No wide receiver has ever been named NFL MVP.
In a down year for quarterbacks, Tyreek Hill's case is becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
The Dolphins wide receiver torched the Washington Commanders Sunday in a runaway 45-15 Miami win. He left the game well on pace to break Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving record with the NFL's first 2,000-yard receiving season in his sights.
It took Miami all of three offensive plays to open a 7-0 lead over the Commanders, thanks largely to Hill's gamebreaking speed. On third-and-two from the Miami 22-yard line in the first quarter, Hill blew by defensive back Quan Martin out of the slot then slowed down to corral an underthrown ball from Tua Tagovailoa down the left sideline. The short throw didn't matter. Hill was already too far past the Washington secondary. He ran untouched past hapless Commanders defenders for a 78-yard score.
In the second quarter, Hill did it again. This time, he ran untouched past cornerback Kendall Fuller as the Commanders blitzed. Tagovailoa's pass was on time, and Hill hauled it in for another deep touchdown, this time for 60 yards to extend Miami's lead to 24-17.
Hill finished the day with five catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He did the bulk of his damage in the first half as the Dolphins pulled back the throttle after building a 31-7 halftime lead. His tally for the season now reads: 93 catches for 1,481 yards and 12 touchdowns. His yardage and touchdown totals are NFL bests. As is his 123.4 receiving yards per game.
Hill has now broken Calvin Johnson's Super Bowl-era record for receiving yards through 12 games (1,428) and is on pace to break his single-season record of 1,964 yards set in 2012. He's also on pace for the first 2,000-yard receiving season in NFL history.
They're spectacular numbers that would warrant All-Pro consideration if tallied over the course of a full season. The now 9-3 Dolphins have five games remaining on their schedule.
Hill should be a legitimate MVP candidate
If there's ever a time for voters to actually consider a wide receiver for NFL MVP, this is the year. Just don't count on it. MVP has become a de facto quarterback award and is likely to go to a quarterback again this season, even in a year where nobody at the position is making a slam-dunk case.
Hill entered Sunday seventh in MVP odds (+2000) as a significant long shot behind — you guessed it — six quarterbacks. Jalen Hurts led the way (+200) followed by Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Tagovailoa and Brock Purdy.
Tagovailoa's having an excellent season, but his own case (+700) is boosted significantly by the benefit of throwing to the most dangerous big-play threat in football. With Sunday's win, Tagovailoa's thrown for 3,457 yards with 42.8% of the tally on passes to Hill. Half of his 24 touchdown passes including both on Sunday have been thrown to Hill.
Tagovailoa's ascension to the MVP conversation and Miami's as a contender have coincided with Hill's arrival via trade prior to the 2022 season. They've also coincided with the arrival of head coach Mike McDaniel, who's rightly credited for developing the Dolphins offense into a juggernaut. But coaches needs players to execute their schemes, and none is arguably more valuable to his than Hill.
Why won't voters consider WRs for MVP?
The general thinking behind not awarding MVP to a receiver is that receivers don't reach an MVP level without being elevated by their quarterbacks. While there's merit to that argument, there's also merit to the inverse. But voters never make that case.
Even in his sensational 2021 campaign (145 catches, 1,947 yards, 16 touchdowns), Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp garnered just a single first-place vote for MVP in a third-place finish. He instead was honored as the Offensive Player of the Year while Aaron Rodgers won his fourth career MVP trophy. Johnson's record-breaking 2012 campaign earned a fourth-place finish behind Adrian Peterson, who remains the last non-quarterback to win the award.
In the 67 years of the MVP award, quarterbacks have won 46 times. Running backs have secured the award 18 times, while defenders have been honored twice. Washington kicker Mark Mosely bizarrely won in 1982.
There's no precedent for a wide receiver at MVP. But that doesn't justify ignoring Hill's case during a transcendent season on a Super Bowl contender.