Top candidates to win the NFL MVP award in 2015

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Devonta Freeman, RB Atlanta Falcons

Oct 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t heard about the Atlanta Falcons’ new phenom, Devonta Freeman, then you may want to watch some highlight tape. Freeman, a second-year back out of Florida State burst onto the scene in Week 3 vs the Dallas Cowboys and hasn’t looked back.

The 5-foot-10 back runs with aggression. His quick cutting ability and superb vision have helped Freeman to one of the best starts in NFL history for a running back.

The stats continue to pour in. In just six games (4 starts) Freeman is leading the NFL in rushing with 505 yards and has scored a mind-boggling nine touchdowns on the ground. Freeman’s nine rushing touchdowns is more than any team has scored combined.

Freeman had back-to-back three rushing touchdown games against the Cowboys and Houston Texans to become the first running back to do so since LaDainian Tomlinson did so in 2006. Freeman also leads all running backs in first down’s achieved with 31 as well. While his rushing statistics speak for themselves, Freeman also poses a huge threat as a receiver.

Freeman leads all running backs in receptions thus far with 32. The next closest to him is Danny Woodhead who has 21. With those 32 catches, Freeman has 296 yards, one receiving touchdown and another 10 first downs achieved.

His number’s are off the charts good. Freeman has netted a total of 801 yards, 10 total touchdowns and 41 first downs. Julio Jones, Freeman’s teammate is the next closest in first downs achieved with 34.

Four running backs have won the NFL MVP award in the last 15 years. Marshall Faulk (2000), Shaun Alexander (2005), Tomlinson (2006) and Adrian Peterson in 2012.

  • (2000) Faulk rushed for 1,359 yards, netted a total of 2,189 yards from scrimmage and scored 26 touchdowns (18 rushing).

  • (2005) Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards, netted a total of 1,956 yards from scrimmage and scored 28 touchdowns (27 rushing).

  • (2006) Tomlinson rushed for 1,815 yards, netted a total of 2,323 yards from scrimmage and scored 31 touchdowns (28 rushing).

  • (2012) Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, netted a total of  2,314 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 touchdowns (12 rushing).

So there you have it. The last four running backs have each won it in different ways. Faulk won it with a mixture of rushing and receiving much like Freeman is doing. Alexander won it by carrying the Seattle Seahawks on his back all the way to the Super Bowl and rushed for the 11th highest total for a season in NFL history with 1,880.

Tomlinson won it by scoring an astounding 31 touchdowns and netting 2,323 total yards of offense including the No. 20 ranked single-season rushing total with 1,815 yards. And last but certainly not least, Peterson won it by rushing for the second most yards in a single-season with 2,097, but scored only 13 touchdowns.

It’s hard to tell what the committee is looking for in choosing an MVP. Are they looking for touchdowns? Rushing yards? Total yards from scrimmage or a mixture of all three?

Let’s now take a look at what Freeman is on pace for. After hardly getting any reps as a backup running back in the first two weeks, Freeman is on pace for 1,356 yards rushing, 789 yards receiving and 24 rushing touchdowns. Freeman’s total yards from scrimmage would net a whopping 2,145 and would give him 27 total touchdowns on the year.

Out of the four running back’s on the list, who does Freeman resemble the most? Faulk. The numbers are nearly identical.

There are still 10 games left, but if Freeman is able to keep this up, his name will be thrown around as the NFL’s most valuable player without a shadow of a doubt.