Jonathan Taylor will not win the MVP. But its value is undeniable.


Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor’s quest to win the NFL MVP award might be doomed by semantics.

Taylor leads the NFL with 1,518 rushing yards, 1,854 scrimmage yards and 19 rushing and receiving yards. No other player is within 424 rushing yards or 370 scrum yards, giving Taylor what amounts to a three-game lead over his peers. Taylor rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown against the New England Patriots’ seemingly impregnable defense in a 27-17 win in Week 15, which propelled the Colts forward in the pursuit of the AFC jokers.

Taylor, whose Colts face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night in a clash with playoff ramifications for both teams, is the NFL’s most notable player. He is certainly one of the most important and productive players in the league. Yet he is not the most valuable player.

When it comes to “value,” quarters are a separate caste. Most analytical models suggest that even regular quarterbacks add more quantifiable value to their teams in terms of yards, points and wins than the most spectacular players at any other position.

Per Football Outsiders, for example, Taylor’s rush added 479 yards to the Colts’ offense this season that a “replacement level” running back (a typical save) couldn’t replicate. This is the highest number in the league among running backs. But 12 quarterbacks add more than 479 yards to their offense than the typical substitute, from Tom Brady to less important passer like Jimmy Garoppolo and Teddy Bridgewater. The best quarterbacks add well over 1,000 yards a year to their offenses that substitutes couldn’t duplicate, a number no running back comes close to. Other models produce similar results.

If you don’t believe the analytics, trust the simple economy: Fifteen quarters make over $ 20 million a year. No ball carrier wins so much.

Awards voters decided many years ago that MVP honors should be practically reserved for quarterbacks: Taylor scores long +1000 odds to win MVP honors, well behind Aaron Rodgers (+125) and Brady ( +175), neither of whom have a stellar season by their own standards.

Despite his accomplishments, Taylor will likely be diverted to less prestigious award categories: Offensive Player of the Year (Taylor is the -110 favorite for this glorified silver medal) or the various “Daily Fantasy Stat Compiler of the Year Presented by BetzPuppy Online Sportsbook “- a type of trophies that the NFL hands out to attract sponsors and supplement the length of their annual awards show. (Yes, the NFL has an awards show.) It’s kind of like a critically acclaimed filmmaker and box office boffo, only to be snubbed for best picture and forced to settle for best adapted screenplay. of a theme park.

Taylor’s MVP argument is hampered by the fact that traditionalists, analysts, and awards voters all agree that what looks like an outstanding flashback game is often the result of a great block or simply the statistical residue of an effective aggregate offense. Taylor is running behind an exceptional Colts line, led by three-time All-Pro goaltender Quenton Nelson. In Taylor’s 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal Saturday’s victory, for example, Nelson and his teammates crushed the Patriots’ defense until it was perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, buckling a path between Taylor and the end zone.

The argument that Taylor is enjoying playing for a versatile offensive juggernaut, however, quickly collapses.

Formerly one of the league’s rising stars, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has just had three consecutive disappointing seasons. The Colts acquired Wentz in a trade in February as part of some sort of witness relocation scheme to protect him from enraged Philadelphia Eagles fans. Wentz has the tools of a franchise quarterback but has earned a reputation for making bad mistakes: go to the shovel directly to defenders, left-handers rush into traffic of its own end zone, and so on. Colts coach Frank Reich is therefore keeping his game plans rather conservative. Wentz threw just 12 assists in Saturday’s win over the Patriots, completing five, including a touchdown on a gadget game that traveled about an arm’s length in the air. He also threw an interception. Taylor has run more often than Wentz has pitched three times in the past four weeks.

Taylor is also responsible for producing the big plays that most teams try to generate through passing play. Taylor leads the NFL with 11 carries over 20 yards and four carries over 40 yards. He also turned a screen pass into a 76-yard touchdown, the Colts’ longest passing game of the year. Sports Info Solutions credits Taylor with forcing 41 missed or broken tackles, the league’s highest number. Taylor’s success is not a product of the Colts system; the Colts’ success is (in large part) a product of Taylor.

So what does a running back have to do to win an MVP award these days? The most appropriate question is what should league quarterbacks do to not win the prize. Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers were ruled out by the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. Rodgers is still on a podcast to get voters to seriously consider their alternatives. Other contenders like Matthew Stafford and Patrick Mahomes are seeing seasons up and down. If the quarterback’s ballot is split between three or four unimpressive candidates, and if Taylor runs off with the run and touchdown titles while leading the Colts to the playoffs, then maybe he has a chance.

There is another possibility. Voters could stop thinking like etymologists analyzing the origin of the word “value” and recognize that Taylor was the NFL’s most trusted and important player in 2021, and that failure to recognize those accomplishments would do. of him the most underrated player of this year.


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