The last time a quarterback did not win the NFL MVP award was in 2012. That year, running back Adrian Peterson won the award after leading the league with 2,097 rushing yards. That was the second greatest single-season rushing mark in NFL history. Prior to that, it was running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 when he rushed for an NFL record 28 touchdowns. He was actually the second straight non-QB as running back Shaun Alexander won it the year prior when he equaled Priest Holmes’ single season TD record with 27.
All that is to say that a non-QB can win the award, but it requires a nearly record-setting performance. And this year, we might not see a record from an offensive non-QB even with the 17th game added to the schedule. And that likely means Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp will come up short in their respective bids for the 2021 NFL MVP award.
Taylor has carried this Colts offense in 2021, rushing for 1,626 yards and 17 touchdowns. His rushing total is 367 yards more than second place Joe Mixon. He also leads the league with 19 total scores, which is two more than second place Austin Ekeler. As of this article publishing, he has the second best odds to the win the MVP award at DraftKings Sportsbook, sitting at +600. Aaron Rodgers is currently the favorite at -175.
Kupp has dominated this season and leads the NFL with 1,734 receiving yards, which is 283 more than second place Justin Jefferson. With two games left, Kupp needs 231 yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving record. He currently has +1800 odds to win the MVP award, which is tied with Dak Prescott for sixth.
Both players are coming off strong Week 16 performances. Taylor rushed for 108 yards in a the Colts upset of the Cardinals while Kupp had 10 receptions for 109 yards in the Rams win over the Vikings that moved them into sole possession of first place in the NFC West. Both were important contributions, but to have a real shot, both were likely going to need multiple scoring efforts most of these final three weeks. They have a significantly smaller margin for error compared to quarterbacks.
Aaron Rodgers is all but certain to win the 2021 NFL MVP award. It might not be unanimous, but with the Packers winning and Rodgers having a strong season, that is likely enough to win it. He leads the NFL in passer rating and QBR and is first or second in several advanced stats. He’s not having a record-breaking year, but he’s doing enough that a non-position player would need something at or above a record-setting performance to win it. Taylor and Kupp will likely be the top two vote-getters for Offensive Player of the Year, but they are unlikely to win the MVP award.
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