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Top Non-QBs Who Could be NFL MVP

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Todd Gurley and the Rams and agreed to a four-year contract extension with $45 million guaranteed, the largest guarantee ever given to a running back. Photo: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

By Michael Hanich |

The sport of football relies on every single position on the field including offense, defense, and special teams. The quarterback usually gets the glory and praise, especially in the NFL. It should come as no surprise that the Pro Football Writers Association NFL MVP award and the Associated Press NFL MVP award has been given to a quarterback every year (excluding in 2012 with RB Adrian Peterson) since 2007. This season, there are many players who do not play quarterback who are talented enough to dominate the league and receive the 2018-2019 NFL MVP award.

Last season, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the AP NFL MVP but it was Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley II who received the 2017 Offensive MVP award. Gurley ran all over opposing defenses for 1,305 yards (second in the league) and 13 touchdowns (first in the league) on 279 rushing attempts for an average of 4.7 yards per rush and 87 yards per game. Gurley also accounted for 788 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns from 64 receptions. Gurley, along with second year QB Jared Goff, helped the Rams become the top scoring offense in the NFL (29.9 points per game). There should be no doubt that Gurley does it again this upcoming season.

One of the biggest surprises last season was the emergence of rookie Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. After an injury to Spencer Ware, Hunt took over and became one of the most dangerous running backs in the league. Hunt accounted for 1,327 rushing yards (first in the league) and 8 touchdowns on 272 rushing attempts for an average of 4.9 yards per rush and 82.9 yards per game. With a full season behind him, Hunt might be even more dangerous as he will make QB Patrick Mahomes III’s opening season start more comfortable.

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was graded as one of the most efficient defensive backs in the league last year by almost every major sports news outlet. Ramsey accounted for 63 total tackles (53 solo tackles), 4 interceptions, and an incredible 17 pass deflections last season for the Jaguars’ top-ranked pass defense (169.9 passing yards allowed per game). In only two seasons in the league, Ramsey has secured himself as one of the top pass defenders in the league. His teammate defensive end Calais Campbell has also been responsible for the sudden surge of the Jaguars’ dominating defense. Last season in his first season with Jacksonville, Campbell accounted for 67 total tackles (47 solo tackles), 14 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks (second in the league), and 3 forced fumbles. There are many playmakers for the Jaguars second ranked scoring defense (22.6) but Ramsey and Campbell contribute so much that their individual responsibilities are easily recognized.

With the NFL being heavily dominated by passing orientated offenses, it is not uncommon for quarterbacks to get the awards. There are many wide receivers who get as much credit as their quarterbacks. Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins has had 3 of his last 4 seasons where he has accounted for 1,200 or more receiving yards in a season. Last season, Hopkins accounted for 1,378 yards (fourth in the league) and 13 touchdowns (first in the league) on 96 receptions. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been one of the most dominating players in the league since his 2011. Six of his last 7 seasons are seasons where he has accounted 1,100 yards or more including last season where he accounted for 1,533 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns on 101 receptions. Last season was a huge breakout season for fourth year Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen as he accounted for 1,276 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns on 91 receptions. With an elite quarterback in Kirk Cousins joining the Vikings, last year’s number for Thielen could be a small percentage of what is come against opposing defenses.

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones simply dominated against opposing offenses with his ruthless pass rush and consistent ability to get into the backfield. Last season, Jones accounted for 59 total tackles (52 solo tackles), an astounding 28 tackles for loss (first in the league), and 17 sacks. Jones’ sacks are almost half of what the total number of sacks the whole Arizona Cardinals defense accounted for with 37 (tied for 17th most in the league). Jones might be one of the most dominating defensive players in the league while at the same time being undervalued because of his team’s underwhelming performance during the season.

Michael Hanich is a sports journalist and analyst in Gulf Shores, Ala., who writes for multiple outlets, in print and online. Hanich is a student at the University of South Alabama seeking a master’s degree in communications with a concentration in journalism. 

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