The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award is an annual honor handed out by the Associated Press to the NFL player who has overcome adversity from the previous season and performed at a high level. The criteria are not specific although the award has usually gone to a player coming off an injury or poor performance from the previous year.
The winner is chosen by a panel of journalists and since 2011, the award has been presented at the NFL Honors ceremony held on the day before the Super Bowl. The award was first presented from 1963-66 but the winner wasn’t included in the overall list of award winners. Beginning in 1998, the NFL has awarded a winner every season.
Last year, Ryan Tannehill won the award after taking over the Titan’s starting quarterback role last season following a 2-4 start by Marcus Mariota. Tannehill led the team to the AFC title game where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs. For his play, Tannehill was named to his first Pro Bowl selection and was awarded as the 2019 NFL Comeback Player of the Year winner.
For the upcoming season, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tight end Rob Gronkowski are co-favorites to win the 2020 CPOY award.
Here are the odds to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year 2020:
Who Are the Favorites?
Ben Roethlisberger is the co-betting favorite to win the 2020 CPOY. Big Ben was expected to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers back to the postseason in 2019 after the team got rid of distractions in wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. However, the veteran QB suffered an elbow injury that took him out of the 2019 season.
Roethlisberger’s injury required reconstructive ligament surgery and he was only allowed to start throwing in February 2020. He is already 38 years old and if he makes a successful recovery and leads the Steelers back to the postseason, I think he’s a sure bet to win the award.
Big Ben was coming off a 2018 season where he led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards and the Steelers finishing with a franchise-best 53 touchdowns. So even if he returns at just 80%, there is a good chance that he will walk away with the prize.
Rob Gronkowski is the new name of this list and he is a unique case. Gronk retired on top of his game after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII. He had a good time and even won the 24/7 championship in the professional wrestling organization WWE. But after Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gronk came out of retirement.
Interestingly, Gronkowski is the only tight end to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. He achieved the feat in 2014 when he successfully returned from a knee injury. However, many are skeptical over Gronk’s decision to return. He has not played competitive football in over a year and after all the injuries that he’s been through, he may not be the same player we know him to be.
But Gronk is arguably the most dominant tight end in the history of the NFL. And he will be playing with a very familiar quarterback in Tom Brady. Gronkowski should make an impact in Tampa Bay. The question is if it will be enough to win him the CPOY award.
JJ Watt played on eight regular games last season after the Houston Texans star defensive end suffered a torn pectoral injury. Watt came back to play Houston’s two postseason games this season and is expected to return at full strength when the new season begins.
Watt played only a total of six games during the 2016 and 2017 seasons after undergoing back surgery and suffering a leg fracture. He came back in 2018 and played all 16 games for the Texans. He led the league with seven forced fumbles, 16 sacks, and 61 combined tackles. Watt was named to the Pro Bowl with his effort.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver AJ Green injured his foot in training camp and he missed the entire 2019 season. The former Georgia standout was named to seven straight Pro Bowl selections from his rookie season to 2017. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in six of those seasons while picking up double-digit touchdowns in three of those.
Green will have #1 overall pick, Joe Burrow, throwing him the football this season. And with head coach Zach Taylor saying recently that Green is “fully healed”, we could see him return to Pro Bowl form this season and that should be enough to include him in this conversation. At +1000, he presents good betting value.
Baker Mayfield had a disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns and he failed to live up to expectations last season. But Cleveland added the talented Austin Hooper at tight end and shored up its offensive line with Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills. With all the weapons around him now, Mayfield could be having a bounce-back year. At +2500, he offers excellent betting value here.
Matthew Stafford is an interesting pick here. He won the 2011 CPOY award after throwing over 5,000 yards with 41 touchdowns during the 2011 season. Stafford missed 13 games during the 2010 season with a shoulder injury. If he can get healthy, the Lions have the potential to have a good year with Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift providing ground support. Stafford also has good value at +1400.
There are two players at +4000 that I am also interested in. Nick Foles is an intriguing pick here because if he can oust Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago, he could be successful with his new team as the Bears have a team that is ready to win now. Foles is also familiar with head coach Matt Nay whom he worked with in Philly and Kansas City.
The other one is Myles Garrett who was having an impressive defensive season when he got suspended for when he ripped off Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and hitting Rudolph with it in the head.
Garrett was already one of the premier defensive players in the NFL when that unfortunate incident happened. If he can duplicate last season’s performance minus the helmet throwing incident and lead the Cleveland Brown to the playoffs, then he could have a chance to win this award.
In the last 18 years, 12 winners of the Comeback Player of the Year were quarterbacks. Last year, Ryan Tannehill won the award after replacing Marcus Mariota as the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback and leading the team to the AFC Championship game. However, the CPOY award has been traditionally given to players who make successful recoveries from a serious injury. From 2014-2018, the winner of the award suffered a season-ending injury in the previous season.
Because of these, I think that Ben Roethlisberger is justified as the odds-on-favorite to win the award. And at +400, he does have a good betting value. However, whey you look down the odds board, you can’t help but like Matthew Stafford at +1400. Like Big Ben, Stafford is coming off a serious injury. Stafford is younger and may have a better chance of returning to his old form than Big Ben.
Aside from those two, I’m also looking at Baker Mayfield at +2500 and Nick Foles at +4000. Foles is also coming off an injury while Mayfield could have a bounce-back year this season. Gronkowski is also an interesting pick for me but at +400, I’d rather roll with Big Ben.
I am going to pick Matthew Stafford here. I think the risk is higher with Roethlisberger because of his age. This could go down to Stafford and Baker Mayfield. But because Stafford ticks the criteria for the traditional CPOY winner, I will go with the Lions’ quarterback here.
Prediction: Matthew Stafford