There’s only one award future we have not explored in our NFL preseason batch of research: Comeback Player of the Year.
How do we project the winner of this award? This isn’t necessarily a position award, but it has been widely dominated by quarterback for some time now. There is a narrative baked into this award: Something had to have happened to one of these players for them to regain a previous form.
Joe Burrow won the award in 2021 after tearing his ACL/MCL at the end of his rookie season. Alex Smith brought home the honors in 2020 after a gruesome leg injury the year prior put both his leg and life at risk. For the most part, this award is revolved around a player coming back from a bad injury.
Players like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford have all won Comeback Player of the Year before.
Betting odds for 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
These odds are courtesy of DraftKings, here are the top 15 to win Comeback Player of the Year:
- Derrick Henry (+400)
- Jameis Winston (+550)
- Christian McCaffrey (+750)
- Michael Thomas (+800)
- Daniel Jones (+800)
- Baker Mayfield (+1200)
- Mitchell Trubisky (+1200)
- Chase Young (+1400)
- JK Dobbins (+1400)
- Saquon Barkley (+1500)
- Marcus Mariota (+1600)
- Deshaun Watson (+2000)
- Allen Robinson (+2500)
- Travis Etienne (+2500)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (+2500)
Thoughts on the field
Titans running back Derrick Henry is the favorite after missing nine games in 2021 with a broken foot. The issue I have betting on him is that he did return at the tail end of the year. While he wasn’t the same in his postseason appearance, he regained enough health to return to the field. This feels like an award designed for someone we didn’t see at the end of the season.
Jameis Winston is here in what we will bill the “Ryan Tannehill model.” Tannehill won this award in 2019 due to his career revival in Tennessee. Winston hasn’t played much since leaving the Buccaneers, but the keys are his in New Orleans this season.
He is coming back from career purgatory, and if he has a strong season for the Saints, then yes, he’s likely in the mix to win Comeback Player of the Year.
That same designation could also be handed to quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Marcus Mariota, two former first-round picks who have not yet panned out, but who both should be starting in Week 1 for new teams. Baker Mayfield could potentially be lumped into that group as well, as he was traded to Carolina.
Two bets on a winner
Looking at the board, there are two players we’d be comfortable placing a wager on, and both find themselves in the NFC South.
Christian McCaffrey +750
We’ve previously written that McCaffrey holds some value for Offensive Player of the Year, and that belief certainly stretches to this market. McCaffrey has played just 10 games in the past two seasons, but we know the dominant playmaker is still there.
Healthy and a focal point for the Carolina offense, McCaffrey should be able to stack some numbers this season, with the massive assumption that he stays on the field. If Carolina can clinch a playoff spot, and we think that’s realistic in a wide-open NFC with three wild-card spots, then McCaffrey has to be considered for this award. He is such a large part of what the Panthers try to do and would be a huge jolt to this team.
Jameis Winston +550
We’ve given some light to Winston already, but there is precedent for a quarterback in a position like this winning the award with a career renaissance year. I for one have never considered Winston a bad QB, just one with a proclivity for turning the ball over.
Assuming Winston cleans up those mistakes, he’s more than capable of having a strong season and leading New Orleans to the playoffs.
The Saints have solid offensive weapons in Alvin Kamara, a returning Michael Thomas (another contender for this award) and rookie Chris Olave. A clean season from Winston that has people remembering why he was the top overall pick, and this award is his.
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