With the 2020 season approaching, there are multiple important headlines to pay attention to. While some players return from their temporary retirements, others are focused on building upon a poor performance from the prior campaign. Here are five players who should be contending for the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year award:
Honorable Mentions: Rob Gronkowski, A.J. Green
4. J.J. Watt (DE, Houston Texans)
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is listed at +1000 odds for the Comeback Player of the Year award. If it wasn’t for Aaron Donald’s superb perfomance during the 2018 season, Watt would have a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award under his belt.
Still, Watt missed eight games last season with a torn pectoral muscle. After being placed on the Injured Reserve, he returned in time for the AFC Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills. He finished with one sack during the 22-19 victory.
The five-time All-Pro has missed eight or more games in three of the last four seasons. However, when he does play a full season, Watt has recorded 10+ sacks dating back to his 2011 rookie season.
3. Matthew Stafford (QB, Detroit Lions)
If Stafford were to win the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year, it would mark the second time in his career to do so. Back in 2011, he totaled 5,038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns after coming off right shoulder surgery the season before. Stafford is currently listed with +800 odds.
Prior to suffering fractures in his back, Stafford led the Lions to a 3-4-1 record. In his absence, the team lost their final eight games of the 2019 season. Each of the last two awards for Comeback Player of the Year have been quarterbacks, as Ryan Tannehill won the award last year, while Andrew Luck won the award the year before.
2. Cam Newton (QB, New England Patriots)
After signing an incentive-laden one-year deal with the New England Patriots, the odds for Cam Newton to bring in the Comeback Player of the Year award have spiked to +400. Prior to signing, Newton was listed as a +1800 favorite.
Put simply, Newton’s chances of winning the award this season are dependent on which version of the former MVP we witness. Prior to his shoulder injury during the 2018 season, he had totaled 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He added 342 rushing yards on 73 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and four touchdowns.
After the injury, however, his numbers dipped to seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He rushed for only 134 yards on 31 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and no touchdowns in seven games. His QBR declined by 18.7 points.
1. Ben Roethlisberger (QB, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Instead of investing in a quarterback during the 2020 NFL Draft, the Steelers seem to be all-in on Roethlisberger for the time being. Just two seasons ago, he was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league. He had led the NFL in completions (452) and passing yards (5,129). The team finished with a 9-6-1 record that season; narrowly missing the playoffs.
After coming off reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow, Roethlisberger is the missing piece the Steelers need in order to contend for the playoffs. Under Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges last season, the team finished with an 8-8 record. Roethlisberger is listed with +400 odds for the award.
According to the latest reports, Roethlisberger seems healthy and ready to play in Week 1. With a healthy offseason from other offensive weapons such as Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the veteran quarterback contend for the award.