of the 2020 campaign due to Covid meant he has played just two games. Assuming he can return to 2018 levels, the linebacker will be a key defensive weapon at MetLife Stadium.

AFC South

Laremy Tunsil (Houston Texans)

  • Games played: 72
  • Madden rating: 89
  • Position: Offensive tackle
  • Two-time Pro Bowler (2019 & 2020)

Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil spent his first three seasons in Miami before being traded to Houston in what has proven to be a masterstroke by the Texans. He has rewarded them with Pro Bowl performances in 2019 and 2020, and earned a huge payday in April 2020 when he became the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league.

DeForest Buckner (Indianapolis Colts)

  • Games played: 82
  • Madden rating: 92
  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • 2020 First-team All-Pro

DeForest Buckner’s pedigree is there for all to see. A Pro Bowler in 2018 when with the San Francisco 49ers, he was a first-team All-Pro in 2020 after being traded to Indianapolis for a first-round pick with the Niners opting to cash in on the defensive tackle. A menace on the interior defensive line, Buckner could ensure the Colts are in for another successful campaign.

Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars)

  • Games played: 0
  • Madden rating: 78
  • Position: Quarterback
  • #1 Overall Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft

The great hope of Jacksonville football, it would be considered rare to name a team’s MVP as a player who hasn’t played a single NFL snap. But for Trevor Lawrence, you make an exception. Arguably the hottest prospect to come out of college football in a decade, the former Clemson QB is expected to shine immediately and hopefully turn around the fortunes of a stuttering Jaguars franchise.

Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)

  • Games played: 84
  • Madden rating: 96
  • Position: Running back
  • 2019 and 2020 NFL Rushing Leader

This is one man you must have on your NFL Fantasy roster. Seemingly a point-scoring machine, he has improved year-on-year and quickly become the most important man on the Titans roster. Leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2020, he was the obvious candidate for Offensive Player of the Year and is surely set for a huge 2021.

AFC West

Bradley Chubb (Denver Broncos)

  • Games played: 34
  • Madden rating: 85
  • Position: Outside linebacker
  • 2020 AFC Pro Bowler

Bradley Chubb returned from an injury-ravaged 2019 season to have his best year yet for the Denver Broncos, playing 14 games, registering 7.5 sacks in doing so, and earning a first appearance in the Pro Bowl. Having had his fifth-year option exercised, expect a big season before a big pay day in 2021.

Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)

  • Games played: 54
  • Madden rating: 99
  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player

What else needs to be said about Patrick Mahomes? Arguably the face of the NFL, the 2018 MVP and Super Bowl LIV winner is the hottest property in the league with his stunning pocket passing ability, arm strength and ability to escape for the most remarkable of plays. His importance in Kansas cannot be understated, despite falling to Brady’s Bucs in last season’s Super Bowl.

Darren Waller (Las Vegas Raiders)

  • Games played: 54
  • Madden rating: 93
  • Position: Tight end
  • 2020 AFC Pro Bowler

Since his year-long suspension for substance abuse in 2017, Darren Waller has turned his career around and become one of Derek Carr’s most potent weapons at tight end. After recording 90 receptions and three touchdowns in 2019, he improved his receptions with 107 and became a potent red zone threat with nine touchdowns. A repeat of that would surely secure a second spot on a Pro Bowl roster.

Joey Bosa (Los Angeles Chargers)

  • Games played: 63
  • Madden rating: 92
  • Position: Outside linebacker
  • 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Pro

When Joey Bosa is healthy, he is arguably the most devastating edge rusher in the NFL. Unfortunately for Chargers fans, he missed games in the 2018 and 2020 season, but he still picked up a mammoth $135 million contract in July 2020 and backed that up with a season that returned 7.5 sacks. He could prove to be a big hit in LA again in 2021 if he can stay out of the treatment room.

NFC North

David Montgomery (Chicago Bears)

  • Games played: 32
  • Madden rating: 82
  • Position: Running back
  • 1,959 rushing yards and 14 rushing TDs in first two seasons

David Montgomery quickly became the lead running back for Chicago in his rookie season in 2019, before posting career high numbers in 2020. In a Bears offense that has struggled over recent years, his 1,070 yards (fifth in the NFL) with eight touchdowns proved priceless, and he will need to post similar numbers if they are to reach the play-offs, especially given the uncertainty in the quarterback room at present.

TJ Hockenson (Detroit Lions)

  • Games played: 28
  • Madden rating: 85
  • Position: Tight end
  • 2020 NFC Pro Bowler

TJ Hockenson came out of college with a lofty reputation and was taken as the No.8 overall pick in the 2019 draft. He didn’t immediately shine but the tight end came of age in the 2020 season, with over 700 yards and six touchdowns while securing a maiden Pro Bowl appearance. He will need to be at his very best in 2021, with Jared Goff now under centre as Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams.

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)

  • Games played: 218
  • Madden rating: 96
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (2011, 2014, 2020)

Despite this summer’s contract dispute and trade rumours, quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains by far the most important player to everything in Green Bay. Despite having just one Super Bowl win to his name, his three NFL MVP awards speak for themselves, including in 2020 when he posted a mammoth 48 touchdowns with just five interceptions and a pass completion percentage of 70.7%.

Danielle Hunter (Minnesota Vikings)

  • Games played: 78
  • Madden rating: 89
  • Position: Defensive end
  • 2019 First-team All-Pro

Jamaican-born Danielle Hunter has enjoyed a fruitful start to his NFL career in recording 54.5 sacks during his first five seasons in the league. Hunter has recorded a trio of double-digit sack seasons in Purple. The former third-round pick missed the entire 2020 season after suffering a neck injury prior to the regular season and will be keen to help the NFC North franchise back into play-off contention after their 7-9 season last time out.

NFC East

Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)

  • Games played: 72
  • Madden rating: 87
  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Quarterback Dak Prescott was on course to eclipse NFL passing records after a blistering start to the 2020 season. The former Mississippi State Bulldog threw for 1,856 yards in the opening five games of the season before suffering an ankle injury. His importance to the Dallas Cowboys is showcased in his 42-27 record as a starter for the franchise, the Cowboys went 4-7 without him to complete the 2020 campaign, missing the post-season.

Saquon Barkley (New York Giants)

  • Games played: 31
  • Madden rating: 90
  • Position: Running back
  • 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Former collegiate behemoth Saquon Barkley has suffered a frustrating start to his NFL career with injuries stunting his performance over the last two seasons. After winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2018, Barkley became the first Giants RB to record back-to-back 1,000 rushing seasons in his first two years in the league. An ankle injury suffered in week two in 2020 brought an end to his season last time out.

Brandon Brooks (Philadelphia Eagles)

  • Games played: 112
  • Madden rating: 92
  • Position: Guard
  • Three-time Pro Bowler (2017, 2018, 2019)

One of the catalysts for Philadelphia’s Super Bowl victory in 2018, Brandon Brooks is a true unsung hero in the NFL. Forming a formidable offensive line partnership with Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, Brooks won Pro Bowl honours for three consecutive years between 2017-2019 before an Achilles injury ended his 2020 campaign before he got started.

Chase Young (Washington Football Team)

  • Games played: 15
  • Madden rating: 86
  • Position: Defensive end
  • 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

The 2020 Draft’s No.2 overall pick Chase Young was in sensational form during his rookie season recording 7.5 sacks and 42 tackles on his way to the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He helped the Washington Football Team reach the play-offs with the WFT defence ranked #2 in yards and #4 in scoring.


NFC South

Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

  • Games played: 346
  • Madden rating: 97
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Seven-time Super Bowl Champion and Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is the most decorated player in NFL history and has shown no signs of slowing down yet. Brady has amassed 79,204 passing yards, 581 touchdowns and is a three-time MVP of the entire league. Not bad for a QB who was drafted No.199 ahead of the 2000 NFL.

Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)

  • Games played: 67
  • Madden rating: 94
  • Position: Running back
  • 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

The Swiss army knife of the New Orleans Saints offense, Alvin Kamara has multiple ways of taking advantage of opposing defenses. Drafted No.67 overall in 2017, Kamara has recorded 6,164 all-purpose yards (3,340 rushing, 2824 receiving) and 58 touchdowns in four seasons. He also tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns in a single game in a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings last season.

Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers)

  • Games played: 52
  • Madden rating: 97
  • Position: Running back
  • 2019 First-team All-Pro

Another all-purpose back, Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dangerous playmakers in the NFL today. McCaffrey currently holds the NFL record for most receptions by a running back in his first three seasons (303), most receptions in a single game by a running back (15) and is one of only three players to record 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

Grady Jarrett (Atlanta Falcons)

  • Games played: 98
  • Madden rating: 88
  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • Two-time Pro Bowler (2019 & 2020)

A 305lb giant in the middle of the Atlanta Falcons defence, Grady Jarrett is one of the premier interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He has 300 tackles to his name in six seasons (including 51 tackles for a loss and 25.5 sacks) and earned second-team All-Pro honours during the 2019 season.

NFC West

Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)

  • Games played: 32
  • Madden rating: 82
  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2018 Heisman Trophy winner and 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Arizona Cardinals’ upward trajectory looks to be matched by the potential being fulfilled by quarterback Kyler Murray, who after a steady rookie season helped the Cardinals to an 8-8 season in 2020. He made the Pro Bowl and with Kliff Kingsbury adding a major WR talent in A.J. Green, that can only help Murray’s passing productivity in his third season in the NFL.

George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers)

  • Games played: 58
  • Madden rating: 96
  • Position: Tight-end
  • 2019 First-Team All Pro Tight End and two-time Pro Bowler

George Kittle came to prominence in the 2018 season as a 49ers team struggling for any momentum were helped by the tight end’s 1,377-yard season. He was just as effective in 2019 as San Francisco returned to the Super Bowl but had his 2020 campaign cut short and played just eight games due to a broken bone in his foot. If he returns at his best, the People’s Tight End will be a potent weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo (or Trey Lance) and Kyle Shanahan.

Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)

  • Games played: 160
  • Madden rating: 94
  • Position: Tight end
  • 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Winner

Seattle finally ‘Let Russ Cook’ in 2020, and he rewarded them with career-high numbers, with more completions and touchdowns than ever before in his career. Pete Carroll’s team had previously relied on outstanding defence but looked a more all-round unit last year, and the Super Bowl 49 winner will no doubt be the lynchpin of a playoff charge in what looks an outrageously tricky NFC West division.

Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)

  • Games played: 116
  • Madden rating: 99
  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • Three-time Defence Player of the Year (2017, 2018, 2020)

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year (DPOTY), defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been bullying offensive linemen and attacking quarterbacks since his rookie season in 2014. He is now a seven-time Pro Bowler and, remarkably, every time the Los Angeles Rams have made the playoffs, Donald has been named the DPOTY. Often double-teamed, apart from his own ridiculous stats, he creates room for his fellow defensive players to wreak havoc.

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