what 5 non-QBs might be in the chase?
It’s been eight years since anyone other than a quarterback won the NFL MVP award.
Running back Adrian Peterson’s 2,097-yard season for the Minnesota Vikings made him the only non-QB winner in the past 14 years. Prior to that, the running backs had won back-to-back years, when Shaun Alexander triumphed in 2005 and LaDainian Tomlinson followed in 2006.
Why is it so difficult for non-neighborhoods to claim the prize? For a player to be the most valuable, they must not only be the star player of the team, but be able to lift the team above their shoulders and carry them to victory.
If a receiver is having an explosive year, there’s a good chance their QB facilitated that achievement. No defensive player has won the MVP title in 34 years, but with the NFL’s transition to an assists league in recent years, the time may have come when a dominant passer will become the most impactful player.
Which 5 non-QBs could be MVP candidates in 2021?
# 1 – Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams
Aaron Donald has won Defensive Player of the Year three times in four years, an award no player has ever won four times. The Los Angeles Rams Wrecking Ball is running out of rewards to collect, so maybe if the defensive tackle has another monster season, it’s time to elevate him in the MVP conversation.
No non-QB has affected the NFL more than Donald in recent years. His relentless pressure down the middle of the offensive line ruins game plans and constantly disrupts quarterbacks. Donald is 1.5 sacks off the Rams franchise record and he’s only 30 years old. If Donald were to win the MVP title, it would be recognition of an unprecedented job over the past five years.
# 2 – TJ Watt, outside linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers
Only two defensive players have been recognized as MVP and no defenseman has broken through since Lawrence Taylor in 1986, but if anyone can break the MVP glass ceiling it could be Pittsburgh Steelers pressure cooker TJ Watt.
After signing a $ 112 million contract to become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player, Watt could be on the verge of reaching territory his big brother JJ has never reached. The 26-year-old led the league in sacks, hits and tackles for the QB for losses last season to establish himself as the most dangerous passer in the NFL.
It wasn’t quite enough to win the DPOY award from Donald’s hands – but another year like 2020 and Watt could reach new heights in the MVP race.
# 3 – Derek Henry, running back, Tennessee Titans
History dictates that if a player wants to snatch the MVP award from a QB, it will be a game-changer. For that, look no further than Derek Henry. His 182-yard, three-touchdown outing against the Seattle Seahawks in Week Two reminded the NFL of how Henry has the ability to singlehandedly lead the Tennessee Titans to road victory over a Super Bowl contender. .
Henry rushed for 2,027 yards in 2020, the same milestone that earned Peterson the MVP award in 2012. No running back in NFL history has ever staged straight 2,000-yard seasons. If Henry can break that record and lead the league in rushing yards and touchdowns for a third straight year, it would be difficult to deny the 27-year-old a place at the MVP table.
# 4 – Christian McCaffrey, running back, Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey is the heart of the Carolina Panthers’ offense and if his team produced a surprisingly dominant season, like when they went 15-1 in 2015, it would be the versatile running back who would be the star of the show.
In 2019, McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards that same year. An injury ruined his 2020 season, but the 25-year-old already appears to be back to his best, averaging 85 rushing and 77 receiving yards per game with the Panthers at 2-0 through the week. 2.
In an extended 2021 season, McCaffrey could reach 1,500 yards in each category, which would certainly deserve to be considered an MVP.
# 5 – Nick Chubb, running back, Cleveland Browns
Perhaps the biggest wild card on this list, Nick Chubb will need to have the biggest breakout season of his career to enter the MVP race. The Cleveland Browns roster is stacked and if head coach Kevin Stefanski’s squad becomes the flagship team for the 2021 season, Chubb would be one of their driving forces.
Based on that, that nomination could have also been attributed to teammate Myles Garrett, but history suggests running backs have more MVP appearances than defensive players. Cleveland’s offense is built around Chubb, and the fourth-year running back enters a year on contract, with all the motivation to beat his previous best season by 1,494 yards.