This year there is a crowded list of athletes for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. The honor, handed out by the Associated Press, is voted on by a panel of national media personnel.
Unlike the MVP award, which has been won by a quarterback every year since 2013, this honor has been won by one quarterback since 2014. QB Andrew Luck was awarded the distinction last season after returning from shoulder surgery that kept him out of the 2017 season.
Comeback Player of the Year
Player/Position Team Bovada Odds Draft Kings Odds
Jimmy Garoppolo/QB 49ers 13/4 3/1
Le’Veon Bell/RB Jets 9/2 4/1
Devonta Freeman/RB Falcons 9/1 7/1
Derrius Guice/RB Redskins 12/1 14/1
Carson Wentz/QB Eagles 12/1 14/1
Cam Newton/QB Panthers 14/1 12/1
Earl Thomas/DB Ravens 16/1 12/1
Jason Whitten/TE Cowboys 16/1 16/1
David Johnson/RB Arizona 16/1 18/1
Cooper Kupp/WR Rams 18/1 14/1
But injuries are not the only criteria voters look at. In 2010 Michael Vick became Philadelphia’s starter after being Donovan McNabb’s back up the year before. He so impressed voters, he was given the honor for the 2010 season.
Bovada, as well as Draft Kings have put together odds for the Comeback Player of the Year. We take a look at some of the top candidates.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco quarterback suffered a devastating torn ACL injury the third week of the season. He has returned, and is expected to do what he did when he came to the 49ers in 2017, which was win the last five games of the season.
The 27-year-old did throw five straight interceptions in practice on Wednesday, but coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t seem that concerned.
“The defense did great today, and obviously he struggled,” Shanahan said. “You hope to never have a day like [that]. … So when you do that, you hope that you practice long enough to give him a chance to play out of it.”
If he can return some of the magic to the Bay Area, and get this struggling team to a .500 record, he should be considered a no brainer for the award.
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
The running back sat out the entire season with Pittsburgh in 2018 in a bitter contract dispute. The Jets decided he was worth the money he was asking for, and signed him to a four-year, $52.5 million contract.
Now Bell has to show New York fans and management he was worth the money. Bell hasn’t been a staple in training camp, telling the New York Daily News that he will be game-ready.
“I don’t really necessarily need [preseason reps],” Bell said. “If I get them, they’ll help. But I don’t think I’ll need them. I think once we get out there football is football. I’ve been playing for so long. It naturally will come back to me. I’ll get adjusted to the game. In a couple plays and I’m ready to go.”
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
The running back suffered two injuries last season. The first was a knee strain that kept him out three games, then a groin injury that ended his year. In 2019, he is back, fully healed and ready to put up stats like he did in 2015 and 2016, when he compiled more than 1,000 yards rushing.
Coach Dan Quinn raved about him to the Athletic, saying he could be better than he’s ever been.
“[Freeman]’s had an outstanding offseason,” Quinn said. “The energy he brought back, starting with OTAs, he’s a stronger man than what he was prior to his injury.”
Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens
The defensive player with the best odds, Thomas started out last year on fire for the Seahawks before breaking his leg in the middle of a game in Week 4. Before the injury, though, he had three interceptions in as many games.
He is 30-years-old, but he hasn’t shown any signs of wear for his new team, the Ravens. Playing with a strong defense might be just what he needs to thrive again.