49ers news: NFL insider says Christian McCaffrey 'belongs in MVP conversation'

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23)
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

NFL insider Matt Lombardo, formerly of FanSided and a friend of Niner Noise, concluded that Christian McCaffrey needs to be in the running for NFL MVP this year.

From 2013 through 2022, the NFL MVP award has been for quarterbacks only. Other position players need not apply.

At least not since former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson earned the honor for his efforts in 2012. Since then, though, only quarterbacks have received the award.

That's still a strong possibility in 2023, but San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey is making a strong case to be in the conversation for league MVP four weeks into the year. And if there was any doubt, his Week 4 four-touchdown dominance over the Arizona Cardinals put the exclamation point following a September when he earned Offensive Player of the Month.

McCaffrey not only leads the NFL with 459 yards, nearly 100 over the next highest rusher (D'Andre Swift of the Philadelphia Eagles), but he's also tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns and leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 600.

The 2019 All-Pro also set a new Niners franchise record with consecutive games with a touchdown, too, with 13.

So, are those MVP-like numbers and performances? If so, McCaffrey has a few people in his corner vouching for him, and not just NBA star LeBron James.

NFL insider Matt Lombardo says 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey must be 'firmly in the MVP conversation'

Our good friend and former FanSided colleague, Matt Lombardo, did his breakdown of McCaffrey in his Monday edition of Four Downs over at FanBuzz.com.

Recognizing the lengthy streak of quarterbacks winning the MVP award, Lombardo felt that McCaffrey could be the right non-QB to emerge as this year's candidate based on what he's done over these first four weeks and highlighted by Sunday's performance:

"Beyond buoying his reputation as one of the game's most versatile weapons, producing 460 rushing yards with six touchdowns and 141 receiving yards and one more score through the Niners' first four games, McCaffrey is having the kind of season that should place him firmly in the MVP conversation by season's end.

Even in an era where quarterbacks have taken home the honor every season since Adrian Peterson was the last running back to win it, back in 2012, McCaffrey's impact simply cannot be ignored."

San Francisco has lost just one regular-season game since McCaffrey came over in that blockbuster trade from the Carolina Panthers last year, and despite the plethora of talent at the 49ers' disposal, McCaffrey appears to be making the biggest difference.

Lombardo continued, "it's easy to picture the star running back finishing the year among the leading MVP vote-getters. If not breaking the decade of quarterback dominance and winning the award outright."

Hard to disagree. Head coach Kyle Shanahan wouldn't either.

Kyle Shanahan casts vote for Christian McCaffrey as early NFL MVP

Sure, Shanahan is going to be biased. But he's also not one to overhype a player just for the sake of doing so.

In the wake of the Niners' Week 4 victory, though, Shanahan was asked if he felt McCaffrey could be the MVP right now:

"I'm not sure on the whole rest of the league right now, but I thought he played like it last year when he was here. Christian's so awesome, he helps us win every time he's out there. But when you got a guy who can do everything, you can always have unbelievable stats. But he shares that with a lot of other guys and we do whatever it takes to win."

Related story: Kyle Shanahan praises Christian McCaffrey, backs 49ers RB for NFL MVP

A quarter of the way into the season, only a handful of players have dominated as much as McCaffrey has regardless of position.

While it still might be preferable to give the MVP award to a quarterback again this year, the voters should at least think twice and toss in McCaffrey's name as not only a darkhorse candidate but also a top contender.

Read more from Niner Noise