Okay, hear me out.
It’s 2023. Everyone knows that the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award is now a “best quarterback” trophy; meanwhile, Offensive Player of the Year seems to be a “best player that isn’t a quarterback (but sometimes is still a quarterback)” award.
But that all could change this year, thanks to the Miami Dolphins’ number one wide receiver Tyreek Hill and the San Francisco 49ers’ starting running back Christian McCaffrey.
It’s been over a decade since running back Adrian Peterson claimed the award in 2012. The last time a non-quarterback/non-running back won was when the greatest defensive player of all time, Lawrence Taylor, won it in … 1986. That doesn’t sound like a long time until you realize Tom Brady was still in grade school when Taylor won.
Peterson nearly broke the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season during his MVP year, finishing with 2,097 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The last running back to ever receive votes was Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, who finished second to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Gurley still won Offensive Player of the Year.
McCaffrey’s case is simple. He’s the most dynamic player in the league and the heart and soul of the 49ers’ offense. The San Francisco RB attacks by ground and by air (not quite by sea), juking defenders behind the line and catching passes downfield when it matters most.
McCaffrey tied the NFL record for most consecutive games with a touchdown (17) and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
He’s racked up 1,086 yards from scrimmage and a whopping 13 touchdowns through his first nine games. At this rate, McCaffrey could finish top five in NFL history for all-purpose touchdowns (with around 25) and break 2,000 total yards.
Meanwhile, Hill would be the first wide receiver ever — let me repeat, ever — to win the MVP. Randy Moss couldn’t do it. Calvin Johnson Jr. couldn’t do it. The great Jerry Rice only got as close as second, which he did twice, I might add.
Los Angeles Rams star wideout Cooper Kupp finished 2021 ranking second all-time for receptions in a season (149) and yards in a season (1,947) while adding 17 all-purpose touchdowns, leading the league in each category, winning the receiver’s “triple crown.”
Despite arguably having the best receiving season in NFL history, Kupp finished third in the MVP race as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took home the trophy. Kupp still won Offensive Player of the Year.
Through nine games this season, Hill has 69 receptions, 1,076 yards and eight touchdowns. Assuming he keeps pace with those numbers, the “Cheetah” is looking at approximately 145 receptions, 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns — right around Kupp’s numbers from 2021. All Hill needs is one or two explosive games to pass Kupp, which is never out of the question in Miami’s high-octane offense.
McCaffrey and Hill do indeed stand a chance. They’re the faces of their respective team’s offenses, filling up the stat sheet every week, and they may break some NFL records as they go.
Will one of them win MVP? Probably not.
Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles is making a solid case for the award. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a frontrunner to take his second MVP. Doubting late-season Mahomes is as close as you can get to slander in the NFL. Even Texans rookie CJ Stroud is generating MVP hype.
But fans can still dream that maybe … just maybe … things could change. There’s always a chance. Peterson did it in 2012, and you can’t let quarterbacks have all the fun, right? Plus, there’s still Offensive Player of the Year, and that’s nothing to scoff at.