MVP Watch: Carolina Panthers Running Back Christian McCaffrey

Christian McCaffrey
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: Christian McCaffrey of Carolina Panthers runs with the ball during the NFL game between Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 13, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The NFL hasn’t been kind to running backs when it comes to determining who the MVP of a season should be. Usually, the award is designated for a quarterback that has poured in high statistics of passing yards, touchdowns and wins. That could change in 2019 if Christian McCaffrey can continue his torrid pace.

In fact, the last running back to win the MVP award was Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, when he rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns. A superb season nonetheless, but, also a rare feat in modern football.

Chrisitan McCaffrey MVP Watch

Hall of Fame Running Backs

If we go back all the way to the 2000 NFL season, then in 18 seasons since then, only four running backs have taken home the MVP award: Marshall Faulk (2000, St. Louis Rams), Shaun Alexander (2005, Seattle Seahawks). LaDainian Tomlinson (2006. San Diego Chargers), and Peterson (Minnesota Vikings, 2012).

Outside of those four honors, the award has been dominated by quarterbacks since the 2000 season. We saw four running backs in the 1990s win the MVP award: Thurman Thomas (1991, Buffalo Bills), Emmitt Smith (1993, Dallas Cowboys), Barry Sanders (Co-MVP with Brett Favre, Detroit Lions, 1997), and Terrell Davis (1998, Denver Broncos).

From 1961 to 1979, we saw a total of six running backs (all mostly Hall of Famers) take home MVP honors. So, we fast-forward to 2019 and hone in on Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

Why Not Christian McCaffrey?

Since entering the league in 2017 for the Panthers, McCaffrey has been nothing short of a workhorse. Especially given that quarterback Cam Newton was asked to do nearly everything for their offense. But one McCaffrey lined up behind Newton, their offense has created one of the most feared players across the league.

If you want to go by statistics through six weeks of the 2019 NFL season, then you could wow people in that regard. McCaffrey leads all running backs with 618 yards and leads the league in nine total touchdowns (seven rushings and two receiving).

However, you can go off the eye test by watching him every week and notice he lines up all over the field. Whether he’s lined up in the I formation, direct snap or spread out as a receiver, McCaffrey continues to be a beast wherever he’s positioned. And if you give him space to maneuver? It’s already over.

Opposing defenses continue to gameplan for him, and so far, McCaffrey still imposes his will. It’s an impossible task to completely cover him and while many have tried, few have succeeded.

Christian McCaffrey, the 2019 MVP?

While other offensive players continue to have a great season so far in 2019, and there’s still a ton of football to consider, you have to seriously think where he ranks in the MVP voting. Current MVP Patrick Mahomes is no doubt having a fine season, but would the Chiefs suffer without him?

It’s a question worth asking when you remove star players from a team and play the what-if game on their team would perform? Taking away 600 yards and nine touchdowns from a Panthers team that’s already depleted would absolutely struggle. Even as fantastic as rookie quarterback Kyle Allen has played, without McCaffrey, would the Panthers still be 4-2?

Barring we’re just shy of the halfway mark of the season, if McCaffrey continues at his current pace, then he’s due for over 1,200 total yards and a combined 18 touchdowns on the ground and air.

Would you call it dominance? Or that he’s an offensive genius. At his current pace, it would one hell of a season.

But would it be worthy of an MVP award?

Time will tell.

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