The NFL's Most Valuable Player award has become a quarterback dominated award with the last non-quarterback winning it in 2012 when Adrian Peterson had the best season of his career. Before quarterbacks dictated this award, running backs were always in the mix as well. Players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, and Marshall Faulk have all won the MVP award at the running position. In today's game, it would require an incredible season for a running back to win the award now. In 2019, Christian McCaffrey became just the third running back in NFL history to have 1000 rushing yards and receiving yards in one season, and quarterback Lamar Jackson walked away with the 2019 MVP. There are a few non-quarterbacks who have the ability win the award, but this dark horse candidate may be overlooked entering the 2020 season.
The Tennessee Titans had one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the NFL in 2019, totaling over 2200 yards across the whole team. The rushing leader, Derrick Henry, finished with 1540 of those 2200 yards, averaging an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. Henry had an average at best offensive line and made the absolute most of it. Standing at 6'3" and weighing nearly 250 pounds, Derrick Henry is nearly impossible to take down on the first and even second attempt. 2019 was by far his most dominant season yet as Henry walked away with the rushing title. After such an impressive season from Henry, how could he improve enough to win the MVP in 2020?
In the first six games of the season, Derrick Henry averaged just 70 yards per game. After starting out with a disappointing 2-4 record, the Titans made the switch to newly acquired quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry took off. From week seven on, Henry averaged 125 yards per game and completely carried the team on his back. In this past offseason, both Tannehill and Henry signed new four year extensions. These extensions will allow Derrick Henry to continue his reign of dominance.
Although the Titans lost tackle Jack Conklin to the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, they drafted rookie Isaiah Wilson from Georgia. Although they may have reached a little for this pick, the Titans had very few holes on their team and they had to replace Conklin.
After a record breaking season from Christian McCaffrey, we saw another quarterback in Lamar Jackson win the MVP award. So what does Derrick Henry have to do in order to pull the award away from the quarterback position? Henry isn't much of a pass catching back, only reeling in 18 receptions for 206 yards, so he'll have to do it on the ground. If Derrick Henry can either break or come very close to the single reason rushing record of 2105 yards, currently held by Eric Dickerson, that may be enough to win the award. Breaking the rushing touchdown record of 28 in a season, held by LaDainian Tomlinson, would also earn him the award.
There are many sleepers and dark horse candidates for the Most Valuable Player award, but Derrick Henry is being completely over looked. The NFL loves storylines so the award will likely go to a player who breaks out in the 2020 season, whether it be a Kyler Murray or Drew Lock, or go to another outstanding quarterback like Patrick Mahomes. The odds of Derrick Henry winning MVP are currently +5000, making him one of the most slept on realistic options to win the award in the up coming season.