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#pounditThursday, October 1, 2020

5 NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidates

Rob Gronkowski

The 2020 NFL regular season will be unique for many reasons, but it will also feature a slew of players attempting to make a comeback — some in new uniforms.

Whether these players missed time due to injury, inconsistency or retirement, all should be considered strong candidates to win the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Here is a look at five strong candidates to win the

5. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

This spot could have gone to Derwin James or Nick Foles, but Green gets the nod as a genuinely elite player. However, Green faces more of an uphill climb in 2020 than those players because he will likely be working with a rookie quarterback (Joe Burrow) and trying to produce for a losing team. Add in the fact that Green has struggled to stay on the field in recent years, and it’s easy to see why he just barely made this list. But there’s no denying just how talented the wideout is and the type of production he’s capable of. After all, it was just a few short years ago that Green was in the conversation for best receiver in all of football. So long as he can stay healthy and weather an early storm as Burrow adjusts to life in the NFL, Green should finish the 2020 season with the kind of numbers we had previously come to expect from him.

4. J.J. Watt, EDGE, Houston Texans

J.J. Watt will go down as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, but there’s no denying his career and reputation have taken a hit in recent years due to a multitude of serious injuries. He’s played a full 16-game slate just once (2018) since 2015 and was limited to eight games last season before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. While he was able to return for the playoffs, Watt seemed to have lost some of his effectiveness. With an entire offseason to heal up, the 31-year-old should return to near 100 percent by the time the 2020 season starts, which is bad news for opposing teams. When Watt is on the field and healthy, there are legitimately none better.

3. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

It may be easy to forget because 2019 (and especially 2020 to this point) was so off-the-wall, but Matthew Stafford was lighting the NFL world on fire before suffering a severe back injury in November and ultimately being placed on injured reserve. Stafford was on pace to pass for more than 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns until a fractured back ended his season. In 2020, Stafford will return to that chuck-and-duck style of offense under coordinator Darrell Bevell, which means he should be able to pick up right where he left off. Of course, the one thing that may cost Stafford votes down the stretch — assuming he can stay healthy — is the performance of the Lions as a team. They won just three games a season ago and have hit double-digit wins just twice since 1995.

2. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Big Ben suited up for just two games in 2019 before being lost for the season due to an elbow injury that required a major surgery. He’s played a full 16-game slate just once in the past five years and will enter the 2020 season at the age of 38. The truth is, no one know what to expect from the elder Roethlisberger, but he’ll still represent a substantial upgrade over what the team currently has behind him at the quarterback position. If Roethlisberger can return to 2018 form when he threw for over 5,000 yards and 34 touchdowns, he’ll have a good a chance as any to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award. However, as it’s always been with Roethlisberger, health will be key. He’ll have to play in at least 14 or 15 games to receive legitimate consideration.

1. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Not every player in the running for Comeback Player of the Year missed the 2019 due to injury or inconsistency. In the case of Rob Gronkowski, the absence was due to a short-lived retirement. After a year away from football, Gronk will return in 2020 to reunite with Tom Brady as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and expectations are already sky high. However, the concern with Gronk will be his health, as it had been for years leading up to his retirement. The tight end has failed to log a full 16-game season since 2011, but perhaps a year away from the game has allowed his body to heal up. So long as he can stay on the field, Gronk should put up remarkable numbers in that offense and be considered the favorite to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

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