It’s not the most prestigious of year-end NFL awards, but for the first time in a few years, there will be a large pool of noteworthy candidates in the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year race. Too often, it is an injury that takes away a player’s season, but one of the beauties of sports is the comeback story. There should be plenty of those in 2020.
Newton Is Back
Former NFL MVP Cam Newton has had a rough go of it over the past two seasons. In 2018, Carolina lost seven straight in the second half of the season after starting the season 6-2. Much of the blame fell on the shoulders of Newton.
He had offseason shoulder surgery and returned in 2019 only to suffer a fractured foot that allowed him to play in just two games. But the veteran quarterback is a prime candidate for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
The Panthers moved on from Newton and signed Teddy Bridgewater. After a long wait, Newton finally signed with New England where he will compete for the starting quarterback job.
With Newton’s skill set and head coach Bill Belichick at the helm of the Patriots dynasty, there’s no telling what kind of year Newton could have. That’s why he is one of the favorites at +450 to win this year’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Big Ben Returns
While NFL fans are excited to see Newton in New England, he is not the favorite to win the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year. That honor falls to Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is the +350 favorite to return and win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award this season.
Roethlisberger injured his throwing elbow in Game 2 of last season. He did not need surgery, but he was forced to miss the rest of the season. The Steelers struggled, but their defense kept them in the playoff hunt until the final week of the 2019 season.
The Steelers QB will have a healthy JuJu Smith-Schuster back at wide receiver, James Conner at RB, and a number of other weapons in Pittsburgh’s offense. The Steelers should also challenge Baltimore for the AFC North title and are favored to capture a wild card playoff berth at the very least.
Party in Tampa
Rob Gronkowski’s retirement didn’t last long. The former Patriots tight end decided to join Tom Brady in Tampa Bay after spending the 2019 season doing things like the Masked Singer, a singing competition where contestants’ identities are not known until they are unmasked.
Gronkowski hobbled his way through the 2018 season catching 47 passes for 682 yards in just 11 games. He has had his share of injury trouble, but Gronkowski may be fully healthy for the first time since his breakout second NFL season when he had career highs in receptions (90), yards (1,327), and touchdowns (17).
The Bucs new tight end is also listed at +350 to win this year’s Comeback Player of the Year award. With Brady running an offense coached by Bruce Arians, the Gronk could have a banner year. Remember, Arians guided QB Jameis Winston to league-leading 5,109 passing yards last season.
Houston, We Have a Comeback
A former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt has played just one full season in his last four NFL campaigns. Last year, it was a torn pectoral muscle that limited Watt to the first eight games of the season.
After consecutive DPOY awards in 2014 and 2015, Watt played a total of just eight games in 2016 and ’17. He returned at full strength in 2018, played all 16 regular-season games, and recorded 16 sacks. If the Texans defensive end can return to a similar form, there is an opportunity for him to win the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year.
At +600 to win, Watt is somewhat of a longshot to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Other underdogs include Detroit QB Matthew Stafford (+700), Cincinnati WR A.J. Green (+800), and Redskins QB Alex Smith (+1200). Smith suffered a horrific leg injury that almost forced an amputation. If he even plays in a game in 2020, it would be a miracle.