Who will win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award?
When the NFL starts back up (whenever that may be), we’ll see the long-awaited return of a handful of players. For a variety of different reasons, there were several notable players who missed the majority of the 2019-20 season, meaning they’ll be eligible for Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Looking at the current Draftkings Sportsbook odds, the options include injured stars, suspended players, current free agents, and even a rookie:
- QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT: +400
- DE J.J. Watt, HOU: +400
- QB Matthew Stafford, DET: +500
- WR A.J. Green, CIN: +800
- WR Antonio Brown, FA: +700
- S Derwin James, LAC: +1100
- QB Cam Newton, FA: +1400
- DE Myles Garrett, CLE: +2000
- RB Todd Gurley, ATL: +2000
- WR DeSean Jackson, PHI: +2000
- QB Alex Smith, WAS: +2000
- RB David Johnson, HOU: +2500
- DE Bradley Chubb, DEN: +3300
- QB Baker Mayfield, CLE: +3300
- QB Tua Tagovailoa, Rookie: +3300
- QB Nick Foles, Bears: +4000
- DE Akiem Hicks, CHI: +6600
- LB C.J. Mosley, NYJ: +6600
- QB Mitchell Trubisky, CHI: +6600
- OL Trent Williams, WAS: +10000
Let’s narrow down the list to see the actual contenders.
For starters, defenders rarely win the award. Since 2000, only four defenders have earned the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award: Saints DE Joe Johnson (2000), Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi (2005), Cowboys DE Greg Ellis (2007), and Chiefs S Eric Berry (2015).
That pretty much takes Derwin James, Myles Garrett, Bradley Chubb, Akiem Hicks, and C.J. Mosley out of the race. J.J. Watt is a different story, as he’s a transcendent future Hall of Famer. If he returns to his Defensive Player of the Year status, you could easily see him walking away with the award.
An offensive lineman has never won Comeback Player of the Year, removing Trent Williams from contention. We might as well take Tua Tagovailoa off the board, as well; while we could see a scenario where the rookie is successful following a midseason debut, we still don’t think voters will consider him for the accolade.
That leaves us with a list full of quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs.
Quarterbacks are the most popular selection for this award, with 12 signal-callers winning the accolade since 2002. Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford deserve to be atop the list, but they’re not even necessarily our favorite options.
While Baker Mayfield certainly regressed from his impressive rookie campaign, he’s got the talent to the light up the league. It could only be a matter of time until Mayfield takes the leap to superstardom, and we could end up reaping the rewards.
Meanwhile, one of Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky will be starting for a contender in Chicago. If the 2020 Bears offense is 2019-Titans-level, we could easily see a Bears QB winning the award (don’t forget: Ryan Tannehill won last year).
While we respect Alex Smith‘s comeback, we’re not confident he’ll even see the field that much. Same goes for Cam Newton, although he could be a sneaky pick if he lands in the right situation.
We don’t feel great about any of the three wideouts on the list. Antonio Brown could obviously put up incredible numbers, but it’s uncertain if anyone will take a chance on him. Even then, will voters award him for his year-plus of antics? Probably not.
A.J. Green will need a trade out of Cincinnati to put up award-worthy numbers. while DeSean Jackson hasn’t compiled 1,000 yards (nor completed a full season) in three years.
At running back, we could buy into the idea of Todd Gurley/David Johnson; while there were some other circumstances that led to their respective acquisitions, the Falcons/Texans still wouldn’t have acquired the veterans if they weren’t in their offensive plans.
Ultimately, any of Roethlisberger/Watt/Stafford are logical picks. However, if you’re looking to go off the board a bit, we’d suggest any of Mayfield/Foles/Trubisky/Johnson/Gurley.