tabs Christian McCaffrey as a dark-horse MVP (but not Brock Purdy)

Christian McCaffrey was the best non-quarterback player in the NFL last season.

Maybe he's the best overall this go-around.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) and running back Christian McCaffrey (23)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) and running back Christian McCaffrey (23) / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks almost always get MVP awards, but Christian McCaffrey could again be in the running over the course of 2024.

A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers had two players in the running for NFL MVP: quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey.

The award ultimately went to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, many feeling he secured the accolade by beating Purdy and the Niners in a relatively one-sided Christmas Day game in front of a national audience.

Alas, and despite leading the league in a number of significant categories, Purdy ultimately finished fourth in MVP voting and didn't receive a single first-place vote.

Perhaps voters still can't get over the fact he was the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

McCaffrey, meanwhile, wasn't in the final running. Perhaps this is due to the fact no non-quarterback has won the award since running back Adrian Peterson back in 2012. It's become essentially a QB-only accolade ever since, and the likelihood of that repeating in 2024 is high.

But, McCaffrey did take home Offensive Player of the Year honors.

So, is either one of these two Niners stars in the hunt for NFL MVP this season, even as a dark horse?

According to's Judy Battista, one of them is.

Christian McCaffrey a dark-horse MVP candidate

Jackson, the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes and the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen are the three who likely end up being favorites for the 2024 league MVP. Given their resepective star power as quarterbacks, it wouldn't be shocking at all to see any of those names take home the hardware.

That said, Battista singled out eight others who are dark-horse options to steal away an MVP accolade, one of them being McCaffrey.

Battista wrote:

"In 2023, the 49ers superstar led the NFL in touches (339), scrimmage yards (2,023) and scrimmage touchdowns (21), and in his career, he averages 115.4 scrimmage yards per game, which is third all-time behind Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. It won’t hurt his chances that he is on a contending team that will almost certainly be playing meaningful games down the stretch, when voters are deciding their votes. Running backs have been devalued in the NFL, but McCaffrey is special enough to stand out."

Indeed, McCaffrey had an MVP-worthy season. But, should San Francisco attempt to limit his use and avoid the high number of touches he had over the course of 2023, it might be difficult for the reigning OPOY to replicate last year's totals.

As for the rest? Well, Purdy wasn't in the crop of dark-horse candidates.

Instead, Battista listed out the following as potential threats to the MVP challenge:

  • QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
  • WR Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins
  • QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
  • LB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
  • QB C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
  • QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
  • QB Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

Make of that list what you will, but why Purdy was left off it, that's anyone's guess. And Battista is likely the only one who could offer up a valuable explanation.

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