2021 NFL MVP odds, picks: Why Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen are best bets, plus more award picks from CBS staff

Written by on September 2, 2021

With the offseason saga between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers likely being at the forefront of your mind when the veteran quarterback comes up in conversation, don’t forget that he’s also entering the 2021 regular season as the defending league MVP. Rodgers took the league by storm last season and marched to the third MVP award of his career (first since 2014). As you’d expect, Rodgers is projected to once again be in the thick of the race this year, but he’s going to have some stiff competition as he tries to become the first player since Peyton Manning (2008, 2009) to repeat as MVP. 

What do we think? As we gear up for the start of the regular season, the NFL staff here at CBS Sports has been tasked with not only handing over their best bets for league MVP but a wide array of seasonal awards for you to ponder. Below you’ll find picks from NFL insiders Jason La Canfora and Jonathan Jones along with senior writer Pete Prisco, and staff writers Tyler Sullivan, John Breech, Ryan Wilson, Josh Edwards, Jordan Dajani, Jared Dubin, Bryan DeArdo and Jeff Kerr.   

Key MVP odds

Wilson: Aaron Rodgers (+1000). The man can take any slight — big or small, perceived or otherwise — and use it as fuel to demolish his detractors.

Sullivan: Tom Brady (+1200). Brady’s getting slept on here a little bit. Thanks to a seventh Super Bowl ring on his finger, we know that his first season in Tampa was a rousing success, but I’m not sure people realize that the Bucs could be even better during Brady’s second season with the club. If you take his final nine games of the 2020 season (including playoffs), and project that out over a 17-game schedule, Brady’s looking at over 5,100 yards passing and around 47 passing touchdowns. With the weapons that the Bucs have on offense, dare I say that’s doable? Brady’s giving me a 2013 Peyton Manning second year with Denver-type MVP vibe. 

La Canfora: Patrick Mahomes (+500). Patrick Mahomes is chalk for a reason. Many of them. 

Edwards: Josh Allen (+1200). Allen would become the second quarterback from that 2018 class to win MVP. He has progressed each season and I know there is another level for him to reach. The narrative has slowly changed and I believe the negative stigma of inaccuracy has dissipated enough to offer a chance for him to add some hardware. 

Dubin: Patrick Mahomes (+500). Mahomes is the league’s best player and will be my MVP pick for the foreseeable future.

Jones: Patrick Mahomes (+500). Until something drastic happens, he’s going to be my pick for this award every year.

Breech: Josh Allen (+1200). Allen finished second in the MVP voting last year in a season where he was just starting to figure out how to play QB in the NFL. In 2021, I think he puts it all together and becomes the first Bills MVP since Thurman Thomas in 1991.

DeArdo: Patrick Mahomes (+500). It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since Mahomes’ MVP season. If he and his supporting cast are healthy, Mahomes should be in a position to win his second MVP award. With a 17 game season, Mahomes is among the favorites to break Peyton Manning’s single-season passing record.

Dajani: Aaron Rodgers (+1000). We haven’t seen a player win MVP two years in a row since 2008-09 with Peyton Manning, but Rodgers could do it. Patrick Mahomes is the favorite for good reason, but I’m expecting another big season for Rodgers in what could be his “last dance.”

Kerr: Patrick Mahomes (+500): Aaron Rodgers needed an historic season to beat out Mahomes for this award. That’s what a quarterback needs to accomplish to take MVP honors away from a  player who sets a new record almost each week. The Chiefs are going to win a lot of games and Mahomes is going to put up big numbers. 

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Offensive Rookie of the Year best bets

Wilson: Najee Harris (+1000). Trevor Lawrence is the easy choice but the Steelers will lean on Harris as both a runner and receiver.

Breech: Mac Jones (+450). Over the past six years, this award has only gone to a running back or a quarterback, so I’m not going to outthink myself here. I think this award is going to go to one of the rookie quarterbacks and I think Jones is best set up for success in Year 1. 

La Canfora: Najee Harris (+1000). He’ll see the football a ton and do great things with it. 

Sullivan: Mac Jones (+450). Jones has shown enough this preseason that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are going to give him the keys to the Patriots offense right out of the gate. With that level of coaching behind him, his skill set, and the weapons New England brought in this offseason, he’ll put up numbers and the Pats should rival for a playoff spot. That puts him in a prime position to win this award. 

Dubin: Zach Wilson (+700). I don’t think Trey Lance or Justin Fields will play enough to get the award, and believe Wilson will be put in a better position to succeed by his coaching staff than will Trevor Lawrence.

Jones: Justin Fields (+700). He’ll see the field soon enough and make enough spectacular plays to go along with nice stats and a few wins (more than Lawrence or Wilson will get) to earn the award.

DeArdo: Mac Jones (+450). This year’s Justin Herbert? That may be a bit of a stretch, as Jones will probably not throw for over 4,300 yards and 30 touchdowns as Herbert did in 2020. That being said, it’s certainly reasonable to expect Jones to win at least as many games as Herbert did last season in Los Angeles. If he is able to help get the Patriots to the playoffs, Jones will likely take home the award. 

Edwards: Trey Lance (+700). I have been on the bandwagon that Lance should start in Week 1. He developed a good understanding of coverages and protections at North Dakota State so he just needs repetitions. Lance should be able to get yardage through the air and on the ground. He stands to achieve the highest level of team success if San Francisco goes to him early. 

Prisco: Trevor Lawrence (+350). He doesn’t have a great supporting cast, but he will still put up impressive numbers. The defense won’t be great, so he might be forced to do so. 

Dajani: Javonte Williams (+2200). How’s this for a long shot? I’m going to go bold and fade the quarterbacks here and take a running back. Najee Harris could be worth a bet too, but Williams could play a big role in Year 1. The Broncos named Teddy Bridgewater their starting quarterback, which bodes well for Williams. It means he will get some catches out of the backfield while he replaces Phillip Lindsay, but he also could surpass Melvin Gordon as the No. 1 running back. Denver can’t win if the Broncos put everything on the arm of Bridgewater, which is why I think Williams could potentially break out in this offense.  

Kerr: Najee Harris (+1000): Not only is Harris the feature back in Pittsburgh, but he’s explosive catching passes out of the backfield just as he is when he gets a carry behind the line of scrimmage. An improved Steelers offensive line will really help his chances here. 

Note: Some of these selections were submitted prior to Mac Jones becoming the Patriots Week 1 starter 

Defensive Rookie of the Year best bets

Wilson: Joe Tryon (+2000). The Bucs defense somehow got better and Tryon has a chance to feast off the edge because opposing teams can’t afford to double-team anyone along Tampa Bay’s front seven.

La Canfora: Micah Parsons (+600). He’ll make a ton of plays and have a chance to make a lot of plays on a bad D.

Dubin: Micah Parsons (+600). Parsons plays for the league’s most visible team and is going to be on the field all the time, which will allow him to make a ton of tackles. Voters love tackles.

Sullivan: Kwity Paye (+1100). Little bit of a value play here. Paye has shown this preseason that he has a knack for getting after the quarterback and that should translate into the regular season. Opposing offenses will prioritize containing DeForest Buckner on the interior, which should open up some opportunities for Paye to pile up sacks. 

Jones: Micah Parsons (+600). It took less than 10 snaps at the Hall of Fame Game to see this guy is the real deal. Add in the visibility on America’s Team and he’s a no-brainer.

DeArdo: Patrick Surtain II (+800). Surtain quickly made his presence felt with a pick-six in Denver’s preseason opener. If he can help the Broncos defense contain Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, the former Alabama standout could become the first Bronco since Von Miller to win the honor. 

Breech: Jaelan Phillips (+900). Phillips is playing for one of the smartest defensive minds in the NFL (Brian Flores) and I have a feeling Flores will make Phillips look like a star this year. 

Prisco: Joe Tryon (+2000). He has been a dominant player in the preseason. The only thing that could hold him down is playing time. But I think he will get enough of it to sniff double-digit sacks. 

Dajani: Micah Parsons (+600). Parsons is a player that is going to be an immediate impact guy for the Cowboys. He was one of the best players in the draft and will prove that in his first season.

Edwards: Micah Parsons (+600). Although I believe Patrick Surtain II will have the best career, it is historically difficult for cornerbacks to win the award because their position does not have the inherent stat-stuffing potential. Three of the past five winners of this award have been edge rushers averaging nine sacks. I do not see an edge rusher with that ceiling as a rookie. Parsons has been all over the field in the preseason and could post an eye-popping statistical season.

Kerr: Micah Parsons (+600): Parsons can play multiple positions on Dan Quinn’s defense and immediately makes Dallas’ defense better. The Cowboys defense was horrendous throughout 2020 — and Parsons is the player that makes that defense good enough to determine the NFC East title. 

Be sure to check out Josh Edwards’ extensive DROY and OROY preview here!

Defensive Player of the Year best bets

Wilson: T.J. Watt (+650). He led the NFL in sacks a year ago and lost out to Aaron Donald.

La Canfora: Myles Garrett (+650). He leads the NFL in sacks and brings home the hardware.

Dubin: Aaron Donald (+400). Donald is the best defensive player I’ve personally ever seen, and should probably win DPOY every year.

DeArdo: T.J. Watt (+650). Watt finished runner-up to Aaron Donald for this award last year. Watt’s current contract situation (which has led to him only doing individual drills during training camp) made me somewhat hesitant to pick him. That being said, Watt has only gotten better since breaking into the league in 2017. He also has the luxury of playing alongside Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith, who seems poised for a big year himself. 

Jones: TJ Watt (+650). He was close last year and may finally wrest the title away from Aaron Donald, the best defender in the game.

Sullivan: Nick Bosa (+1200). Another sleeper to keep an eye on. Bosa is back healthy after missing the bulk of the 2020 season due to a torn ACL and should slot back into being one of the most feared pass rushers in the entire NFL. As a rookie in 2019, Bosa totaled nine sacks and 45 pressures. So long as he’s healthy, he’ll push for the league lead in sacks and be in the thick of this race by the end of the year. 

Edwards: Myles Garrett (+650). I fell short on my prediction of T.J. Watt last year. I believe that teams will be throwing more against Cleveland this year. If Garrett can remain available, which he has yet to do in his career, then I foresee a monster season. At some point, voter fatigue is going to set in with Aaron Donald even though I do not believe it should.

Breech: T.J. Watt (+650). He got robbed last year and I have a feeling he’s going to take that out on every offense he faces in 2021. 

Prisco: Devin White (+3000). The obvious choice would be Aaron Donald to win it again. But I think White in Tampa Bay’s defense will get a ton of splash plays. That will get him the award. 

Dajani: Myles Garrett (+650). Garrett has been close to winning this award before, and I think 2021 could be the year. Cleveland’s improved defense could help him, as could the addition of Jadeveon Clowney on the edge opposite of him.

Kerr: Aaron Donald (+400): Feels silly to pick against Donald for any major defensive award, even if he just turned 30. Donald was the only player with over 85 pressures last season (he had 104). 

Comeback Player of the Year best bets

Wilson: Dak Prescott (+220). The Cowboys’ hope of even sniffing the playoffs relies solely on Prescott’s right arm.

La Canfora: Joe Burrow (+750). Burrow will be himself soon enough and had some intriguing pieces around him

Dubin: Dak Prescott (+220). Prescott’s closest competition for CPOY is likely to come from Christian McCaffrey, but Dak’s injury was so gruesome that I think he gets the nod if he performs at an average or better level, regardless of what CMC does.

Jones: Derwin James (+1800). Many of my colleagues will take Dak Prescott here and I respect that. But the Chargers will be in the playoffs this season and it’ll be due in large part to the versatility of James.

DeArdo: Christian McCaffrey (+750). It should be a close race between Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow and Christian McCaffrey. I’ll go with McCaffrey, who had been given the mantle as the NFL’s best running back prior to last season’s injuries. If healthy, McCaffrey could become the first player in league history to post 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season on separate occasions.

Edwards: Dak Prescott (+220). The award is likely to come down to Joe Burrow and Prescott. The latter is destined for more individual and team success. The Cowboys have a wealth of offensive weapons that should enable the quarterback’s success. 

Breech: Jameis Winston (+750). He’s not coming back from an injury (unless you count his pride getting hurt), but after being relegated to backup duties in 2020, it would be quite the career comeback if Wintson can lead the Saints to the playoffs and I think he will. 

Sullivan: Dak Prescott (+220). Sometimes you just have to take the layup. As long as Prescott is healthy and plays all 17 games, he’ll have the numbers that will have him running away with this award.  

Prisco: Dak Prescott (+220). That’s easy. He will bounce back from his ankle injury to win the award. He will show why the Cowboys paid him the big-money contract by putting up big numbers. 

Dajani: Dak Prescott (+220). Prescott is the favorite to win this award and I think he takes it home if he remains healthy. The quarterback for America’s Team was on track for a historic season before his ankle injury, and we all know he can put up some big numbers in this loaded offense. 

Kerr: Christian McCaffrey (+750). A healthy McCaffrey in Joe Brady’s offense could see the running back put up 2,000 yards from scrimmage again. If McCaffrey rushes for 1,000 yards and catches for 1,000 yards, how does he get denied this honor? 

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