2020 NFL AP Comeback Player Odds
June 1, 2020
By Tony Mejia
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Big Ben Favored to Continue CPOY QB Run
The Associated Press has crowned a Comeback Player of the Year in the NFL in every season since 1998 and FanDuel has released odds highlighting the candidates most likely to win the award in 2020. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been placed in the favorite's role after starting just two games last season before an elbow injury that required surgery sidelined him the rest of the way.
The AP Comeback Player of the Year honor was created in 1963 but was suspended from 1967-97. The Pro Football Writers Association also has an award in conjunction with Pro Football Weekly that has existed in one form or another since 1972, but the AP award is the one presented at the NFL Honors ceremony held just prior to the Super Bowl.
Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill won 2019 AP Comeback Player of the Year honors, edging San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo by a single vote. Tannehill led the NFL with a 117.5 passer rating in becoming the second straight QB to win following Andrew Luck. Quarterbacks won seven of eight awards from 2006-13 with Chad Pennington winning twice. Roethlisberger is a worthy favorite (+250, Bet $100 to win $250), but we'll take a look at other top options below.
Roethlisberger's Steelers went 8-8 despite struggling with filling his role all season due to the struggles of young replacements Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, who struggled with inconsistency and injuries. With Roethlisberger expected to be back at 100 percent to better help the offense balance out a fantastic a defense, Pittsburgh has a great chance to avoid their first three-year playoff drought since 1998-2000.
Roethlisberger hasn’t suffered through a losing season as a starter since ’06 and has won more than two-thirds of the 215 games he’s appeared. He set career-bests with 5,129 passing yards, 452 completions and 34 TD passes in 2018, so the 38-year-old can’t be written off as washed up if he’s healthy.
List of available AP Comeback Player of the Year Winner Candidates(Odds courtesy of FanDuel)
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Ben Roethlisberger +250
Rob Gronkowski +300
J.J. Watt +550
Cam Newton +750
A.J. Green +900
Matthew Stafford +900
Alex Smith +1400
Andy Dalton +1400
Nick Foles +1400
Myles Garrett +2000
Antonio Brown +2500
Bradley Chubb +3300
Derwin James +3300
CJ Mosley +5000
DeSean Jackson +5000
Akiem Hicks +6000
Alshon Jeffery +6000
Joe Flacco +6000
Jordan Reid +6000
Juan Thornhill +6000
Keanu Neal +6000
Kwon Alexander +6000
Malcolm Butler +6000
Stephen Gostkowski +6000
Lamar Miller +9000
T.Y. Hilton +9000
Xavien Howard +9000
Eli Manning +10000
Josh Rosen +10000
Gronk a Great CPOY Choice After Hiatus
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to trade for Rob Gronkowski after securing Tom Brady’s services, reuniting the four-time First-Team All-Pro with his quarterback for a partnership that produced a 129.6 passer rating for Brady, the highest number of his career. Gronkowski was arguably the greatest tight end in history while with New England and is still just 31 years old.
He struggled with injuries in 2018, contributing to one of his least productive seasons but still won a Super Bowl, scoring SBLIII’s only touchdown. If he was just burnt out and has another run in him, there’s no reason he won’t flourish in a Bucs offense filled with receiving options that will help teams from keying on him defensively. That makes 3-to-1 odds (Bet $100 to win $300) a nice return rate since I’d personally make him the favorite here. You already know he’ll be the people’s choice from a popularity standpoint.
Gronkowski is the only tight end ever to win the 2014 AP Comeback Player of the year award, doing so after a successful return from tearing his ACL/MCL the previous December, helping produce another Patriots’ championship with a big day in the Super Bowl to wrap up a bounce-back season that saw him rewarded by AP, Sporting News, ESPN and the PFWA. There’s no reason to think Gronkowski won’t play a major role with Tampa Bay, doing so immediately. With training camp altered and Brady adjusting to new surroundings, it’s likely that we’ll see the Brady-Gronk connection flourish if both are healthy in mid-September.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (+550, bet $100 to win $550) is the top defensive player available on the board, coming off a season where he returned for the playoffs after being limited to just eight games due to a torn pectoral. He’s always a difference maker when healthy but has played over half of the Texans’ games only once in the last four seasons.
Household Names Seek Redemption
Despite not currently having a gig, Cam Newton has the fourth-best odds (+750, bet $100 to win $750) to win the AP Comeback Player of the Year. The former Carolina Panthers star played only two games in 2019 due to Lisfranc fracture in his foot that never healed properly. Shoulder issues have limited him as a passer too, which combined with COVID-19, really limited his opportunities to latch on with a new team.
Most teams appear to be set at starter with June already here, but there’s no reason Newton wouldn’t be able to find a new team where he can come in and be a factor if a need for his services arises. The first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft will likely never reach an MVP level again but is just five years removed from earning those honors. Still just 31 years old, Newton should have a few more chapters in him but its hard to get behind his futures odds without a definitive read on his future.
A.J. Green (+900) no longer has Andy Dalton throwing him the football and will have to establish a rapport with rookie Joe Burrow, but he was one of the league’s top receiving threats prior to tearing ligaments in his ankle last training camp. A toe injury ended his 2018 season prematurely, so Green hasn’t played much over the past two years. He had put together seven straight Pro Bowl seasons before the setbacks, but like Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (+900), isn’t likely to do much winning in 2020.
Cincinnati should bring up the rear in the AFC North while Detroit is likely to finish last in the NFC North despite getting its all-time leading passer back. Stafford only played eight games in 2019 but was on pace for a 5,000-yard passing season, which would’ve been the second-highest figure of his career. The 2009 No. 1 overall pick finished with a rating of 106.0, the first time he’d ever topped the century mark. His 2.4 TD passes per game were also just shy of a career best, so if he’s able to overcome the back problems that cut his season short, expectations are low enough to give him a real chance if he can propel the Lions to even a .500 season.
Fellow quarterbacks Dalton, Nick Foles and Alex Smith (all +1400) all have interesting back stories that could fuel a run at Comeback Player of the Year honors. Dalton would have to somehow find more snaps than Dak Prescott in Dallas, but is returning to his hometown to try and help the Cowboys succeed. Foles is likely to be the starter in Chicago after a short-lived, injury-plagued run in Jacksonville. Smith, coming off a broken leg that threatened his life to the point amputation was considered, wants to play again and could get his chance with the Redskins in what would be a heck of a story. Given that he’s the most likely to see the most snaps this season, Foles would be the best option of the 140-to-1 group.
Drama Shadows Multiple Longshots
Browns DE Myles Garrett (+2000) had 10 sacks over 10 games before infamously swinging his helmet at Pittsburgh’s Rudolph in the late stages of a mid-November Thursday night game last season. He was suspended for the rest of the season but was performing well enough that it’s unlikely he’ll be considered for this award unless he leads the NFL in sacks and sets the world on fire from a defensive standpoint. Overcoming adversity would be a reason Cleveland’s 2017 No.1 overall pick up votes but considering he manufactured his own misfortune, it’s unlikely he’ll be rewarded.
The same can be said about Antonio Brown (+2500), who needs someone to give him another chance just to be in position to play in the NFL again. Given all the bridges he’s burned, that opportunity isn’t expected to come. A reunion with the Steelers isn’t in the cards and Bucs head coach Bruce Arians snuffed out all hopes of pairing him with Brady again, stating he wouldn’t want him on the Tampa Bay roster.
Broncos DE Bradley Chubb (+3300), the No. 4 pick in ’18, is attempting to return from a torn ACL that ended his second NFL season in Week 4. An immense talent set to play a large role on Denver’s defense, he’s a decent option.
My choice for top longshot is Chargers safety Derwin James (+3300), who I would absolutely sprinkle a few bucks on. The L.A. defense is likely to be much improved and he’ll be given a significant amount of credit for it. After being named a First-Team All-Pro at safety as a rookie, the 2018 first-rounder was limited to just five games last season due to a stress fracture in his right foot. James was able to make it back in December and should be healthy entering camp, which makes this figure an absolute steal given the respect he commands and his likely impact in turning around the Chargers’ fortunes.
2020 AP Comeback Player of the Year Best Bets
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Bucs (+300)
Derwin James, S, Chargers (+3300)
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