10 dark-horse Super Bowl MVP candidates who aren’t Patrick Mahomes, Brock Purdy

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages
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9. Fred Warner, LB, 49ers

It has been quite a six-year run for the third-round draft pick from BYU in 2018. Linebacker Fred Warner is arguably the best player at the position in the league (you could certainly make a great case for Baltimore’s Roquan Smith). He’s missed one game in six seasons, and he has totaled at least 100 tackles in each of those campaigns. The physical defender comes off his third All-Pro season in four years.

In 2023, Warner finished with a team-best 132 tackles, 2.5 sacks and four interceptions. He also finished second on the team with 11 passes defensed and forced four fumbles. In the playoff wins over the Packers and Lions, there have been a combined 20 stops. He rolled up 13 tackles (9 solo) in the comeback with over Detroit in the NFC Championship Game.

That forced fumble is not to be overlooked. He’s had 11 of those in his 98 regular-season outings, and one more in the 2021 playoffs. The three-time Pro Bowler has 14 regular-season takeaways as well.

As for the linebacking position, there have been four named Super Bowl MVP: Dallas’ Chuck Howley (in a losing effort in V), Baltimore’s Ray Lewis (XXXV), Seattle’s Malcolm Smith (XLIX) and Denver’s Von Miller (50). Could Warner be the fifth?