The NFL MVP Award is notoriously noted as a “QB Award” just like the Heisman Trophy in College Football as the last 17 players out of 20 to win the MVP have all been quarterbacks. The last non-QB to win the award was in 2012 when Adrian Petterson stopped QB Peyton Manning from capturing his 5th MVP of his career. Ever since then, it has turned back into the QB award but there was a chance for running back Todd Gurley to win MVP as he was a runner up in 2017 and to some was robbed of the award. Here are some non-QB players that have a chance to win the award in the near future.
#3 DT Aaron Donald
The last defensive player to win the award was LB Lawrence Taylor in 1986 who was also the first and only LB so far to win the award. Other than Taylor the other defensive player to win the award was DT Alan Page in 1971 who was the first defensive player to ever win the award. Donald may be the next defensive player to win the award as he is already a top-3 defensive line player in the league as over the years he has displayed his dominance.
In 2018 Donald had the best year of his career as a reigning Defensive Player of the Year as he led the league in sacks with an impressive 20.5 sacks just two away from tying Michael Straham’s league record for most sacks in the season. To top off Donald’s monstrous season he won his second consecutive DPOY becoming the third player to ever win back to back DPOY as the other two to win were JJ Watt and Lawrence Taylor. Donald had another solid year where he recorded 12.5 sacks (ranked 7th in the league), 2 forced fumbles, 20 tackles for loss (led the league), and 2 pass deflections.
If Donald has another monster season as he had in 2018 he would instantly become a no brainer to be in talks for the MVP. Donald has had the most total pressure since 2017 as he has a total of 302 pressures with the next closest person being Cameron Jordan with 242 pressures. Along with having the most total pressures among interior defenders with 80 once again having a huge margin as the player in second place had a total of 62. Pro Football Focus has graded Donald as the highest single-season pass-rusher for a defensive tackle for the last five seasons.
The numbers are there for Donald as his stats show why he is one of the best in the league and a one of a kind player that is seen once every couple of years. If the league was to ever consider a defensive player to win MVP without a doubt Donald would be on that list and could even win it with ease if he puts on a show this upcoming season.
#2 RB Christian McCaffrey
There have been a total of 20 running backs to win the MVP but most of them were back when the MVP was handed out to one player in the AFC and NFC. The most recent running back to win the award was Adrian Petterson in 2012 where his impressive season was enough to stop the “Sheriff” Peyton Manning from capturing his 4th award. If there is one running back in the league who can be the next player to win the award it has to be the best overall running back in the league McCaffrey as there isn’t anything he can’t do he can catch and run.
McCaffrey is a running back any NFL coach would love to have as he single-handedly carried the Carolina Panthers offense last year by doing all the running and catching. In 16 games last season McCaffrey recorded an impressive 1,387 rushing yards ranking third in the league and 1,005 receiving yards ranking first by running backs. McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards in receiving and rushing in one season, something making him the most dangerous running back in the league. Despite his impressive play, McCaffrey placed 3rd in voting for the Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 and fell in the shadows behind other impressive seasons like Michael Thomas and of course Lamar Jackson’s.
McCaffrey had the second-most receptions of 15+ yards amongst running backs in 2019 with 18 just thee away from first place. Ranks eight for most games with 7+ receptions since 2017 with 18 rankings better than receivers like Jarvis Landry, Steffon Diggs, and Golden Tate. Pro Football Focus ranked McCaffrey as the second-highest receiving grade in 2019 with 92.4 just 1.2 behind first place. McCaffrey was ranked third for rushes with 10+ yards before contact with 12 rushes just one away from first place. You can see why McCaffrey is one of the best running backs in the leagues it’s because he is more than just a running back as he is always consistent in the run and receiving game as each year in the league he records at least 400 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards along with a total of 7 touchdowns.
McCaffrey has the best chances to win MVP for a running back since he is more than just a runner and you don’t see many players like him. As one of the brightest stars in the league under 25 years old and barely entering his fourth year you can expect him to be a runner in the next couple of years and possibly win it in the future.
#1 WR Michael Thomas
Since the NFL has awarded the MVP there has been no receiver to be named MVP in the entire 64 years of the award’s existence there hasn’t been a receiver elected which is pretty crazy if you think about it. To think all of the past great receivers in the past like Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Steve Largent, and not a single one has been recognized as the best player is mind-blowing. Michael Thomas has a good chance to become the first wide receiver to capture that achievement of the MVP as he is coming off one of the best seasons a receiver could only dream about. Thomas’s Instagram username “Cantguardmike” isn’t just a name he uses for fun as for the second consecutive season he led the league in receptions and set the NFL record for receptions in a season with 149 receptions but did have the most targets by a receiver with 180.
Despite being the most targeted that doesn’t count out Thomas as one of the best receivers if not the best receiver in the league. Thomas also had 1,725 receiving yards for the 2019 season which he also ranked first in as the next closest person was Julio Jones who had 1,394 receiving yards. Thomas ranked first for most first downs with 91, yards after catch by a receiver with an impressive 582 yards, and yards per game by a receiver with an average of 107.8 yards. To top off his impressive season, Thomas won the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year becoming just the second player to ever win the award. Thomas could have even been a runner for the MVP in 2019 but his season was overshadowed by Lamar Jackson’s incredible season performance we will likely never see by another player.
Thomas has the most receiving yards after contact since the 2018 season with 632 yards and ranks second in highest catch rate on contested targets since 2019 with a 60% completion percentage just one percent behind first place. You can even call Thomas the best slant route runner in the league after what he did in the 2019 season as he had 30 receptions while being targeted 33 times and had 304 receiving yards all ranking first. Thomas has the most receptions in the first three career seasons for a player with 321 receptions along with being the most consistent receiver as each year he has had at least 92 receptions, 1,00+ receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns.
Without a doubt, Thomas will be a contender for MVP in the future and has the opportunity to achieve what no other WR has achieved in history by becoming MVP of the league. With how close he was to achieve that last year you can expect Thomas to be an MVP winner within the next five years.