It might be tough for the 49ers to boast the annual NFL MVP this season, yet these three players arguably stand the best chance of doing so.
If we’re being honest, the NFL MVP award is simply awarded to the league’s best quarterback that season. In fact, the last non-quarterback to receive the honor was then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson back in 2012.
The current pass-happy nature of the NFL has effectively changed the way MVP voters look at this, meaning if the San Francisco 49ers are going to boast that hardware, it’ll likely have to fall on the shoulders of second-year signal-caller Trey Lance to wind up having a “season of seasons” kind of 2022 campaign.
Probable? Perhaps not. But it’s surely worth exploring.
In fact, NFL.com’s Adam Schein included Lance on his list of dark-horse MVP candidates for the upcoming 2022 season, writing:
"There are a lot of ifs here, but if Lance is the quarterback, and if he doesn’t have Jimmy [Garoppolo] looking over his shoulder, the dual-threat playmaker should be able to dance in Kyle Shanahan’s offense."
The Niners would love nothing more than for this to pan out, so let’s start off our list of the three San Francisco candidates who could potentially squeak in as the league MVP this year.
49ers MVP candidate No. 3: QB Trey Lance
The 49ers hoped to follow a similar path with Lance as what the Kansas City Chiefs did with quarterback Patrick Mahomes in 2017, drafting him in Round 1 and then allowing him to develop as a backup for a full year behind then-starter Alex Smith.
In Lance’s case, he relieved Garoppolo for two starts when the latter was out with injury, flashing some modest promise but also revealing the rawness stemming from him only attempting 318 passes at the collegiate level.
That said, Lance’s maturation could take huge strides between years one and two, and Schein does have a point about the second-year quarterback partaking in an offensive-friendly system under Shanahan.
The Niners ensured Lance has plenty of weapons around him, too, including All-Pro tight end George Kittle, All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and a dynamic, potent rushing attack that’ll take pressure off the newly minted starter.
None of this is to say Lance will have a Mahomes-like impact in his second year, but the surrounding environment is conducive enough to allow it to happen.