There have been a ton of prediction articles this offseason attempting to guess who will be crowned as the NFL’s MVP in 2021. Names like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Aaron Rodgers have been listed as potential candidates to take home the prestigious award. Quarterbacks have been typically favored to win the award, so picking a quarterback is definitely the safest option.
While saying Mahomes, Jackson, Allen, and Rodgers to win MVP isn’t considered bold, what if you elected to favor the rest of the field to win the award? Who would be the best under-the-radar choices to end up winning the NFL’s MVP trophy this season?
As we prepare for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, here are my dark-horse candidates to win NFL MVP in the upcoming campaign.
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Once again, quarterbacks are always going to be the favorites to win MVP due to them being the most important position on the field. While quarterbacks in general are going to be favored to take home the hardware, ones that can contribute in the running game may have an edge over the rest of the field.
Kyler Murray is a name to watch as he enters his third season with the Arizona Cardinals. Murray is a dual-threat quarterback that finished with nearly 4,000 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 819 rushing yards, and 11 rushing touchdowns in 2020.
With Murray getting another offseason to work with DeAndre Hopkins, along with A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, and Chase Edmonds, he could definitely put up an MVP-worthy season in 2021.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
Another quarterback that hasn’t been mentioned much in MVP talks is Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans. Tannehill has revived his career in the NFL since being traded to the Titans a few years ago. Even though Tennessee’s offense goes through Derrick Henry, Tannehill has done a remarkable job being efficient through the air in recent seasons.
Just last season, Tannehill threw for 3,819 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions while adding 266 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. While losing Arthur Smith as his offensive coordinator hurts, Tannehill did get another shiny weapon in Julio Jones this offseason.
Being able to throw to Jones, A.J. Brown, and hand the ball off to Henry makes Tannehill a perfect dark-horse candidate to win NFL MVP this season.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
As previously mentioned, the Titans love to have their offense run through Henry and the rushing attack. Henry has carried the ball 681 times in the past two seasons combined, which shows how much they lean on the All-Pro running back. If it weren’t for Aaron Rodgers lighting it up for the Green Bay Packers, Henry could have easily won MVP in 2020 with his 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.
Even though Henry doesn’t contribute much in the passing game, if he has an uptick in targets, there’s a chance he cements himself as an MVP candidate for the second straight season. We haven’t seen a running back win the NFL’s MVP award since Adrian Peterson achieved the feat in 2012.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Not one, but two running backs to make the list? Unlike Henry, Christian McCaffrey is heavily utilized in the passing game, which could help him record gaudy numbers that put him in a position to win MVP. McCaffrey is returning from an ankle injury that limited him to three games in 2020.
Despite the injury, McCaffrey is expected to assume his role as a workhorse for the Carolina Panthers. The good news for McCaffrey is that he gets an upgrade at quarterback from Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Darnold this season. Darnold hasn’t done much in the NFL yet, but I believe he’s going to be successful under Joe Brady.
Even with D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson commanding touches, McCaffrey should see 300+ touches — barring another injury — which should put him in a prime position to end the streak of running backs falling short of winning MVP.