Predictions for who would win the NFL MVP award started in the preseason.
Given this peculiar 2021 season with injuries and inconsistent play, the natural frontrunners at that time may not still even be in the conversation.
The award really should be renamed the NFL Most Valuable Quarterback because quarterbacks have monopolized the award in recent years.
In the past 20 years, the award has been won by a quarterback 14 times.
The last player other than a quarterback to win is was running back Adrian Peterson in 2012.
2021 could very well be the year a player other than a quarterback wins the NFL MVP award.
Here are two dark horse candidates who could snatch the NFL MVP award.
No one would have expected either to be in the running in the preseason.
2. Cooper Kupp, Wide Receiver – Los Angeles Rams
He has already tied his career-high 10 touchdowns, and we are only 10 games into the season.
The last time he had 10 touchdowns was in 2019 through 16 games.
He is only 20 yards away from tying his 2019 career-high in receiving yards.
Kupp had 1,161 yards in 2019 and sits at 1,141 in 2021.
He is averaging 13.4 yards per reception and 114.1 yards per game.
Most receptions in NFL: 85 (Cooper Kupp)
Most rec yards in NFL: 1,141 (Cooper Kupp)
Most rec yds/gm in NFL: 114.1 (Cooper Kupp
Most receiving TD in NFL: 10 (Cooper Kupp)
Most 20-yard recs in NFL: 17 (Cooper Kupp)
Most rec first downs in NFL: 52 (Cooper Kupp) pic.twitter.com/JCcwcA9VUt
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) November 16, 2021
If he continues at this pace, he will be in contention for the NFL MVP.
He is considered a dark horse candidate because wide receivers never win.
Even Jerry Rice did not win the AP NFL MVP award.
He won the Pro Football Writers of America and Sporting News MVP awards but never the Associated Press award.
1. Jonathan Taylor, Running Back – Indianapolis Colts
Most would have predicted Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry as the first running back to win NFL MVP since Peterson.
Of course Derrick Henry, on pace to become the first RB since Adrian Peterson in 2012 to win the NFL MVP, would go down for the season
— Gabriel A. Dozier (@gabedozier) November 1, 2021
Henry was on an MVP pace before suffering a season-ending injury.
Jonathan Taylor has quietly emerged.
Jonathan Taylor: 24 runs of 10+ yards this season
Most in the NFL 🚀
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) November 17, 2021
He has 937 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in 10 games.
Taylor has 303 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown also.
The Indianapolis Colts are 5-5 which puts them in the AFC playoff mix.
If the Colts don’t make the playoffs, that will hurt Taylor’s chances as the MVP award normally is given to a player on a playoff or Super Bowl team.
Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions is a notable exception to that rule.
There are other candidates who could be first-time winners of the award despite obstacles like injuries and COVID-19 encountered during the season.
As strange as the year has been, the NFL MVP could be a player barely on the radar right now whose team is preparing to make a late season and playoff run.
For that reason, could New England Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones be in the running?
No one really knows who the winner will be until his name is announced in February.