Skip to main content

Top 10 non-QB NFL MVP candidates in 2023, including Tyreek Hill and Christian McCaffrey


The quarterbacks hog all the attention in any debate regarding the NFL MVP award, and rightfully so. After all, they play the most important position on the field, and they get the most credit or blame when a team wins or loses.

For the sake of this exercise, however, let’s eliminate the quarterbacks from the conversation. Who would be the top non-QB NFL MVP candidates this season?

Related: NFL MVP 2023-24: Jalen Hurts sees MVP candidacy take a big hit after Week 13 loss

The list would include a healthy, and worthy, mix of both offensive and defensive players, many of whom get overshadowed by their team’s quarterback. But not in this drill. Here would be the top 10 non-QB NFL MVP contenders.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

10. Khalil Mack, Chargers LB

It wasn’t an easy choice taking Mack in the 10th position for this non-QB NFL MVP list, even though he’s the NFL’s current sack leader (15), and is first in forced fumbles (five) and third in tackles for loss (14).

A strong case could be made to put San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, in this spot instead because he leads the way in QB hits (30), pressures (38) and knockdowns (17).

But the sacks and forced fumbles would be the sexy stats among NFL MVP voters, and they would be more enamored with Mack over Bosa, who’s only registered eight sacks despite his constant pressure on the quarterback.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

9. Fred Warner, 49ers LB

It’s hard to find a defensive player, even on this non-QB NFL MVP list, who makes his presence felt on every snap as much as Warner, the 49ers’ do-everything defender. And he’s put together another All-Pro season, setting himself apart as the best middle linebacker in the league.

Warner, who thrives against the run and the pass, has three interceptions, the most of any linebacker, in addition to three forced fumbles, two sacks, and eight passes defensed, which is tied for the most among linebackers. If defensive players are included in the MVP vote, then Warner, the captain of the 49ers defense, needs to be one of them.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

8. Raheem Mostert, Dolphins RB

The guy at the top of this list gets all the Dolphins’ hype, and for good reason, but don’t sleep on Mostert as a non-QB NFL MVP candidate.

With his combination of power and speed, Mostert leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 14, ranks second in total touchdowns (16) and yards per rush (5.1) among backs with 100 rushing attempts, and is third in rushing yards per game (69.0).

Certainly, receiver Tyreek Hill is the team’s primary playmaker and considered Miami’s most dangerous weapon, but Mostert isn’t too far behind.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

7. Micah Parsons, Cowboys LB

Parsons is one of four linebackers — and three Cowboys — on this non-QB NFL MVP list, and it’s tough not to recognize his week-to-week impact on the Cowboys’ defense, which ranks third in the NFL.

From sacks (11.5) to tackles for loss (13) to QB hits (26) to pressures (33), Parsons ranks at or near the top of the league by those measures and more, further cementing his presence as a menace to opposing offenses.

Just ask Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, who was running for his life when he saw Parsons bearing down on him on Seattle’s final, last-gasp play from scrimmage last Thursday.

Parsons, who’s in the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has a chance to make another statement against Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

6. Myles Garrett, Browns DE

When you play defensive end and earn compliments from San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams, that’s almost all that needs to be said about Garrett as a pass-rushing phenom off the edge.

There’s a reason the Cleveland Browns still have the NFL’s best defense, and that’s due largely to Garrett’s extraordinary strength and athleticism as he makes opposing quarterbacks aware of him on every play.

Garrett, who’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, has dropped to fourth with 13 sacks and has gone without a sack the past two weeks, but he still gets much credit for the Browns’ much-improved defense for the majority of the season.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

5. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys WR

There’s been a nice run of defensive players on this list, but returning to the offensive side of the ball, Lamb has stood out as the go-to weapon for quarterback Dak Prescott.

While he’s not quite in the category to the top two non-QB players, Lamb ranks third in all-purpose yardage (1,266), second in yards per game (98.5), and third in receptions (90).

When Prescott needs a big play, there’s no mystery where he’s going with the football, and opposing teams who game-plan to stop Lamb still can’t seem to do it. Prescott is considered one of the top 2-3 overall MVP candidates at the moment, and he has Lamb to thank for it.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

4. DaRon Bland, Cowboys CB

Yes, one more Cowboys player. It’s hard to deny a player who sets an all-time NFL record, and that is exactly what Bland has done.

Bland, a second-year player out of Fresno State, not only leads the NFL with eight interceptions, but he has returned five of them for touchdowns, the last one coming on Thanksgiving Day.

He broke a record shared by three other players and not equaled since 1993. And any time you score that many defensive touchdowns, you deserve a place on the non-QB NFL MVP list.

The crazy thing is that Bland’s record-setting pick-six came in the 11th game of the season. With five games still to play, Bland has ample opportunity to extend his record.


3. T.J. Watt, Steelers LB

Last week Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Watt is “the best defensive player on the planet right now.” While that statement might be biased coming from his coach, all Watt has done is go out and prove it on the field.

The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is making another strong run at the honor this season. He leads the league in forced fumbles (three), is second in the league in sacks (14), QB hits (27) and pressures (37), and has seven passes defended and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown.

Related: 10 best NFL defensive players, including T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett

Watt missed seven games last season with a pectoral injury, but he’s back with a vengeance to reclaim the top defensive honor he earned in 2021. So far, there’s no denying him.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers RB

It’s almost impossible to downplay the impact McCaffrey has had on the 49ers offense since he joined them last season. Even on a team with offensive standouts like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, McCaffrey is the player that opposing defenses focus on the most.

McCaffrey, who tied the all-time record for consecutive games with a touchdown, leads the NFL in TDs (17) and rushing yards (1,032) while also catching 51 passes out of the backfield.

There is no more versatile offensive player than McCaffrey, who’s as adept at running between the tackles as he is at hauling in a pass up the sidelines for a long gain. An argument could be made for McCaffrey at the top of any MVP list, quarterbacks included.


1. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins WR

If any other name but Tyreek Hill appears anywhere but first on list of non-QB NFL MVP candidates, please disregard it quickly for its severe lack of credibility. Hill is the only choice.

Shall we count the ways? Let’s start with receiving yards (1,481), which have him on pace to become the first player ever to eclipse 2,000 yards in a single season in NFL history. Jerry Rice never did it. Neither did Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter and many of the other great receivers over the years.

Hill also stands atop the leaderboard for receiving TDs (12) and yards after catch (604). In fact, Hill alone has accounted for half of the 24 TD passes that Tua Tagovailoa has thrown this season as part of Miami’s No. 1 offense. There is player in the NFL who’s as capable of busting a game open with his explosiveness than the “Cheetah.”

Hill is starting to get a lot of buzz as an overall NFL MVP candidate, as he should. At the current rate, if the top quarterbacks falter in any way, Hill could be right there to snatch the award away.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: