When I did this little exercise last year, I openly struggled with my choice, going through seven different candidates before making my selection. This year, though, picking a most valuable player is a more straightforward task, with a couple obvious candidates, one dark horse, and no need for semi-serious jokes like last year's Eugene Amano nomination.
The one player I think many fans would consider but I did not was Chris Johnson. This season was more like 2012 or 2010 than 2011, with no head-scratchingly terrible moments and some occasional moments of being a good NFL running back. He also played all 16 games, as he has done every year except 2008, when he was a healthy scratch for the finale. Still, I did not think he was a good NFL running back this season, continued to be an arthymic runner with bad vision who looked too often to cutback and whose yards gained were overwhelmingly solely a function of the first- and second-level blocking.
The second player I considered was Michael Roos, whom I picked last year. While he clearly did not have a great year, he is still an above-average starter at a very important position. Picking him, though, feels like either a default choice, as was the case last year, or a way to honor the offensive line as a group, which is why I would have picked him in 2008. Neither was true this year, and Roos wasn't good enough to overcome that.
That leaves the last obvious choice, Kendall Wright, as my selection for the 2013 Tennessee Titans offensive MVP. He lost 14 pounds in the offseason, going from 201 his rookie year to 187, and it made all the difference in the world. Though still not the vertically explosive player he was at Baylor, he increased his yards per catch average from under 10 to 11.5, precisely the kind of improvement I wanted to see. More importantly, he did taking on a much greater share of the volume in the offense. He led the team with 94 catches and 1079 receiving yards. His best games probably came against Oakland, where he caught the winning touchdown to go over 100 yards for the first time in his career, and a 12-catch, 150-yard effort in the comeback against Arizona, including several grabs against Patrick Peterson. I still think the Titans could have really used Chandler Jones, but Wright was a vital cog that helped an oft-sluggish offense perform much more smoothly.
Picking Wright, though, causes me to instead consider another candidate. If you look at Football Outsiders' wide receiving efficiency numbers, Wright was not the most valuable Titans receiver on either a per-play basis or a total value basis. Those honors instead both belonged to Nate Washington, who had 156 DYAR to Wright's 96 and a 6.6% DVOA (28th) to Wright's -3.5% (58th). The obvious argument in favor of Wright is volume, with 94 catches to Washington's 58, but the yardage disparity isn't nearly that large (1079 to 919) and Washington still had plenty of volume-112 targets, which would have led the team last year. The strong contrarian in me would have loved to pick Washington. Ultimately, though, despite Washington's fine statistics, I considered Wright the better player and the bigger threat to opposing defenses, and I couldn't pick against that.