What does MVP mean? Is it the best player on the best team? The player who puts up the most jaw-dropping stats?
Nope. The MVP is the Most Valuable Player. It’s that simple. There is no doubt in my mind that Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is this year’s winner. The loss to the Jaguars was soul crushing, but it was one game amidst a season of greatness. There’s no denying that, without Taylor, the Colts would be a 5, 6-win team at the most. Don’t get me wrong. Indy has one of the best all-around rosters in the league. Top five offensive line, a 1,000-yard receiver, a spirited front seven led by Darius Leonard and Deforest Buckner, and a secondary that has shown their potential of a top unit in flashes this year. All of that, plus a quarterback who has the numbers but hasn’t proven himself as a true game-winner this season just yet.
Someone who has is Jonathan Taylor. Indianapolis was 9-1 when he rushes for over 100 yards. Their only loss came just last week against Las Vegas in a game where a rusty Carson Wentz (fresh off of a week of not being in the facility) missed key throws down the stretch.
Taylor took over in their win against the Patriots, breaking free for a game-sealing 67-yard touchdown with two minutes to play. Everyone and their mothers knew he was getting the ball and he scored anyway. The week before? Taylor stomped the Buffalo Bills, scoring 5 total touchdowns (4 on the ground) in a 41-15 rout.
Okay, so a good play and a stellar game aren’t enough? He leads the NFL in rushing yards by a MILE with 1,811. The next closest? Well, that honor goes to Jonathan Taylor… after contact! He has 1,272 yards in that category (per PFF), good enough for 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards.
Taylor also has the most rushes of over 30 yards (he has eight on the year). That’s more than 30 of the 31 other teams in the league. Nuts.
“Jonathan Taylor shouldn’t win MVP! Derrick Henry had 2,000 yards last year and he didn’t win!”
That’s a common argument across the NFL and it’s fair. Henry had a MONSTER season last year and is the best running back in football when he’s healthy. But Taylor is running step-for-step with him. Here’s the comparison between Taylor’s 2021 and Henry’s 2020 campaign:
Rushing Yards (YPC):
Derrick Henry: 2,027 (5.4)
Jonathan Taylor: 1,811 (5.5)
Derrick Henry: 17
Jonathan Taylor: 18
Total Rushing Attempts (A/G):
Derrick Henry: 378 (23.6)
Jonathan Taylor: 332 (19.5)
It’s clear that Taylor has everything Henry had last year apart from yards, but looking at total rushing attempts, Henry achieved his 2,000 yards based on sheer volume. If you gave Taylor the extra 46 carries (giving them both 278 on the season), this would give him 2,064 yards (given that he averages 5.5 YPC).
Taylor doesn’t have an MVP competitor throwing for 48 touchdowns like Henry dealt with last year. Despite being a running back, despite having just a 9-8 record, Jonathan Taylor should still be firmly in the MVP discussion and have a real shot at the award. The stats show it, the nine wins in the last 14 games of the season show it, and his pure ability to take over a game against some of the best teams in the NFL shows it.
Photo: (Rich Barnes – USA Today Sports)
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