The 2020 NFL season concerned a couple of dominant particular person performances. Aaron Rodgers took dwelling this 12 months’s MVP award, so gamers like Patrick Mahomes and Derrick Henry will be part of the league’s assortment of near-misses. Right here is who this 12 months’s “others receiving votes” contingent will be part of among the many greatest NFL seasons of the MVP period (1957-present) that didn’t end in a trophy.
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Whereas a “feat. Randy Moss” credit score is critical, Cunningham proved he might thrive as a pocket passer. The unretired quarterback skilled frequent criticism as a passer in Philadelphia, however at 35, he took benefit of one of the best weaponry array of his profession. Terrell Davis’ 2,000-yard season clinched MVP honors, however Cunningham threw for 3,704 yards in 34 landing passes in 14 begins. The Vikings had gone 9-7 in 1997; with Cunningham (and Moss) in ’98: 15-1. Behind Cunningham, Minnesota broke a 15-year-old scoring document with 556 factors.
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This was not a very good 12 months to wage an MVP marketing campaign, with Patrick Mahomes setting the league ablaze. However Donald coasted to Defensive Participant of the 12 months acclaim, hovering to a 20.5-sack season. The Rams defensive sort out flourished beneath Wade Phillips, serving to them to Tremendous Bowl LIII. Whereas their protection was not statistically nice, Donald helped compensate — most notably in Los Angeles’ epic Monday-night win over Kansas Metropolis, when Donald stripped Mahomes twice. Donald seized the “greatest defender alive” belt throughout J.J. Watt’s earlier harm hiatus and has not given it again.
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From 1990-97, both Smith or Barry Sanders gained the dashing title. Behind one other dominant offensive line, Smith took his flip in 1995 and led Dallas to its third Tremendous Bowl title in 4 years. Smith broke John Riggins’ 12-year-old document with 25 dashing touchdowns — 10 greater than anybody else in 1995 — and led the league with 1,773 dashing yards. 4 of Smith’s 5 O-linemen made the Professional Bowl, with Corridor of Fame guard Larry Allen — not current on the earlier two Cowboy Tremendous Bowl groups — debuting as a full-time starter in ’95. Brett Favre’s first MVP season edged out Smith.
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27. Rob Gronkowski, 2011
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Gronkowski started his long term because the NFL’s greatest tight finish in his sophomore marketing campaign. Regardless of being a second-round decide with an harm previous, Gronk set the tight finish receiving document (1,327 yards). That has been damaged, however the ex-Patriot icon’s 17 landing catches stay the tight finish customary. Gronkowski’s emergence helped the worst of Invoice Belichick’s Patriots defenses (thirty first in yards) to Tremendous Bowl XLVI and opened the door to a different set of Tom Brady Tremendous Bowl appearances (4 pre-Gronk, six put up). Brady completed with a career-high 5,325 yards in 2011. No tight finish dominated greater than Gronk throughout his Pats years.
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26. Jim Brown, 1959
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This checklist might devolve into “Finest non-MVP Jim Brown seasons.” The Cleveland phenom was within the coronary heart of an unparalleled prime in his third season. The outcome: a runaway dashing title. Solely two operating backs eclipsed 900 dashing yards in 1959. Brown got here in at 1,329 — 293 forward of second-place J.D. Smith of the 49ers — within the 12-game season. Cleveland had two Corridor of Famers in its backfield that 12 months, in Brown and Bobby Mitchell. They mixed for over 2,000 yards. The 1957 and ’58 MVP, Brown scored 14 touchdowns however misplaced out to Johnny Unitas for the award.
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25. Deacon Jones, 1967
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Though sacks weren’t official till 1982, go rushers had subject days dropping QBs in anonymity. Defenders might mug receivers, and O-linemen have been closely restricted in how they may block till the late Seventies. Jones additionally had his since-banned head-slap maneuver. That mentioned, Jones was an all-time menace in his heyday. Accounts fluctuate on his masterpiece season, however the Rams defensive finish recorded between 21.5 and 26 sacks throughout a 12 months wherein Los Angeles went 11-1-2 to steer the NFL. This was Jones at his peak, at age 29, he teamed with fellow Corridor of Famer Merlin Olsen to energy a gifted Rams crew.
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24. Derrick Henry, 2020
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Coming off his 2019 dashing championship, the Titans operating mainly lapped the remainder of the pass-happy NFL’s operating backs. The bruising runner’s 2,027 yards rank fifth all time and led the NFL by almost 600. The ex-Heisman winner ripped off three 200-yard video games and saved his greatest stuff for crunch time. Needing 223 yards in Week 17 to turn into the eighth to 2,000, Henry dropped 250 on the Texans. The Titans wanted almost each yard to clinch their first AFC South title since 2008. Eight years after Adrian Peterson gained MVP for his 2,000-yard season getting the Vikings to a wild-card recreation, Henry didn’t obtain an MVP vote.
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23. Jamal Lewis, 2003
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No. 3 on the all-time single-season dashing checklist, Lewis misplaced out on MVP acclaim when Peyton Manning and Steve McNair shared it. Lewis bizarrely ranked fourth, behind Brady as effectively, after carrying Baltimore’s offense to a 10-6 document and an AFC North title. The Ravens used a first-round decide on Kyle Boller and used him and journeyman Anthony Wright in Lewis’ fourth 12 months. The Ravens ranked thirty second in passing yards however turned to their hardnosed again, who broke the single-game dashing document in Week 2 (295 yards) and completed with 2,066 to go along with 14 TDs. This was Lewis’ solely Professional Bowl or All-Professional season.
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Voyaging to back-to-back Tremendous Bowl routs, the Cowboys have been 3-0 in opposition to the 49ers from 1992-93. Every win got here by double digits. With Sanders as a one-year employed gun, San Francisco beat Dallas twice en path to a Tremendous Bowl blowout. The period’s premier cowl man modified the course of recent NFL historical past, becoming a member of Steve Younger and Co. in stopping a Cowboys three-peat. Regardless of signing in September and lacking two video games, Sanders intercepted six passes and took three again for TDs. The ex-Falcon and future Cowboy totaled 303 return yards and dueled with No. 1 wideouts, serving to the 49ers go from sixteenth to sixth in scoring protection.
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21. Ray Lewis, 2000
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Statistically, Lewis’ 2003 Defensive Participant of the 12 months marketing campaign was higher. However the Ravens center linebacker made a defining crew defensive season potential. Sporting greater shoulder pads and sporting a bulkier physique because of the period, Lewis was nonetheless a sideline-to-sideline demon who led Baltimore to a 12-4 document. Lewis’ 137 tackles (14 for loss) and two INTs weren’t career-highs, however the Ravens held the opposition to 10.3 factors per recreation — the bottom within the 16-game period’s 43 years — and gained two video games wherein its offense failed to attain a landing. The Tremendous Bowl champs don’t hit these heights with out their 25-year-old chief.
Johnson didn’t obtain an MVP vote, with Adrian Peterson edging Peyton Manning throughout a season that featured a 4-12 Lions crew, however he left little question as to the NFL’s wideout of the second. Megatron broke Jerry Rice’s 17-year-old document with a 1,964-yard season. Just one receiver, Andre Johnson, got here inside 400 yards of the 6-foot-5 marvel in 2012. Whereas in the present day’s wideouts have simpler paths to manufacturing, and the Lions phenom solely scored 5 TDs, Megatron dropped each of his 200-yard video games on playoff opposition and broke Rice’s document in an 11-catch, 225-yard Week 16 day in opposition to a Falcons crew on its option to the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
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19. Randall Cunningham, 1990
Cunningham bumped into maybe the hardest MVP luck of anybody, ending second within the AP balloting 4 instances. Joe Montana gained in 1990, however Cunningham obtained 18 votes (to the 49ers QB’s 26) and had a transparent case. The Eagles QB dropped an ahead-of-its-time 3,466-942 passing-rushing double that featured 30 TD passes and 5 extra dashing scores. Cunningham’s 30 landing passes — highlighted by this one — ranked second to Warren Moon, and in a season wherein the Eagles protection ranked solely twelfth, their quarterback powered the crew to a 10-6 document and a playoff berth out of an all-time nice division.
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18. Derrick Brooks, 2002
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The signature season within the linebacker’s Corridor of Fame profession coincided with one of the best slate in Buccaneers historical past. Perennial losers till Brooks and Warren Sapp’s 1995 arrivals, the Bucs fielded an all-time protection in 2002. Tampa Bay led the NFL by permitting 12.3 factors per recreation — the third-lowest quantity this century — and rode Brooks to Tremendous Bowl XXXVII. Along with his 118 tackles, Brooks notched a career-high 5 interceptions. He ended the common season with 4 touchdowns, returning a fumble for a rating as effectively. Brooks added a fifth TD within the playoffs — a pick-six in opposition to Wealthy Gannon to seal the Bucs’ first Tremendous Bowl title.
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Reed’s “greatest security ever” declare started in his third season. The Ravens have been nonetheless attempting Kyle Boller at quarterback and ranked thirty first in whole offense. They nonetheless went 9-7, behind the league’s No. 6-ranked protection. Reed was on the epicenter of this effort, intercepting 9 passes and returning them for a then-record 358 yards. Reed thwarted a Browns game-tying landing try with a 106-yard pick-six; he broke this NFL document 4 years later. Total in 2004, the ex-Miami Hurricane totaled 12 pressured turnovers for 402 yards and two TDs. It’s arduous for a contemporary security to be extra productive.
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16. Barry Sanders, 1994
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The Lions went from beginning three QBs in 1993 to turning to Scott Mitchell and a 36-year-old Dave Krieg in 1994. Luckily, they’d the period’s greatest operating again. Sanders broke by means of to energy the Lions again to the playoffs, dashing for 1,883 yards on 5.7 per carry. Detroit ranked twenty fourth in passing yards in a 28-team league. Sanders’ masterpiece got here in Week 3 when the Lions beat the defending champion Cowboys after their operating again’s 40-carry, 194-yard night time. This was the second of Sanders’ 4 dashing titles; he led the league by greater than 300 yards.
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15. J.J. Watt, 2014
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This Watt model turned the one defender to obtain a couple of MVP vote since James Harrison in 2008. Watt garnered 13 — probably the most any defensive participant has since Lawrence Taylor gained the award in 1986. Watt recorded 20.5 sacks, a career-high 51 QB hits and 29 tackles for loss (tied, with 2015 Watt, for second within the TFL period). His MVP push centered on touchdowns. The fourth-year Texan scored 5 — on a pick-six, a fumble-six and, in a one-year-only function, three as a good finish. Illustrating defenders’ MVP futility, this excellent storm couldn’t high Aaron Rodgers’ third-best season.
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14. Jerry Rice, 1995
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In a 12 months that featured passing numbers balloon leaguewide, the 49ers performed 5 video games with out Steve Younger. At 33, Rice confirmed his prime was not completed. In the course of an unapproached span of 10 first-team All-Professional nods in 11 years, Rice broke the single-season receiving document with 1,848 yards. Within the five-game stretch with second-year backup Elvis Grbac, Rice posted 4 100-yard video games — together with a 161-yard efficiency in a 49ers upset win in Dallas. The all-time receiving kingpin punctuated his season with a 289-yard exhibiting on a December Monday night time in opposition to the Vikings.
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13. Lester Hayes, 1980
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Within the third 12 months of the NFL’s shift towards a pass-focused product, Hayes dropped a throwback season that made a serious distinction in a Tremendous Bowl push. Throughout eight of his 10 seasons, the Raiders cornerback didn’t surpass 4 interceptions. “The Decide” snared 13 INTs in his fourth season and posted 273 return yards. Hayes had 4 extra referred to as again attributable to penalty and later managed 5 playoff picks. Sure, the since-banned Stickum was closely concerned. However Hayes didn’t stack these picks in opposition to dangerous QBs; he intercepted a go in 12 video games. Within the 40 seasons since, just one participant — the Cowboys’ Everson Partitions — has even reached 11 INTs.
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Venturing into Sanders territory and doing so in a pass-crazed period, Johnson set the NFL document for scrimmage yards with 2,509 in his second season. “CK2K” spawned due to this season, and though the Titans’ 8-8 document (after an 0-6 begin) saved Johnson off the MVP radar, it stays an all-time nice slate in dashing annals. After being held beneath 100 yards in 4 of his first 5 video games, Johnson completed with 11 straight three-digit outings. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and completed all this in opposition to groups geared towards stopping him and never Vince Younger.
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11. Charley Hennigan, 1961
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So obscure that photographs have confirmed elusive, Hennigan was the 1961 AFL champion Oilers’ high yard-gainer. However the vast receiver’s whole resided in one other stratosphere in comparison with friends. In a 14-game season, Hennigan posted 1,746 yards. Even in what turned a pass-friendly AFL, that whole bested all different receivers by almost 600. The 6-foot-1 ex-high college biology trainer’s 82 catches didn’t lead the league, and Invoice Groman’s 17 TD grabs paced the Oilers. Hennigan, nevertheless, averaged 21.3 yards per catch and had three 200-yard video games in teaming with George Blanda. Hennigan’s single-season document stood for 34 years.
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10. J.J. Watt, 2012
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Watt is way from one of the best participant on this checklist, however it’s unimaginable to exclude his second season. The Texans defensive finish delivered certainly one of trendy sports activities’ signature breakouts, operating up a mind-boggling mixture of numbers. Watt’s 20.5 sacks led the league, however his peripheral stats are extra spectacular. The inside go rusher recorded 39 tackles for loss. For perspective, nobody else since TFLs turned charted (in 1999) has surpassed 30. No non-Watt season has ever topped 28. The 23-year-old sensation additionally pressured 4 fumbles and tallied 16 passes defensed — seven greater than some other D-lineman that 12 months — within the Texans’ 12-4 season.
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9. Earl Campbell, 1980
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Winding down their “Luv Ya Blue” run, the Oilers traded Dan Pastorini for Ken Stabler in 1980. The longer term Corridor of Famer threw 13 TD passes and 28 INTs. The Oilers nonetheless went 11-5 and gained the AFC Central for the primary time. This occurred as a result of Campbell was unstoppable in his third season. Browns QB Brian Sipe gained MVP honors, however this was Campbell’s defining season. He amassed profession highs in dashing yards (1,934) and yards per carry (5.2) and dominated regardless of presenting nary a receiving menace (47 yards). Campbell’s profession steadily declined after this, however his ’80 season is a time-capsule dashing 12 months.
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The guts of Brees’ Saints dominance noticed Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-season yardage document fall and the New Orleans QB lead the NFL in landing passes (46) and completion proportion (a then-record 71.2 determine). However Aaron Rodgers garnered 48 of the 50 MVP votes whereas main a 15-1 Packers crew. Serving to Jimmy Graham turn into an all-time fantasy sleeper, Brees threw for five,476 yards to steer a 13-3 Saints crew. The longer term profession go yardage kingpin threw at the least one landing go in each recreation, on his option to breaking Johnny Unitas’ document for consecutive video games with a TD toss in 2012. That presently stands at 54.
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7. Randy Moss, 2007
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The season that lifted Tom Brady onto the elite quarterback tier could be traced to the Patriots swindling the Raiders for Moss . Invoice Belichick giving up a fourth-round decide for the 30-year-old famous person reworked the Patriots, and although Brady was the unanimous MVP, Moss sort of deserved co-MVP acclaim. Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdowns. Simply as he catalyzed the 1998 Vikings, Moss lifted the Pats to the NFL’s lone 16-0 season. Brady’s TD quantity ballooned from 24 in a non-Professional Bowl 2006 season to 50. That document has fallen; nobody has approached Moss’ TD customary.
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6. Jerry Rice, 1987
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Fantasy gamers within the self-discipline’s infancy cleaned up in the event that they drafted Rice in his third season. It’s each a dominant show indicative of the wideout deity’s future whereas concurrently a tantalizing “what if?” 12 months. As a consequence of a gamers’ strike, Rice performed 12 video games. He caught 22 landing passes. Just one different participant topped eight that 12 months. Rice additionally added a dashing rating, and his 1,078 yards would have led the league had Cardinals wideout J.T. Smith not crossed the picket line. The 49ers went 13-2, and Rice and Joe Montana break up MVP votes in a 12 months when John Elway gained. It took Moss all 16 video games to interrupt Rice’s document.
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In a three-year stretch when the Rams’ “Best Present on Turf” claimed three MVP awards, Faulk scored 26 touchdowns to win the award in 2000. His Rams debut could have been higher. Acquired from the Colts that spring, Faulk turned the second participant in NFL historical past to go 1,000-1,000. Kurt Warner gained the 1999 MVP, however Faulk was the largest distinction between a nasty 1998 Rams crew and its Tremendous Bowl champion outfit. The explosive again reached 2,429 scrimmage yards — nonetheless second-most all time — and averaged 5.5 per carry in his age-26 season, one which drove St. Louis to a championship.
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4. Reggie White, 1987
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Along with Rice’s unfathomable TD edge on his friends, 1987 featured a fellow all-time nice lap his contemporaries in sacks. Like Rice, White performed 12 video games due to the strike. He registered a career-high 21 sacks — 8.5 greater than anybody else. Whereas the traditionally gifted energy rusher was a star from the bounce after two USFL seasons, White’s monster third NFL slate didn’t come from large video games. He notched a sack in 11 video games and received to 21 and not using a four-sack exhibiting. White’s consistency would stay till the late Nineteen Nineties. The document Michael Strahan owns can be buried had the NFL’s regulars performed 16 video games in 1987.
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3. Eric Dickerson, 1984
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Throughout their prolonged interval and not using a dependable quarterback, the Rams landed an offensive centerpiece within the 1983 first spherical. A 12 months later, Dickerson set the NFL dashing document. After totaling 390 carries as a rookie, Dickerson logged 379 and turned these into 2,105 yards — a quantity that has topped information graphics for a era. He rushed for 14 TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and was so efficient the Rams barely threw to him (139 yards). The Rams made the playoffs with profession backup Jeff Kemp as their major beginning quarterback, rating twenty seventh in passing and profitable 10 video games. Dan Marino cruised to MVP honors in ’84.
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2. O.J. Simpson, 1975
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Simpson’s prime goes understandably ignored now, aside from his 1973 2,000-yard MVP season. The Payments operating again was even perhaps higher two years later. At 28, Simpson led the NFL in dashing for the third time in 4 years. He received to 1,817 yards on 5.5 per carry however far exceeded his ’73 work in different areas. After a 12-TD 1973, Simpson scored 23 instances in ’75 and eclipsed his scrimmage-yards whole as effectively by reaching 2,243 — simply one of the best mark within the NFL’s 14-game period. Aided by Simpson torching the Metal Curtain for 227 yards in Week 2, the Payments went 8-6. However they missed the playoffs, additional obscuring this transcendent season.
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1. Jim Brown, 1963
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Y.A. Tittle’s 36 landing passes earned him MVP honors; the Giants completed 11-3 to the Browns’ 10-4. However there is no such thing as a passable rationalization for probably the most dominant participant in NFL historical past’s greatest season receiving seven votes to Tittle’s 33. Brown’s 1,863 dashing yards broke his personal NFL document by 336. He averaged 6.4 per carry and a career-best 133 per recreation and totaled 15 TDs. A greater illustration of the hole between Cleveland’s fullback terminator and the opposite males paid to take handoffs: Jim Taylor — the 1962 MVP — ranked second with 1,018 yards. Revered as he’s, Brown is underrated. His three MVPs usually are not sufficient.