Changes in AP NFL prize voting could hurt Patrick Mahomes’ chances

The Associated Press has announced significant changes to its NFL voting system, where voters can now vote for multiple candidates instead of just one

In a Friday press release, the Associated Press (AP) announced significant changes to its NFL awards voting system. These changes affect numerous awards, including MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Freshman of the Year, Offensive Freshman of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Assistant Coach of the Year, and Coach of the Year. The updates also include the first and second All-Pro teams.

AP voters can now rank their top 5 picks for MVP and top 3 picks for other individual awards with some kind of weighting system for first, second, third, etc. This is known as the ranked voting system. Additionally, voters can now separately vote for the first and second All-Pro teams. According to the press release, “This process will allow AP to nominate the runners-up and third-place finishers more seamlessly.”

This is no stranger to American sports, as both the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have similar systems for their honors, although points for each spot vary between awards.

This was long overdue in my opinion, as this change will stop voting for a single player for a given honor and theoretically allow for more accurate results in terms of which player truly deserves the award. With media members now able to include players in second through fifth place for MVP, this can increase the likelihood of a non-quarterback winning since a weighted system allows for multiple positions to be included on each ballot.

This would also help prevent vote splitting between players on the same team from potentially altering the final score. For example, the Denver Broncos’ John Elway won the 1987 NFL MVP award but received only 36 of the 84 votes (42.9%). The other 48 votes were split between San Francisco 49ers teammates Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. It is entirely plausible to conclude that had a ranking system been in place, Elway would not have won the honor this season, as many voters could have had Rice and Montana in first and second place, while Elway would have been in third place. Because it was a one-voter-one-vote structure, many of the media interviewed wanted to vote for a 49, but only had to choose one instead of two. Many believe that Jerry Rice would have won the 1987 MVP if the ranking system had been used then.

Regarding 2022, Pro Football Focus’ Timo Riske and Sam Monson have theorized that this change could benefit Patrick Mahomes:

They’re making great points as Patrick Mahomes is the current favorite for NFL MVP, but many people are divided on the more polarizing candidates, such as Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. Mahomes may not be everyone’s first choice, but he is undoubtedly a serious contender for the vast majority of voters. If the vote took place today, Mahomes will likely come in somewhere between first and third place on virtually every ballot, but the aforementioned players have major differences in terms of where they will end up on any given ballot, including first place or even outside of the ballot entirely. That would allow #15 to quietly pick up points and perhaps end up on top due to splitting between several other players.

But to be honest, much of this talk is silly as there is still a long way to go before the final vote takes place in January and the list of candidates will almost certainly change. Patrick Mahomes could stand out from the pack and leave voters little choice or see his chances drop like a stone with a shaky end to the season.