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#pounditSunday, January 24, 2021

Top 5 NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidates

Jimmy Garoppolo

While NFL MVP is the award that gets the most attention, it’s worth paying attention to those who win Comeback Player of the Year. These are players who often suffered injuries and either played through them or lost significant portions of their season to them. They worked their way back to full health, rediscovered their top form, and were major contributors. Andrew Luck was the winner of last season’s award, and his retirement shows just how much he overcame in order to play last year.

So who are the players who have a good chance of being honored with Comeback Player of the Year in 2019? Here are five names to watch.

5. Earl Thomas, S, Ravens

When healthy, Thomas has always been one of the league’s elite safeties. After breaking his leg in the fourth game of the season in 2018, Thomas landed with the Ravens. At age 30, he’s still young enough to recover and get back to something close to his best. Thomas is a hard-hitting safety with a nose for the ball, and the Ravens will benefit from that. It’s entirely plausible that he could claim the award as well.

4. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams

Kupp was quickly becoming a Jared Goff favorite before tearing his ACL in Week 10. Assuming Kupp returns to his best, Goff will probably be looking his way a lot once again. That could lead to a whole lot of catches for the 26-year-old, who already looked on pace for 1,000 yards and double-digit scores last season. Both of those tallies are well within reach in 2019 as long as he’s fully healthy. Not only is he expected to be ready for Week 1, but there’s even talk of him coming back stronger than before.

3. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Newton’s shoulder problems are supposedly behind him. That’s good news, as is the fact that he’s likely to be ready for Week 1 after a preseason injury scare. Newton did play through the injury, and he did throw for 24 touchdowns in 2018, which could make his route to winning the award a bit tougher. Still, a healthy Newton is an MVP-caliber player. Any major improvement in his stats could bring him some hardware.

2. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers

We still don’t really know who the real Jimmy Garoppolo is. He’s been impressive for the 49ers, but an injury ended his 2018 season prematurely and left us wondering what he can really do. Garoppolo had a poor preseason debut and will need to improve quickly, but if he can turn the flashes of top-end talent into something consistent, he could have a big statistical season. If he does that, this award could very easily follow.

1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Jets

Bell’s comeback is the only one on the list that is self-imposed; he sat out 2018 due to a contract dispute before landing with the New York Jets on guaranteed terms he wanted. It’s unclear whether voters will remember that and hold it against him, but if they don’t, he may have an advantage over the competition. He was an elite player with Pittsburgh, putting up 1,946 total yards in 2017, and he doesn’t have to worry about coming back from an injury. Those factors may ensure that he picks up right where he left off.

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