The only non-quarterbacks to have won the MVP Award since the year 2000 all have something in common: they were all running backs, and they were all utterly dominant in seasons where their teams had a lot of success. That's what happened with Marshall Faulk in 2000, Shaun Alexander in 2005, LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and, most recently, Adrian Peterson in 2012, who ran for the second most yards in a season in league history coming off a torn ACL.
These were all truly special seasons, and that's what a running back has to do in order to top a quarterback for the league MVP Award. But in 2021, it's certainly not out of the question, and the initial round of Pro Bowl voting might be our strongest indication so far that this is the case.
On Wednesday, the NFL unveiled the top-five players after the first week of Pro Bowl voting along with a position-by-position breakdown of the top vote-getters. Jonathan Taylor, with 81.087 votes, was highest in the NFL, followed by four other non-quarterbacks. With a league-high 1,444 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns, it truly seems like he has a legitimate shot at the MVP Award, though he still ranks behind nine quarterbacks on BetMGM's odds, at +2000 — talk about an intriguing value!
For comparison's sake, last year's Pro Bowl vote featured Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson atop the ballot in the league's first look into how the numbers were looking, so it's an interesting note to say the least.
Still, none of the five players listed above should come as a shock. We've already gone over just how incredible Taylor has been this year, and he might have even been the front-runner had Derrick Henry been able to stay healthy — and it's hard to find a stronger argument for your MVP candidacy than that. Cooper Kupp has the unofficial wide receiver triple crown under his belt at this point, leading the NFL with 85 receptions, 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns. Travis Kelce may not be having his strongest season, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another tight end who is a clearer Pro Bowl pick this season than the Chiefs all-time great. Describing Myles Garrett as anything other than an unstoppable wrecking ball, with his league-leading 13.0 sacks, would be an understatement. And with eight interceptions, Trevon Diggs is not only leading the NFL... he's threatening the single-season record.
Unlike last season, neither Mahomes nor Wilson led the quarterback voting this time around, which doesn't come as a major shock. Instead, Tom Brady and Josh Allen led their respective conferences at the QB position. Here's the full position-by-position breakdown of the top voters, with the AFC player listed first:
QB: Josh Allen, Tom Brady
RB: Jonathan Taylor, Ezekiel Elliott
FB: Patrick Ricard, Kyle Juszczyk
WR: Ja'Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp
TE: Travis Kelce, Kyle Pitts
OT: Orlando Brown, Terron Armstead
G: Joel Bitonio, Zack Martin
C: David Andrews, Tyler Biadasz
DE: Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa
DT: Jeffrey Simmons, Aaron Donald
OLB: T.J. Watt, Hasson Riddick
ILB: Denzel Perryman, Devin White
CB: J.C. Jackson, Trevon Diggs
SS: Kareem Jackson, Budda Baker
FS: Kevin Byard, Quandre Diggs
K: Justin Tucker, Younghoe Koo
P: Pressley Harvin, Michael Dickson
RS: Ray-Ray McCloud, DeAndre Carter
ST: Ola Adeniyi, Nick Bellore
LS: Joe Cardona, Camaron Cheeseman
The five teams garnering the most votes toward their players aren't exactly surprising, either, given their strong records and the overall talent found at several positions on the team. First is the Dallas Cowboys, followed by the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.