Despite an 0-3 start to their season, the Indianapolis Colts are lucky to be fighting for a playoff spot in Week 18.
While several players contributed to their good fortune, Jonathan Taylor had the most significant impact on team success.
When Derrick Henry went down to injury, the former Wisconsin standout became the league’s top running back and dazzled football fans with outstanding performances every week.
His efforts placed him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player, making him one of two non-quarterbacks who are serious candidates for the prestigious award.
Jonathan Taylor is lapping the field 👀 pic.twitter.com/5xAnnC6qCp
— PFF (@PFF) January 4, 2022
Sportsbooks regard him as the third-best candidate to win MVP with odds of +1000.
That said, will voters for MVP cast their ballot for Taylor?
The Case For Taylor As MVP
Taylor carried his team, especially in the regular season’s second half.
He rushed for at least 100 yards in nine of his last 11 games.
In the two games he failed to reach the century mark, he still had 70 and 83 yards, respectively.
He had three games with 170 rushing yards or more during the same stretch.
Nobody creates big plays like Jonathan Taylor pic.twitter.com/YSXaVnOlDR
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) January 5, 2022
Taylor also led the Colts to a Week 15 win over the New England Patriots with 170 yards.
Undoubtedly, he was the best player of that game for Indianapolis because Wentz only had 57 passing yards while Zach Pascal topped the receivers with 23.
Jonathan Taylor has to be one of the most humble superstars I've ever witnessed. 💯pic.twitter.com/wFjYpzASZr
— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) December 29, 2021
But once they create the gaps at the line of scrimmage, Taylor is on his own to burst through.
As of Week 17, he leads the league in rushing yards (1,734), rushing touchdowns (18), big rushing plays (13), and rushing first downs (104).
Taylor is first in rushing yards per game among running backs who played 16 games with 108.4.
How Running Backs Became MVPs
There is no specific criteria for naming an NFL MVP.
However, three running backs have won the award since 2005.
A year later, the San Diego Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson became MVP after breaking the record with 28 touchdowns to go with 1,815 yards.
Most 1st down runs in a single season in PFF era (since 2006):
🥇 2021 Jonathan Taylor – 103 👀
🥈 2020 Derrick Henry – 97 pic.twitter.com/UoW11o6L56
— PFF (@PFF) January 5, 2022
Lastly, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson was the last running back to win the award.
In 2012, he became a member of the 2,000-yard rushing club with 12 touchdowns.
Based on these three instances, voters give the award to running backs if they’ve done something compelling or historical during the season.
That said, it’s unlikely for Taylor to win MVP even if he leads the league in several categories.
— Lawrence Owen (@Colts_Law) January 4, 2022
Either Rodgers or Brady will take the award given their magnificent play all season long.
Gaining over 2,000 yards or pushing for Tomlinson’s record will strengthen his case for recognition.
Likewise, Indianapolis’ 9-7 record is detrimental to his cause.
Jonathan Taylor has more rushing yards than 13 NFL teams have total 🤯 pic.twitter.com/IuxEsbQQAA
— PFF (@PFF) December 31, 2021
However, there must be no doubt that Taylor will become the new Offensive Player of the Year after Henry.
It would be an anomaly if his season went unrecognized.