Week 17 Power Rankings: Non-quarterback MVPs for all 32 teams

Since 2001, quarterbacks have won the NFL MVP award 14 out of 17 times. Quarterbacks deservedly receive the lion’s share of the attention when it comes to team MVP talk, too. But who would the most valuable contributors be if quarterbacks were taken out of the mix? Our NFL Nation reporters have their picks.

How we rank: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluated how teams stack up through 16 weeks of the season.

Previous rankings: 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

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Week 16 ranking: 1

Non-QB MVP: WR Michael Thomas. An equally strong case could be made for RB Alvin Kamara, DE Cameron Jordan and maybe DT Sheldon Rankins, among others. But Thomas gets my nod because the Saints have been so thin at wide receiver this year that they have often forced the ball to him in double coverage — and he so often delivers. Thomas leads the NFL in receptions with 120, to go with 1,376 yards and nine touchdowns. — Mike Triplett

Week 16 ranking: 4

Non-QB MVP: Between RB Todd Gurley II and DT Aaron Donald, it’s difficult to choose one. Gurley leads the NFL with 21 touchdowns and ranks second in rushing with 89.4 yards per game. Donald has set the single-season sack record for a defensive tackle with 19.5 and has a shot at Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5 in the team’s regular-season finale against the 49ers. Gurley and Donald for non-QB co-MVPs. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 16 ranking: 3

Non-QB MVP: WR Tyreek Hill. He would be next in line behind QB Patrick Mahomes for Chiefs MVP. He’s Kansas City’s playmaker, with 27 scrimmage plays of 20 yards or more plus a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown. — Adam Teicher

Week 16 ranking: 2

Non-QB MVP: PK Michael Badgley. Last season, the Chargers were a consistent kicker away from making the postseason. After Caleb Sturgis struggled earlier in the year, the Chargers released him and finally settled on Badgley, an undrafted rookie. That move paid big dividends. The University of Miami product has made 15 of 16 field goals, including a franchise-record 59-yarder, as well as 24 of 25 extra points, earning him the nickname “Money Badger.” — Eric D. Williams

Week 16 ranking: 5

Non-QB MVP: OLB Khalil Mack. He has elevated the Bears’ defense to another level. Mack leads the team in sacks (12.5), forced fumbles (six) and fumble recoveries (two). He’s been virtually unblockable at times this year. Mack’s presence also helped three other Bears defenders earn Pro Bowl nods for the first time in their careers: Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. — Jeff Dickerson

Week 16 ranking: 7

Non-QB MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore, and it’s a fairly easy choice. The team’s only other Pro Bowler alongside Tom Brady, Gilmore has consistently provided lockdown coverage in a variety of challenging matchups, making the team’s five-year, $65 million investment in him as a free agent in 2017 look quite shrewd. — Mike Reiss

Week 16 ranking: 6

Non-QB MVP: J.J. Watt. His return has helped propel the Texans’ defense into one of the NFL’s best. Houston’s defense is sixth in the league, allowing 20.9 points per game. After missing most of last season, Watt is a legitimate candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He has 14.5 sacks and has often pressured opposing quarterbacks into making bad decisions, resulting in interceptions. — Turron Davenport

Week 16 ranking: 10

Non-QB MVP: CB Marlon Humphrey. He’s become the best player on the NFL’s best defense. Humphrey leads the Ravens with 14 passes defensed and has made an interception in the fourth quarter in the past two games, including a game-sealing one in the end zone last Saturday. In two games without Humphrey this season, Baltimore is 0-2 and allowed an average of 30 points. A first-round pick a year ago, Humphrey will only get better. — Jamison Hensley

Week 16 ranking: 11

Non-QB MVP: LB Bobby Wagner. A case could easily be made for Chris Carson now that he’s become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Marshawn Lynch in 2014, but the pick here is Wagner. He’s well over 100 tackles for the seventh straight season, he has excelled in pass coverage and he’s held together a defense that lost so many marquee names over the past calendar year. And he’s done it largely without linebacker mate K.J. Wright, which has put even more on Wagner’s plate in terms of pre-snap communication. — Brady Henderson

Week 16 ranking: 9

Non-QB MVP: LB Darius Leonard. The rookie is the Andrew Luck of the defense for the Colts. Leonard, the second-round pick out of South Carolina State, instantly became the leader of the surprising Colts defense. The coaching staff trusted Leonard enough to have him wear the earpiece for the play calls in his helmet. Leonard heads into the final week of the season leading the NFL in tackles with 155, which is 23 more than the next closest player. — Mike Wells

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Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman debate whether the Cowboys are lucky or good after Dallas clinched an NFC East title with a win over Tampa Bay.

Week 16 ranking: 8

Non-QB MVP: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who edges WR Antonio Brown and LB T.J. Watt in a close race. Brown is a natural selection because of the defensive attention he draws, but Smith-Schuster has been the Steelers’ most consistent option all season, leading the team in catches (106), yards (1,389) and targets (156). He consistently made big plays, including two of 75 or more yards. Brown produced another 100-catch season and Watt led the team with 12 sacks, but Smith-Schuster’s multifaceted role in the slot and outside helped the offense hum without Le’Veon Bell. — Jeremy Fowler

Week 16 ranking: 12

Non-QB MVP: RB Ezekiel Elliott. He is set to win his second rushing title in three seasons. Elliott is the focal point of the offense. Not only does he lead the team in rushing, he leads the team in receptions. The Amari Cooper trade had a big effect on the Cowboys, but the team’s success comes through Elliott and the running game. He sets the pace for how the Cowboys want to play. Right guard Zack Martin went so far as to call him the best player in football. — Todd Archer

Week 16 ranking: 13

Non-QB MVP: DE Danielle Hunter. He went from underrated up-and-comer to elite pass-rusher during his breakout season in 2018. The fourth-year defensive end is earning every penny of the mega-contract extension he signed this offseason and currently ranks No. 2 in sacks (14.5) behind Aaron Donald. Hunter may be young, but he is one of the most important players this franchise boasts, regardless of position. What he does makes the entire defense go, from the front end to the back seven. — Courtney Cronin

Week 16 ranking: 14

Non-QB MVP: RB Derrick Henry. His physical play ignited the Titans’ offense at just the right time. Henry ran for a franchise-record 238 rushing yards in a Week 14 win over the Jaguars that included four touchdowns. The Titans are 5-0 when Henry carries the ball 15 or more times. The defense feeds off of Henry’s play. Brian Orakpo said he loves how Henry pounds opposing defenses and it makes the defense want to get the ball back by matching Henry’s hard-core physicality on its side of the ball. — Turron Davenport

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Nick Foles discusses the Eagles’ ability to handle adversity in their back-and-forth shootout with the Texans.

Week 16 ranking: 15

Non-QB MVP: TE Zach Ertz. Although DT Fletcher Cox has wreaked havoc inside all year and is also worthy of consideration, Ertz has had a historic season, setting a new record for most catches in a season by a tight end (113). In an offense that has lacked consistency, Ertz has been the one constant force. — Tim McManus

Week 16 ranking: 17

Non-QB MVP: RB Nick Chubb has been consistent and productive since he became the starter after the trade of Carlos Hyde. Chubb has averaged more than 5 yards per carry and has 10 runs of longer than 20 yards. Four of those runs are longer than 40 yards, including a team-record 92-yarder. Chubb’s running has been key in opening up the offense. — Pat McManamon

Week 16 ranking: 19

Non-QB MVP: Davante Adams, and it’s not even close. In fact, he’s the team MVP even if you include the quarterback. Adams has been one of the few bright spots on offense. He became only the third receiver in Packers history to catch 100 passes in a season (Sterling Sharpe did it twice, Robert Brooks once), and he went over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. He’s been a touchdown machine and well worth the four-year, $58 million contract extension he signed a year ago. — Rob Demovsky

Week 16 ranking: 18

Non-QB MVP: CB Xavien Howard. He has been the Dolphins’ best player this season, as evidenced by him being named the team’s lone Pro Bowl selection. Howard is still tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions despite missing the past three games with a knee injury. The third-year cornerback out of Baylor has established himself as one of the best young cornerbacks in the game and a player worth making a core piece of the Dolphins’ defense. — Cameron Wolfe

Week 16 ranking: 16

Non-QB MVP: RB Christian McCaffrey. The second-year player broke the NFL’s single-season record for receptions by a running back — he has 106; Matt Forte had 103 in 2014 — and became the third running back in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards rushing and 100 receptions. He has played over 97 percent of the offense’s snaps, well more than any other back in the league. You could argue the offense went through McCaffrey as much as it did Cam Newton. — David Newton

Week 16 ranking: 20

Non-QB MVP: LB Von Miller. He edges rookie RB Phillip Lindsay, but it isn’t by much. Lindsay has certainly been a revelation as an undrafted player who has become the hub of the wheel on offense. But Miller, who entered Week 16 with 14.5 sacks, has been everything the Broncos needed on defense. The attention he draws from opposing offenses has also contributed to Bradley Chubb‘s success as a rookie. Miller has played the run well and had the interception that keyed the win over the Chargers in November. — Jeff Legwold

Week 16 ranking: 22

Non-QB MVP: WR Julio Jones. The six-time Pro Bowler’s value extends beyond the numbers, although Jones currently leads the league with 1,539 receiving yards (104 catches). Jones constantly draws extra defensive attention, which opens up one-on-one opportunities for his teammates. And his incredible catch radius means Matt Ryan doesn’t have to throw every ball perfectly. — Vaughn McClure

Week 16 ranking: 21

Non-QB MVP: RB Adrian Peterson. He’d be the guy even taking quarterbacks into consideration. When he ran well, the Redskins either won the game or had a chance to win. Saturday’s game against Tennessee was a prime example; the Redskins were using a fourth set of starting guards, yet Peterson ran for 119 yards, topping 1,000 yards for the season in the process. In their seven wins, he has averaged 97.1 yards rushing. His attitude has been a pleasant surprise for teammates and coaches, too. Had the Redskins not signed Peterson in August, a week after losing Derrius Guice, they would not have been in playoff contention this late in the season. — John Keim

Week 16 ranking: 23

Non-QB MVP: RB Saquon Barkley. It is really not even close, even if the quarterback is an option. He has played in all 15 games and has a chance to be the third rookie in NFL history to reach 2,000 total yards from scrimmage. Barkley leads the team in touchdowns with 14 and has rewritten the franchise’s rookie record book. Believe it or not, Barkley has been better than expected as the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. — Jordan Raanan

Week 16 ranking: 24

Non-QB MVP: WR Mike Evans. Regardless of whether Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick was at QB, nobody was more dependable this year than Evans. With 1,418 receiving yards through 16 games, Evans currently has the third-most receiving yards in the league, and he’s only four yards shy of breaking the Bucs’ single-season receiving record set by Mark Carrier in 1989. He also joins the likes of Randy Moss and A.J. Green as just the third player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first five seasons. “He’s one of the best players to play the game,” Winston said. “I’m just happy I get to throw that guy the ball.” — Jenna Laine

Week 16 ranking: 25

Non-QB MVP: RB Joe Mixon. The Bengals didn’t really have an MVP this season, especially with everyone getting hurt. If A.J. Green had stayed healthy, it certainly would’ve been him, but Mixon gets the nod by simply being the last man standing. Mixon crossed the 1,000-yard threshold against the Browns and has been the only real bright spot on a team depleted by injuries. — Katherine Terrell

Week 16 ranking: 26

Non-QB MVP: LB Jarrad Davis. The Lions have found a strong role for their 2017 first-round pick. He has developed immensely as a pass-rusher and should be a player Detroit can count on for at least the next two seasons. He’s still a smart, instinctual player, and his ability to hit and read plays has continued to develop. Missed tackles remain a problem, but overall, Davis has shown that he can be a good middle linebacker (and perhaps a better pass-rushing linebacker) at this level. — Michael Rothstein

Week 16 ranking: 28

Non-QB MVP: DE Calais Campbell. He has been the heart and soul of the Jaguars’ defense since he arrived in 2017. What he’s done this season, however, goes beyond his franchise-record 14.5 sacks and All-Pro honors last year. Campbell has 9.0 sacks and a team-high 17 tackles for loss despite battling injuries to both knees, an ankle, a hand and his lower back. He hasn’t played a game fully healthy all season. CB Jalen Ramsey is the team’s best player, but Campbell is right behind him. Multiple players said after Sunday’s game that they were amazed at what Campbell has done this year. — Mike DiRocco

Week 16 ranking: 27

Non-QB MVP: LB Lorenzo Alexander. There is not a clear standout performer on the Bills’ second-ranked defense, but Alexander, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks, has been one of several key pieces. Where Alexander stands out most is in the locker room, where the 35-year-old team captain has helped instill coach Sean McDermott’s culture among younger players. “To be around a guy like that, I think goes a long ways,” McDermott said earlier this month. — Mike Rodak

Week 16 ranking: 29

Non-QB MVP: TE George Kittle. DT DeForest Buckner is a worthy candidate, but Kittle’s emergence has been the biggest development for the Niners. Kittle set the franchise record for most receiving yards by a tight end and became the first at his position in team history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards — and he did it all by the end of Week 14. He still has a chance to break the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season (he needs 100 yards in the finale to surpass the 1,327 mark of Rob Gronkowski in 2012) though he must also outpace Kansas City’s Travis Kelce to claim it. — Nick Wagoner

Week 16 ranking: 30

Non-QB MVP: Safety Jamal Adams. A no-brainer. The 2017 first-round pick has been a force all season, with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles to earn his first Pro Bowl selection. More than anything, he was a tone-setter on and off the field. He’s the Jets’ only true blue-chip talent. — Rich Cimini

Week 16 ranking: 31

Non-QB MVP: TE Jared Cook. The veteran is enjoying what is by far his finest NFL season … in his 10th year in the league. Entering Monday night’s game against the Broncos, the 31-year-old Cook has already set career highs in catches (63), receiving yards (848) and receiving TDs (6) and leads Oakland in all three categories. Cook, who was one of the Raiders’ biggest Pro Bowl snubs, has already been called the team MVP by coach Jon Gruden. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 16 ranking: 32

Non-QB MVP: There are the obvious choices: Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, even David Johnson. But the Cardinals’ non-QB MVP is punter Andy Lee. Without Lee, who knows where the Cardinals would be? (Hint: Probably not much worse than 3-12, but it’s possible.) Lee has been the Cards’ lone saving grace this season with his ability to flip the field and put the defense in a position the offense couldn’t: To work with a long field behind it. Lee ranks first in punts, punting yards and net punting yards. He has six touchbacks, 27 punts inside the 20, 11 punts inside the 10 and one inside the 5. — Josh Weinfuss

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