2020 MVP Race: Dark Horse Candidates

Everybody loves an underdog, especially in sports. Examples include Leicester City winning the English Premier League at 5000-1 odds and Joe Burrow coming out of nowhere to win the Heisman at 200-1 odds. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson opened their MVP campaigns with 100-1 and 50-1 odds, respectively. Mahomes and Jackson prove that just about anybody (any quarterback, sadly) can win the MVP. Here are 5 Dark Horse candidates that have the potential to shock the world and take home the hardware.

Honorable Mention: Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Jones

5. Daniel Jones

Jones is the dark horse of this list of dark horse candidates. He has lots of upside and threw for 24 TDs in 2019, the same amount as Tom Brady (Jones started 4 fewer games than Brady). However, Danny Dimes threw 12 interceptions and had one of the worst supporting casts in the league thanks to Dave Gettleman, who might be less popular than DeBlasio in the eyes of New Yorkers. Jones definitely has the potential to succeed long-term, but he could break out even sooner with some weapons. The Giants hold the 4th overall pick in one of the deepest drafts for receivers in recent memory.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
Daniel Jones proved his worth to the many Giants fans that booed him on draft day.

4. Derrick Henry

Rumor has it that Earl Thomas misconstrued Derrick Henry as a large bowling ball during their AFC Divisional meeting. Henry is the only non-quarterback candidate on this list, and if a non-QB was to win the award, my money would be on him. If Henry wants to take home the hardware, he’ll likely have to step up his performance from last year of 1,540 yards, 16 TDs, and the rushing title. 

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Surprisingly, Henry didn’t injure his back in the 2019 playoffs, after carrying the Titans to the AFC Championship.

The sad truth is that running backs have to do the most to win MVP. The last three running backs to win MVPs (Peterson, Tomlinson, and Alexander) had either 2,090+ rushing yards or 27 TDs, feats that haven’t been accomplished since their respective campaigns. Henry has the potential to win MVP, but he’ll have a tough time doing so.

3. Gardner Minshew

Gardner Minshew not winning Offensive Rookie of the Year might’ve been the biggest award snub at the 2019 NFL Honors. Kyler Murray posted strong numbers, but had a better supporting cast than Minshew and won fewer games in more starts. Minshew had a 6-6 record as the starter in Duval and threw for 3,271 yards with 21 TDs.

However, if “Uncle Rico” wants to win MVP, he’ll have to succeed with one of the worst rosters in the league. The Jaguars have many holes and appear to be rebuilding, but if Minshew can lead the Jags to 8+ victories and elevate his numbers from 2019 over a full season, he should be in the race for MVP.

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Can Minshew Mania continue in 2020?

2. Sam Darnold

Darnold has been overlooked by the NFL world and doesn’t receive much media attention. He has significantly improved over his first two years in the league and even posted a 7-6 record as a starter in 2019. The Jets made offensive line a priority in free agency and added speedy wideout Breshad Perriman. The Gang Green holds the 11th overall pick and can add another weapon to a potent offense with Perriman, Darnold, and Le’Veon Bell.

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The Jets got off to a rocky start in 2019, but they touched down with a smooth landing, going 6-2 down the stretch.

1. Josh Allen

Optimism is peaking in Buffalo for a team that has been quite successful under Sean McDermott and Josh Allen. The Bills are serious contenders in the AFC and will have their best shot since last century at dethroning the Patriots of the AFC East crown. Allen improved significantly in his second year and was a big reason why the Bills made the playoffs. 

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Josh Allen and the Bills have high hopes heading into 2020.

One area where he still struggled badly was deep passing accuracy. Allen should improve his deep accuracy thanks to Stefon Diggs, one of the best deep threats in the NFL, whom the Bills recently acquired from the Vikings. Allen has other strong options in John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Devin Singletary, and is primed to breakout in 2020.