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MVP? Patrick Mahomes and players who bring the best value

A look at offensive and defensive players producing at bargain prices

NFL MVP is likely a two-man race between Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. These two quarterbacks have been outstanding at the sport’s most impactful position. It is hard to argue that any single player has been more valuable than either of them.

But what about the player who is the best value? Which player provides the most production per dollar?

With 31 passing touchdowns and a cap value of $24 million, Brees is costing the Saints $774,000 per touchdown. Or $284,000 for each of his league-leading 84.5 QBR points. By these metrics, Mahomes is a much better value than Brees. In the second year of his rookie contract, Mahomes’ cap hit is just $3.7 million. Yet he leads the league with 43 passing touchdowns and is second in the league with a QBR of 83.6. At $86,000 per touchdown or $44,000 per QBR point, the Chiefs are getting those “pay in cash and don’t ask questions” prices.

But there is a quarterback who undercuts even Mahomes. Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys’ 2016 fourth-round pick, has thrown 17 touchdowns so far this season and has a QBR of 53.8. Shameful numbers compared with Brees and Mahomes, but not as embarrassingly low as his cap hit of $726,000. Which makes him the best value per touchdown ($43,000) or QBR point ($13,000) in the league.

On the other end of the spectrum, due in part to his cap hit of $26.5 million, Matthew Stafford’s QBR of 50.7 cost the Detroit Lions $523,000 per QBR point. And his 18 touchdowns at this point in the season translate to almost $1.5 million per score, which is the worst ratio for a quarterback who has played in all his team’s games this season.

The best value at running back this season is Denver Broncos undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay. His cap hit of $485,000 divided by 967 rushing yards equals just over $500 per yard. His nine touchdowns come out to $54,000 every time he carried the ball into the end zone.

As for receivers, a couple of Pro Bowlers, the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper and Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill, are the best values, with cap hits of less than a million dollars. The San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle is the tight end who is the most productive for the cost.

On the defensive side of the ball, only three players are producing sacks for less than $100,000 each. With three games to go, Matt Judon has seven sacks for the Baltimore Ravens with a cap hit of $693,000 ($99,000 per sack). The only players getting to the quarterback for less are Detroit’s Romeo Okwara ($97,000 per sack) and Matthew Ioannidis ($84,000 per sack).

Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez is the cheapest tackler, making $726,000 for his 118 tackles ($6,000 per). And Damontae Kazee, a fifth-round pick for the Atlanta Falcons, who in his second season took over for an injured Keanu Neal, has snagged six interceptions with a cap hit of $627,000 ($104,000 per pick).

So while big-name veterans deservedly get most of the attention and money, having a collection of value players in a sport with a hard salary cap is just as important as having the most valuable player.

Domonique Foxworth is a writer at The Undefeated. He is a recovering pro athlete and superficial intellectual.