Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson’s chances for MVP in 2017

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson was one of the favorites for MVP in 2016. He’ll be a favorite for the award heading into 2017, too.

David Johnson is just two years removed from playing FCS football for the University of Northern Iowa. In those two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, he’s taken the NFL community by storm with his highlight-reel runs and elusiveness in the open field.

A rookie season was spent sharing time in head coach Bruce Arians’ backfield but Arians saw enough to give Johnson the go ahead to start the 2016 season. It was a 2016 season to remember, too.

Last year, Johnson ran for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Great numbers for a relatively unknown player two years ago, especially when looking at the number of times he punched the ball into the end zone.

What really puts Johnson’s name with the best of the league — and sometimes the best in NFL history — is his versatility in the passing game. After ending the 2015 season with 36 catches, he followed it up with 80 in 2016, going for 879 yards. If you’re looking to compare that to the rest of the NFL, that’s 20th in the league among all players and first among other running backs.

While Johnson had a great campaign, there was little chance he would’ve came away with an MVP award last season. Arizona finished 7-8-1 and, as such, Johnson would’ve had to of broken records to receive real consideration with how bad the team finished.

It’ll be the same story in 2017. The Cardinals will need to be competitive and fighting for an NFC West title, and Johnson will need to be the reason why. It’s almost a rarity to see a running back come away with the MVP award especially in the last decade. The last one to do so? Adrian Peterson back in 2012. Before that? LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. Peterson was close to breaking the rushing single-season record when he won and Tomlinson led a 14-2 (then) San Diego Chargers team, all while breaking Shaun Alexander’s single-season touchdown record with 31.

While team success will come into play what’ll matter most is how Johnson comes back from his knee injury in week 17. What many initially feared to be the worst he came away with just an MCL sprain. We should know by training camp what kind of shape his knee is in. If he’s healthy and in the form of last season, however, his MVP chances truthfully rest on the success of his team.

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