5 Non-Quarterbacks Who Deserve NFL MVP Consideration in 2020

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2020

5 Non-Quarterbacks Who Deserve NFL MVP Consideration in 2020

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Quarterbacks have won the NFL MVP award in each of the past seven years. Although Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers are the overwhelming favorites this season, some non-signal-callers deserve to be in consideration as well.

    Then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was the last non-quarterback to win MVP back in 2012. He ran for 2,097 yards, the second-highest total for a single season behind Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson. 

    Peterson's remarkable 2012 campaign gives perspective on what a ball-carrier needs to do to enter the MVP conversation. This season, one running back may come close to his numbers. 

    Although a pass-catcher has never won MVP, we'll make the case for two wide receivers and a tight end who've elevated the performances of their quarterbacks and made major contributions to the passing attack.

    Even though we know one of Mahomes, Rodgers and Josh Allen will likely take home the hardware, let's not forget some of the top playmakers at other positions. In addition to high-level production, all five players have been reliable in availability, suiting up for each game through Week 15.

WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

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    Josh Allen has made noteworthy strides as a passer, logging career highs in yards (4,000), touchdown passes (30) and completion rate (68.7). He's arguably this season's most improved quarterback.

    Allen deserves credit for his improvements, but his progression coincides with Stefon Diggs' arrival.

    The Buffalo Bills sent their 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks along with a 2021 fourth-rounder to the Minnesota Vikings for Diggs and a 2020 seventh-rounder. It paid immediate dividends for the offense and specifically Allen, who now has a go-to wideout.

    Diggs leads the league in catches (111) and is third in receiving yards (1,314). According to Pro Football Focus, he recorded the fourth-most receiving yards (616) versus single coverage heading into Week 15. 

    In a wider scope, Diggs has accounted for roughly 32 percent of the team's total receiving yards this season. He earned Pro Bowl honors as the focal point of the Bills' second-ranked aerial attack.

RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

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    Derrick Henry is on his way to consecutive rushing titles as the engine of the Tennessee Titans offense.

    Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has posted impressive numbers, throwing for 3,482 yards, a career-high 31 touchdowns and five interceptions through 14 contests, in part because Henry opens up the field for the passing attack.

    Opposing defenses will drop an extra defender in the box to stop Henry or at least slow him down. Sometimes, he discards them with a fierce stiff-arm—just ask Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman or Detroit Lions cornerback Alex Myres

    Henry has already run for a career-high 1,679 yards, which means he'll need to average 160.5 over his final two games to hit the 2,000-yard mark. Although he isn't quite on Adrian Peterson's 2012 pace, he's near the top of most major offensive categories.

    Heading into Week 16, Henry ranks second in scrimmage yards (1,793) and third in total touchdowns (15). The 6'3", 247-pounder has rushed for 100-plus yards after contact in five games, per Pro Football Focus

    Tennessee lost right tackle Jack Conklin to the Cleveland Browns during free agency, and left tackle Taylor Lewan tore his ACL in Week 6. That hasn't stopped Henry from bulldozing the competition for the Titans' second-ranked ground attack.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    This offseason, the Arizona Cardinals sent their 2020 second-round pick, a 2021 fourth-rounder and running back David Johnson to the Houston Texans for DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-rounder.

    In hindsight, general manager Steve Keim made a move that lived up to the offseason hype and then some.

    Going into Week 16, Hopkins leads the league in receiving yards (1,324) and has the second-most catches (103). The three-time All-Pro has accounted for more than 36 percent of the Cardinals' total receiving yards.

    Christian Kirk ranks second on the team in receiving yards (545), and running back Chase Edmonds sits one spot behind Hopkins for receptions (49). In both categories, there's a major drop-off between Hopkins and quarterback Kyler Murray's secondary targets.

    Murray looked to Hopkins on a Hail Mary pass to beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 10. The elite wideout came down with the ball and sealed a crucial victory for his squad. He's a dominant pass-catcher who can beat a defender (or two) with physicality and strong hands in just about any situation.

RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

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    Alvin Kamara put on a show in the New Orleans Saints' Christmas matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, scoring six touchdowns, and he's produced at a high level throughout the season.

    As a dual-threat running back, Kamara's rushing numbers won't compare to a top ball-carrier such as Derrick Henry. However, he's near the top of the league in terms of total offensive yards.

    Kamara the most offensive scores (21) and also ranks third in scrimmage yards (1,688). He's responsible for nearly 29 percent of the New Orleans Saints' total scrimmage yards.

    The Saints lost quarterback Drew Brees (punctured lung and broken ribs) and wide receiver Michael Thomas (hamstring, ankle and disciplinary reasons) for multiple games this season. However, Kamara hasn't missed a game and has emerged as the team's most reliable offensive threat.

    Along with all of the yards and touchdowns he's racked up, Kamara has fumbled only once. Going into Week 16, the elusive tailback had the most yards after the catch (716) while tied for the second-most missed tackles forced on receptions (18), per Pro Football Focus.

    Kamara is the reason that New Orleans can field a solid passing attack without Thomas on the perimeter. He's been contributing heavily on the ground and through the air as one of the NFL's most versatile playmakers. 

TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

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    If not for Travis Kelce's position designation as a tight end, we'd lump him in with the wide receivers. Based on receptions and yards, he stacks up against the NFL's top pass-catchers.

    Although Kelce ranks second leaguewide in receiving yards (1,318), he's only six yards behind Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins, which gives him a fair shot to become the first tight end to finish atop the category for a single season. The two-time All-Pro is also tied for fourth in catches (98).

    With quarterback Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball, Kelce leads the NFL in first-down receptions (72). He's also second in yards after the catch (543), which speaks to his big-play ability.

    While defensive coordinators may worry about Tyreek Hill's speed over the top, Kelce's big body (6'5", 260 lbs) and sure hands (74.2 percent catch rate) cause matchup issues all over the field. Opposing defenders must cover him as they would an elite wideout.