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Darkhorse Candidates to win NFL MVP in 2023

Photo courtesy of the USA Today.

As the NFL season approaches, fans and analysts eagerly debate the frontrunners for the highly coveted Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. While established stars and perennial MVP contenders often dominate the conversation, a few darkhorse candidates always emerge from the shadows and make a compelling case for the prestigious honor. In this article, we will explore the stories of these intriguing dark horse candidates. We will analyze their skills, examine their performances, and consider the potential impact they can have on their respective teams. These players represent a mix of positions, showcasing the NFL’s diversity and depth of talent.

Derek Carr: New Orleans Saints

Saints QB Derek Carr tops our list of darkhorse candidates that can win this year’s Most Valuable Player award. Carr brings to the table for New Orleans many intangibles that the team has not seen since Drew Brees was under center in 2020. So far, he has established himself as the unquestioned leader of the Saints, and the chemistry between him and the skill players will pay huge dividends once the season kicks off. Another factor that plays into Carr’s favor as an MVP candidate is the Saints’ 2023 schedule. It is projected to be one of the easiest in the entire league.

Jared Goff: Detroit Lions

Jaret Goff, the Detroit Lions quarterback, emerges as a dark horse candidate for the upcoming season. In 2022, he proved to be the second-best quarterback in the NFC, just behind Jalen Hurts. He closed the season by throwing for 4,438 yards, 29 TDs, and only seven interceptions. Also, with Goff under center, Detroit was in the playoff conversation for the first time since 2016. While the Lions may not be robust Super Bowl contenders yet, Goff has the potential to shine under the guidance of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. Despite facing challenges, Goff deserves recognition as a dark horse in the MVP race.

Tua Tagovailoa: Miami Dolphins

While quarterbacks often dominate the MVP award, Tagovailoa possesses the skills and attributes that could make him a strong contender for the prestigious honor. Tagovailoa has already shown flashes of brilliance in his career, demonstrating his ability to put up impressive numbers and lead his team to success. In the 2022 season, he started with a remarkable performance, throwing for 469 yards and six touchdowns against the formidable Baltimore Ravens defense. Despite facing injury setbacks, Tagovailoa’s talent and the Dolphins’ playoff appearance last year indicate his ability to significantly impact the team’s success.

With a strengthened physique, an expanded skill set, and a deep understanding of the game, Tagovailoa is poised to have another tremendous season. Surrounded by a talented supporting cast and under the guidance of head coach Mike McDaniel, who praises his work ethic and attention to detail, Tagovailoa has the potential to surprise everyone and emerge as a dark horse candidate for the NFL MVP award.

Geno Smith: Seattle Seahawks

Despite initial skepticism surrounding Geno Smith’s potential as a franchise quarterback, he has defied expectations and emerged as a dark horse candidate for the NFL MVP in the upcoming season. Back in 2013, there were doubts about his ability, with some even questioning his first-round selection. However, Smith’s journey since then has been remarkable.

After being featured in the Freezing Cold Takes book for inaccurate predictions, Smith proved his detractors wrong by earning the title Comeback Player of the Year and delivering a Pro Bowl-worthy performance. His recent three-year, $105 million extension showcases the recognition he has garnered for his exceptional play. As Smith continues to build upon his success, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him elevate his game further and contend for the coveted MVP award.

Justin Jefferson: Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson keeps making headlines every season with new benchmarks. He went from catching 88 receptions for over 1,400 yards in his rookie season to 128 receptions for 1,809 yards in 2022. During the middle of the season, Jefferson was put on the list of MVP candidates so that he could go all the way. Jefferson is known for his exceptional route-running ability. He keenly understands route concepts and displays precise footwork and body control, allowing him to create separation from defenders and find openings in the opposing defense. His ability to run crisp routes enables him to consistently get open and be a reliable target for his quarterback.

Another notable skill of Jefferson is his exceptional hands. He has solid and reliable hands, allowing him to make difficult catches in traffic and contested situations. Jefferson can pluck the ball out of the air, showcasing his excellent hand-eye coordination and ball-tracking skills. His hands make him a reliable target in crucial situations and a threat in the red zone. The former LSU Tiger definitely could force his way into the MVP conversation.

Russell Wilson: Denver Broncos

Russell Wilson got off to a rough start in his first season as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. It had gotten so bad that many analysts around the league started to recognize Wilson as a quarterback whose run as an elite passer was over. Based on his production on the field, it’s hard to go against some of the narratives about the former Seahawk being “washed.” Because of the significant financial investment tied to Wilson, the Broncos are giving the former third-round pick another chance to show that he is their best option at QB. The team hired former Super Bowl champion head coach Sean Payton to start the recode of a once dynamic playmaker at quarterback. If Payton is successful with the development of Wilson, similar to how Drew Brees progressed in his first year in 2006 with the Saints, he will indeed emerge as an MVP candidate.

While the NFL MVP award often goes to the usual suspects, the darkhorse candidates add excitement and intrigue to the race. Derek Carr, Justin Jefferson, Tua Tagovailoa, Jared Goff, Russel Wilson, and Geno Smith are just a few examples of players who possess the talent, opportunity, and potential to surprise everyone and enter the MVP conversation. As the 2023 NFL season unfolds, keep a close eye on these darkhorse candidates as they strive to make their mark and challenge the established stars for the league’s most prestigious individual honor.

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Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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