NFC West: Clay Matthews Jr.

Mike Sando's MVP Watch

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
12:00
PM ET
Tom Brady/Aaron RodgersUS PresswireTom Brady, left, and Aaron Rodgers own the top two spots in our first MVP watch list of the season.
Quarterbacks' recent grip on the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award could be slipping.

Peyton Manning's precarious health situation heading toward the Indianapolis Colts' 2011 opener leaves him ranked only 10th on our initial MVP Watch of the season.

It's nearly unfathomable.

Manning has won four of the last nine MVP awards in Associated Press balloting. Tom Brady commanded 99 of 100 votes in winning the 2007 and 2010 awards. He's the favorite this year, but if Manning fails to recapture his usual form after missing the exhibition season, non-quarterbacks can feel better about their chances.

Running backs LaDainian Tomlinson (2006), Shaun Alexander (2005) and Marshall Faulk (2000) are the only non-quarterbacks to win the award since 2000.

Defensive lineman Alan Page, kicker Mark Moseley and linebacker Lawrence Taylor defied the MVP odds even more improbably. They won the NFL's highest individual honor without handling the football regularly as a quarterback or running back. They were the exceptions since the Associated Press began naming MVPs back in 1957.

Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are the only non-quarterbacks appearing on the initial MVP Watch this season. I'll be watching Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Freeman, Clay Matthews Jr., Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and others during Week 1.

Who else deserves early consideration? Rotating additional players through the rankings will be a priority.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- Draft analyst Rob Rang is back with his best-case scenario for the Cardinals with the 31st overall choice of the 2009 NFL draft.

Rob Rang: I think there is going to be a running back there. Because there were some pretty disappointing times from the top two running backs, Knowshon Moreno from Georgia and 'Beanie' Wells from Ohio State. If Moreno were to slip all the way down there, that is truly the best-case scenario because they would get a superstar at that point in the draft.

I think if Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy is there, it would give them a speedier option to go along with Tim Hightower as a power back. That makes some sense.

If they wanted to go for a pass rusher and they would like to get a little younger on the outside, that is one of the strengths of this year's draft. You might be able to get one of those kinds of guys that was starting to slip down that way. Maybe a Brian Cushing is probably going to be gone, but Clay Matthews Jr. is a guy that could be available. Clint Sintim from Virginia could be available. Larry English from Northern Illinois.

There are a lot of those quote-unquote tweeners that go well as 3-4 rush linebackers that should be available at that point.

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