The NFL's Offensive Player of the Year usually allows the best offensive player in the league that is not a quarterback to receive their flowers. It is a more evenly spread award, with the previous two winners being a wide receiver and running back. Cooper Kupp and Derrick Henry had earth-shattering seasons when they won the award and should have been more involved in the MVP conversation. Unfortunately, they were overlooked, as has every non-quarterback in the MVP running since 2012. When looking at the candidates in the race for the Offensive Player of the Year this season, I have decided to look at the players that do not play at the quarterback position.
Taylor showed incredible progression last season as he became the focal point of the Indianapolis Colts offense. He had 100 more carries than his rookie year as he ran for 1811 yards and 18 touchdowns; both were highs in rushing for the season. If Cooper Kupp did not have one of the greatest years ever for a wide receiver, Taylor was a surefire winner of the award. In his third year, Taylor will be looking to recreate what he did last season but hoping to add more in the passing game. Having Carson Wentz as his quarterback could not have helped when the running back is usually the safety blanket for a quarterback. With Matt Ryan under center, we should see Taylor get more receptions while maintaining the standards when rushing.
In a season where he accomplished something not done since 2005, Kupp was the triple crown winner in receiving statistics. He led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1947) and receiving touchdowns (16). The LA Rams receiver was five receptions off breaking Michael Thomas' record; and 18 receiving yards off beating Calvin Johnson's record. After leading the Rams to a Super Bowl, where he won MVP in the game, Kupp will have aspirations of breaking NFL records and retaining the triple crown.
With another training camp alongside Matt Stafford, his connection with the quarterback should have gotten stronger. The return of Cam Akers and the addition of Allen Robinson should take some attention off of Kupp. It is hard to see how Kupp's momentum will slow down. He will likely be in the race for Offensive Player of the Year.
After a long offseason battle regarding his contract status, Samuel finally received what he had been looking for and deserved. The wide receiver agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $73.5 million with $58.1 million guaranteed at the end of July. Samuel was a jack of all trades in the 49ers' offense last season as he played as a receiver and a running back. The 26-year-old broke the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a wide receiver with eight. His achievements in the backfield should not distract you from the fact he had his best season for receiving yards as he finished with 1405. With the contract saga behind him, Samuel can focus on being his quarterback's best friend on the field. He will be Trey Lance's go-to man in 2022 and with his role for the season up in the air (will he be a central figure in the backfield again?), Samuel has a lot of weight on his shoulders. However, after what he did last season, it should be something he can easily manage.
After being the NFL's best running back in 2019 and 2020, where he led the league in rushing and even broke the 2000 yard mark. Henry was ruled out for the second half of the regular season in 2021 with a foot injury, where he was well on his way to breaking 2000 yards again. Henry had also scored ten touchdowns in his first eight games and you could argue that had he been healthy the entire 17-game season he would have been well in the conversation for retaining the Offensive Player of the Year award.
The big question mark surrounding the running back is how he will bounce back from the foot injury. If Henry looks like his old self, there is no question he will be in the running for the award as well as Comeback Player of the Year.
After arriving in Las Vegas in the offseason, Adams is one of the more intriguing candidates to watch this year. He was Aaron Rodgers' best friend in Green Bay, and his dominance on the field played a huge role in Rodgers winning back-to-back MVPs. Having been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL since 2018, Adams posted his career high in receiving yards (1553) and receptions (123) last year. He is one of the league's best players, let alone wide receivers, but how he adapts to a new system with a Head Coach in his first year in the job and a new quarterback will be interesting. Derek Carr and Adams played together in college, so there is a connection. Carr's level of consistency will play a role in how Adams' season goes, plus there are more established options in Las Vegas in comparison to Green Bay. It will be an interesting year for the 29-year-old.
After becoming only the second tight end ever to have more than 1000 receiving yards in his rookie season, Pitts will be looking to take a big step in the right direction. He will be the main man in the Atlanta offense as he backed up the hype he received coming out of college. The Philadelphia native can line up anywhere on the field and make whoever is covering him look silly. When looking at the Falcons offense this season, he is the player that will make them something. He is likely to be the guy that is going to have to put the team on his shoulders if they are to be relevant. Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie Drake London will play key roles, but if the Falcons are to shock people, Pitts is the man that will have the incredible season to carry them there. He can easily become the surprise candidate in the running for the award this season.
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