The NFL’s MVP in most years needs a full season to become clear. This year, an unlikely candidate could be making a second-half push for consideration.
Although it has become largely a quarterback prize, running backs can still win it. It last happened in 2012, when Vikings running back Adrian Peterson stole it from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It could happen in 2020, if Vikings running back Dalvin Cook keeps doing what he started doing in Week Three.
Cook, despite missing a game and a half with a groin strain, leads the league with 858 rushing yards in seven games played. (Others have played as many as nine games.) That’s a rate of 122.6 rushing yards per game, and it projects to 1,837 rushing yards over the course of a full season.
With eight games to play in 2012, Peterson had 775 yards; he finished with 2,097.
Cook also is averaging 147.3 yards from scrimmage per game, putting him on track for 2,209 yards from scrimmage for the season.
His current trend points to an even better finish. Setting aside the Seahawks game, which he exited with 65 rushing yards, Cook has rushed for 680 yards in his last four games. That’s an average of 170 rushing yards per game. If he somehow could sustain that pace for the next eight games, Cook will finish the season with 2,218 rushing yards.
It’s highly unlikely that Cook will continue his four-game pace, especially given the ever-present risk of injury. But if he remains healthy and effective and passes the single-season record of 2,105 yards in what will be NFL’s final 16-game season, how does Cook not get MVP votes? If the Vikings turn their 1-5 start into a playoff berth thanks to Cook’s uncanny performances, he arguably becomes the favorite.
Although the definition of the MVP term is often malleable and subject to various interpretations, Cook has shown without question that he is the most valuable member of the 2020 Vikings.
Don’t be shocked if that number starts to shrink, especially if Cook keeps doing what he has been doing in recent weeks. By the time it’s all said and done, quarterbacks like Wilson and Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers could neutralize each other’s numbers, creating an opening for Cook to do what he’s been doing all year: Take it to the house.