As the NFL turns the page to the second quarter of its 2015 season, the league and its media cronies aren’t wasting any time in handing out early MVP frontrunners for the season. But it begs the question, what is a Most Valuable Player?
In NFL terms, it’s typically a quarterback whose team has the best record. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have all been MVPs because the league tends to glorify the man who holds the ball when it is snapped and has the spotlight shining the brightest upon him.
But the reality is that the Most Valuable Player is the player on a team that a franchise can least do without, whether it be a quarterback, a defensive end, a running back or a shutdown corner. When that player goes down, if there is a significant drop-off in production, his value is discovered the hard way.
Four games into the 2015 season, who is the Vikings MVP? Using the standard of where would the team be without a specific player, here is our short list of Minnesota MVP candidates.
Adrian Peterson – Few players in the league require as much defensive attention as Peterson. When he is on the field, the Vikings always figure to be in games. When he was sidelined last year, the Vikings offense sputtered more times than it clicked and having him back gives Minnesota a completely different look offensively.
Everson Griffen – A physical and emotional leader, Griffen is coming off a season that, had he played for Green Bay or New England, would have found him in the Pro Bowl. The Vikings knew what they were doing when they gave him a long-term contract and allowed Jared Allen to walk via free agency. He can singlehandedly change a game from the defensive side of the ball.
Harrison Smith – Safety is something of an unheralded position because, if you’re really good at your job, quarterbacks don’t throw the ball your way. Safety has been a weak spot of the Vikings for years, but not at free safety. Smith has become one of the dominant safeties in the league and is befitting of the nickname “Harry the Hitman.”
Teddy Bridgewater – You don’t go far in the NFL without having a good quarterback. Bridgewater isn’t at that point yet, but all signs point to him becoming more than simply a game manager, A student of the game, he still has a learning curve to figure out, but Vikings fans are feeling as good about the QB position today as they’ve felt in five years when they had veteran mercenary Brett Favre lining up under center.
Anthony Barr – Barr is a game-changer who can make the individual plays that can blow up a drive and win games. His athleticism in overtime at Tampa Bay last year proved that one player can win a game with one athletic play. The best part for Barr is that he is still just scratching the surface of what he can accomplish.
Linval Joseph – He and Sharrif Floyd have combined to give the Vikings the best defensive tackle tandem since the early days of the Williams Wall. Joseph doesn’t get the credit he is due because his job is to occupy two blockers and take away middle running lanes. He does the dirty work in the middle and, while it doesn’t get the acclaim other players receive, it is a necessary role on the team that would be hard to replace if he went down.
John Sullivan – We’ve seen what happens when Sully is sidelined. Both physically gifted and extremely intelligent, Sullivan adds punch to the Vikings offense in run blocking, pass protection and making line calls. He’s getting a little long in the tooth by NFL standards but still has what is necessary to do his job at an elite level.
Xavier Rhodes – In his first two seasons, Rhodes has matured as a player to the point where he can be put one-on-one with an opponent’s best wide receiver and be asked to shut him down and take him away from their offense. He gets called for too many penalties, but that’s part of being a shutdown cornerback. He isn’t Revis Island yet, but he could become Dead End Rhodes.
The fact that the Vikings have eight players that legitimately could vie for team MVP is reason for optimism moving forward. The Vikings have many of the component pieces already in place to be a champion. If they can keep them all healthy and on the field, there’s no telling how far the Vikings can go – in 2015 and beyond. With as many valuable players as they have, it’s a good problem to have when you have a lot of candidates looking to be deemed most valuable.