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NFL Draft

Crop Of 2020 Comeback Player Of The Year Candidates Is Crowded

  • The Draft Network
  • May 31, 2020
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Being among the favorites to earn the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award is not a conversation players want to be in. While it does indicate a successful return to the field, it also means the previous season was lost, most likely due to injuries. 

There are several high-profile candidates to earn the hardware this season. Let’s examine. 

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Injuries have been an issue of late for A.J. Green after he missed 23 of the last 32 games. The Bengals still remain committed to him, passing on chances to trade Green and are utilizing the franchise tag to keep him in the mix. 

High-level production has become synonymous since he entered the league in 2011 and logged over 8,000 receiving yards in his first seven seasons. What’s exciting to consider moving forward is how Green meshes with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. While Andy Dalton enjoyed a prolific run with the Bengals, Burrow’s accuracy creates opportunities for Green to have the best season of his career in 2020. He just has to be available. 

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger suffered an elbow injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season, forcing him to miss the remainder of the year. The leadership of coach Mike Tomlin and an elite defense kept the Steelers in the hunt, and they finished the year 8-8. A healthy Roethlisberger in the lineup surely would have resulted in a few more wins and a postseason berth. 

Roethlisberger returns to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and other young pass-catchers in Diontae Johnson and James Washington, who showcased exciting potential last season. Pittsburgh invested its top pick in the draft on receiver Chase Claypool and signed tight end Eric Ebron in free agency to bring a size dynamic to Roethlisberger’s weaponry. The versatility in Pittsburgh’s offensive skill players should help Roethlisberger find his stride and make the plays in the passing game we’ve come accustomed to seeing from him. 

C.J. Mosley, LB, New York Jets 

The Jets signed C.J. Mosley to a record-shattering five-year, $85 million contract prior to the 2019 season, but Mosley was limited to just two starts due to a groin injury. After logging 17 tackles, a fumble recovery and a pick-six in just 114 snaps last season, New York got a taste of the impact Mosley can make. 

Durability has not been an issue for Mosley previously in his career but injuries cost him a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl season. He should get back to his playmaking ways in 2020 and start living up to his contract.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson’s return couldn’t have started better. He caught eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 against Washington, and it appeared vintage Jackson was back. Unfortunately, a groin injury in Week 2 practically ended his season. He did try to play in Week 9 but lasted just three snaps before opting for corrective surgery. 

The Eagles wide receiver corps’ will have a new look in 2020, but Jackson should have a prominent role. Clearly Philadelphia has put an emphasis on speed and vertical receiving at the position, an area that has been Jackson’s calling-card in the NFL since he was drafted in 2008. 

It remains to be seen what Jackson has left in the tank at 33 years old, but if Week 1 of 2019 was any indication, Jackson is still capable of making explosive plays. 

J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

After arguably the most dominant stretch of defensive play the NFL has ever experienced from 2012-15, J.J. Watt has missed at least half the season due to injury in three of the past four years. While 2018 resembled vintage Watt, he missed all but eight games in 2019 due to a pectoral injury. 

Watt was able to return for the playoffs and make an impact, but his play was still limited. A healthy Watt in 2020 could land him not only Comeback Player of the Year honors but also a run at a fourth Defensive Player of the Year trophy. 

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Before back injury ended his season after eight starts, Matthew Stafford was producing at an elite level; arguably the best stretch of play for his career. Prior to the injury, Stafford was on pace for right at 5,000 passing yards and 38 touchdowns with a passer rating of 106. 

The top three wide receivers — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola — from Stafford’s hot start in 2019 are all back for 2020 in addition to tight end T.J. Hockenson, who should take a major step forward in his sophomore year. Detroit invested a second-round pick on running back D’Andre Swift, which is a telling sign for the offense to become more balanced and potentially make Stafford even more efficient and explosive in the passing game with more favorable passing situations and heavy doses of play-action. 

If Stafford picks up where he left off in 2019, he could also be in the MVP discussion. 

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dominant is the word that comes to mind when watching Rob Gronkowski play football and his next games will come with quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. After a brief retirement, Gronkowski is back with a year of rest which is potentially a scary thing for the NFL. 

In his previous nine NFL seasons, the only thing capable of slowing down Gronkowski has been injuries and him fresh entering a season could lead to another level of dominance. 

Brady and Gronkowski have never been paired with so much offensive talent around them in terms of skill players and their familiar connection should lead to a lot of production. 

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