The MVP Case for David Johnson

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the disappointing season for his team, David Johnson should be an MVP candidate

In a season with so much disappointment, the Arizona Cardinals do have a tremendous bright spot. Running back David Johnson has had an amazing season. He’s had the kind of season that has earned MVP consideration for players in the past.

Johnson faces a major hurdle in his candidacy, though. No NFL MVP has ever came from a team that finished under .500. The closest was Barry Sanders in 1997, when the Lions were 9-7.That year, Sanders rushed for over 2,000 yards, had 11 touchdowns, and had 2,358 total yards.

To look at Johnson’s chances, a comparison to recent running backs to win the award is needed. In the last 20 years, six MVP winners have been running backs. Three of those six rushed for over 2,000 yards (Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson), and the three that didn’t, set records for scoring with their touchdown totals (Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander, Ladainian Tomlinson).

An examination of those numbers makes Johnson seem like a long shot. With 1,233 yards, he’s well behind the rushing yardage numbers of the past winners. However, his other numbers match up pretty well. With one game to go, Johnson has 2,074 total yards and 20 touchdowns. The average of those six past winners was 22 touchdowns and 2,227 total yards, numbers Johnson could reach.

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The competition for this year’s award is also pretty stiff, and the main competitors come from winning teams. Aaron Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes. Tom Brady has the league’s best QBR, and has thrown just two interceptions all season. Matt Ryan leads the NFL in passer rating. Even at running back, Ezekiel Elliott is the rushing leader,. They’re all high-profile players on winning teams.

All things considered, it looks highly unlikely that David Johnson will win MVP, but he shouldn’t be counted out just because of the Cardinals’ record. He’s having an incredible season, and has earned recognition. He probably won’t win, but if he does, it’s been earned.