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#pounditFriday, December 3, 2021

5 Top NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidates

Dak Prescott

The NFL is getting closer to training camp and then the first preseason games since 2019 will follow. It is also the beginning of a comeback journey for several of the league’s biggest stars.

More than a handful of players will be vying for this year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. But these five superstars have the best odds to win that piece of hardware.

5. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns

Unfortunately for Odell Beckham Jr., he’s a regular on “Comeback Player of the Year” lists. Injuries just seem to follow him along with the subsequent, “this is going to be my year” hot take. Eventually, that hope will come to fruition, and OBJ will remind us all why he was once considered the most gifted wide receiver in football. Could 2021 finally be that season? Beckham suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 last year. Because of the timeline, he may not be able to start off the upcoming season at full strength. For that reason, OBJ appears further down on this list than he otherwise would have. Still, don’t put anything past the 28-year-old, whose motivation can not be questioned.

4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey missed 13 games a season ago due to shoulder, ankle and thigh injuries. It was the first time in McCaffrey’s NFL career that he missed time, and just the second time dating back to his college career at Stanford. The good news for McCaffrey and the Panthers? In the few games he did play during the 2020 season, McCaffrey looked every bit as dominant as he had in years prior. That also means he’ll return more comfortably and confidently in the role offensive coordinator Joe Brady has carved out for him. So long as he can return to the standard of health he had previously set for himself, McCaffrey should pick up where he had left off and reestablish himself as one of the league’s most dynamic backs.

3. Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers

As a rookie in 2019, Nick Bosa erupted onto the scene with 9.0 sacks and 25 QB hits en route to his first Pro Bowl. He also won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Many believed that was just the tip of the iceberg and that in Year 2, Joey Bosa’s younger brother would establish himself as one of the elite pass rushers in football. Instead, Bosa went down with a torn ACL in Week 2. He missed nearly the entire season. However, he’s been quick to recover and with no setbacks to date, the expectation is that Bosa may actually participate in training camp when the 49ers begin their practices in late July. If he can step onto the field in Week 1 without limitations, watch out… Bosa is easily the strongest defensive candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in 2021.

2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

After erupting onto the scene as a rookie in 2018, Barkley has suffered back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. In 2019, he dealt with a high ankle sprain that limited him for much of the year. And in Week 2 of last season, Barkley suffered a torn ACL that shut him down. Despite concerns over the severity of his knee injury, Barkley’s rehab has gone smoothly and he has not suffered setbacks. While the Giants intend to ease him back slowly, including a very limited training camp, Barkley should be 100 percent come Week 1 of this season. That’s good news for Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who built his entire scheme around Barkley and once again intends to feature him in 2021. With more playmakers lining the offense, the 24-year-old could be in position for his best statistical output as a pro.

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

We could have put Carson Wentz here, but let’s be serious. After starting off the 2020 regular-season hot, Dak Prescott went down with a stomach-churning ankle fracture in Week 5 against the New York Giants. That didn’t stop Dallas from (finally) signing Prescott to a four-year, $160 million deal this offseason, ensuring that he returns with one of the league’s top wide receiver trios, a two-time NFL rushing champion and one of the better offensive lines in football. Assuming that Prescott is at full health — something he has guaranteed — he would be the favorite to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

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