Last year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year race came down to young star quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott. Those two were the heavy favorites all year since both are so talented and play the league’s premium position. Chargers safety Derwin James earned just one vote compared to Burrow’s 28 and Prescott’s 21.
The 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be heavily contested. Our friends at Caesars have curated an list of players with the best NFL betting odds to win. We’ve scoured through the 32 listed names and found the eight best contenders.
Best bets to win 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
With the NFL offseason transitioning from the busy flurry of transactions and draft drama to the on-field product over the summer time, there’s no better opportunity than now to dive into what we know about the 2022 NFL season. Things change in a nanosecond in the NFL, but we’re hoping to see all of the league’s top stars play a full 17-game schedule. Seeing playoff dreams and legacy-defining performances lost due to injury is heartbreaking.
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Let’s dive into the stars with the best opportunity to put forth a dominant, inspiring 2022 season and come away with Comeback Player of the Year.
8. Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants (+1600)
Daniel Jones’ inclusion in the Comeback Player of the Year Award is interesting because the nomination usually requires a player to be good in a past season. Jones has yet to establish himself as a long-term starter for the Giants. The franchise even declined his fifth-year option, and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
However, Jones also has the biggest potential leap to make since his history of play is uneven. He’s never been surrounded by a great supporting cast thanks to a porous offensive line and a bad rash of injuries that hit all of his playmakers over his career. Entering Year 4 and coached by Brian Daboll, there’s reason to believe the best has yet to come from Jones.
The combination of Daboll’s experience building effective offenses along with a deep playmaking corps should give Jones a solid floor in 2022. The rest will be in his hands. If Jones can stay healthy after missing eight games over the last two years and also cut down on the alarming number of fumbles (36 in three years), there’s a pathway to Jones being a solid starter.
Jones does not seem like a great candidate because of the aforementioned lack of established play in his past. The Giants will be more than happy if he can simply show reason to believe he’s their franchise quarterback in 2022.
7. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints (+800)
When healthy, Michael Thomas is one of the most dominant receiving forces in the NFL. The possibility of his game expanding with a quarterback who can attack downfield more than an aged Drew Brees can unlock a new upside.
But if all goes well for the Saints in 2022, it’s far more likely it’s fellow Comeback of the Year candidate Jameis Winston who earns the praise.
Like it or not, quarterbacks get more credit when things go well. If Winston isn’t fully healthy and backup Andy Dalton has to start, Thomas’ stats will likely suffer enough to drop him from consideration.
6. Khalil Mack, Edge, Los Angeles Chargers (+4000)
Our top long shot to win the 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is Khalil Mack. The 31-year-old was traded from Chicago to the Los Angeles Chargers for two 2022 NFL Draft picks. Adding Mack to a defense with Joey Bosa, Derwin James, and J.C. Jackson could give the Chargers the best overall roster in the NFL.
Mack’s bounceback after missing 10 games with a foot injury will be massive in their Super Bowl quest. The Chargers have lacked a legitimate second pass rusher since acquiring Bosa, and Mack has long been one of the most dynamic threats in the league. His ability to rush the passer, force turnovers, and drop back into coverage as a 3-4 linebacker makes him a uniquely rare presence.
The veteran certainly has the incentive to prove himself in Los Angeles. He hasn’t posted double-digit sacks since 2018. His 14 forced fumbles in four seasons with Chicago were as important as sacks, though.
Look for Mack to be a big reason why this Chargers’ defense ascends to an elite level. If he’s able to hit double-digit sacks and push the Chargers over the top in the loaded AFC West, Mack will undoubtedly earn consideration for Comeback Player of the Year.
5. Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams (+2500)
One of the most unbelievable storylines of the 2021 season was how Cam Akers tore his Achilles in July and returned to the Rams in time for the playoffs. His miraculous recovery didn’t result in a ton of production, as he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the playoffs. Still, it did speak to his incredible athleticism and work ethic. The best is yet to come for the third-year back.
Akers was slated to be the next great Rams rusher in Sean McVay’s system. He’s an explosive downhill runner who cuts sharply and finishes through contact with power. His ability to help as a receiver complements quarterback Matthew Stafford’s willingness to take what the defense gives.
The Rams simply did not have the offensive line for Akers to be productive in 2021 anyway. Backups Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel had fine but unspectacular seasons behind a unit more geared for pass blocking. With new starters who are more run-oriented at left tackle and right guard in Joe Noteboom and Coleman Shelton, expect that to change.
Akers isn’t a surefire star, but the system will help him reach his potential. He’s a solid value, considering how talented the Rams are, his own skill set, and the injury he’s coming back from.
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (+750)
We’re entering a make-or-break year for Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey. After missing 22 games over the past two seasons and failing to produce as well as in his 2018-19 seasons, McCaffrey needs to make a statement in his return. If not, the remaining $55 million in cap hits between 2023 and 2025 will serve as a massive albatross deal on the Panthers’ books.
McCaffrey looked more like the All-Pro we saw in 2019 in the seven games he played last year. Despite playing with a bad quarterback room and behind an incompetent offensive line, McCaffrey averaged 4.5 yards per carry and a career-high 9.3 yards per catch. We can expect those numbers to rise after the Panthers rebuilt their line this offseason.
The wild card that could help McCaffrey’s return to superstardom is if the Panthers solidify their quarterback need. With Baker Mayfield under center, McCaffrey could benefit from more consistency and ability than what either Cam Newton or Sam Darnold brought to the offense last year. But McCaffrey must stay healthy.
The string of lower-body injuries over the last two years is concerning. He’s dealt with two ankle sprains, one on each side, a hamstring strain, a thigh strain, and a shoulder sprain since September 2020. The Panthers would be wise to continue the reduced workload they established in 2021 to extend his availability.
McCaffrey averaged 19 touches per game last year as opposed to 25 in each of the previous two seasons. He’s a good candidate to win the award if he’s healthy, but there’s no bigger “if” amongst any of the contenders, and his role may be more limited than what he needs to overcome his competition.
3. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens (+1600)
If anyone tries to say that all running backs are completely replaceable, simply point to what happened to the 2021 Baltimore Ravens offense after star rusher J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL. The Ravens, also down backup Gus Edwards, were unable to replicate the explosive ground game they had established over the previous two seasons. More pressure mounted on Lamar Jackson to carry the unit, and he eventually missed time with his own injury.
Baltimore saw how important Dobbins and the rushing attack were to their success and doubled down on establishing the ground game this offseason. The Ravens drafted center Tyler Linderbaum in the first round with a pick they acquired for receiver Marquise Brown. They also signed veteran free agent right tackle Morgan Moses to steady the position.
Dobbins returns in a deep backfield, but he’s the clear star. The 23-year-old averaged an incredible six yards per carry as a rookie and chipped in 18 receptions for 120 yards. Baltimore should continue to lessen the load on Jackson’s legs in order to protect their star quarterback, opening more opportunities for Dobbins to dominate.
The biggest threat to Dobbins’ production is how many mouths there are to feed in Baltimore. Jackson is the ultimate star and will get his fair share of touches and highlights. Gus Edwards and Mike Davis could be touchdown vultures as well.
Dobbins is talented but less likely to win the award since his situation isn’t quite as good as his peers.
2. Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints (+550)
The New Orleans Saints are arguably the biggest sleeping giant in the NFC. They retained a strong defensive corps despite their cap crunch over the last few years, and their offense reloaded this offseason. Assuming Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas are healthy, and Alvin Kamara doesn’t receive considerable punishment for his role in a felony assault case, the Saints are loaded. But those are a lot of “ifs,” and Winston’s health is key.
In seven games before tearing his ACL, Winston showed off some of his best traits with an offense that lacked NFL-caliber starting receivers. With Thomas now flanked by 2022 first-round pick Chris Olave and veteran Jarvis Landry, that’s no longer an issue. Winston must continue building on his promising start with the franchise.
Few NFL players are as charismatic as Winston, and the storyline for his redemption in New Orleans would be an excellent foundation for why he deserves the Comeback Player of the Year Award. No other quarterback has the same opportunity as he does since the Saints should be a playoff contender, and Winston has shown immense talent throughout his career. He must simply be healthy and consistent.
Winston doesn’t need to be an All-Pro to win the award. Merely continuing much of what he did in 2021 would get him close. He threw a touchdown on 8.3% of his passes last year, which is unsustainable in a bigger role, but also cut down on his turnovers. His interception rate of 1.9% was a career-low and needs to be his standard for him to win the award and for the Saints to hit their ceiling in 2022.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (+400)
The favorite to win the 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year should not come as a surprise. Two-time Pro Bowler and 2020 first-team All-Pro rusher Derrick Henry was on pace to run for over 1,900 yards for the second straight year in 2021 before a foot injury ended his campaign after eight games. Now healthy, Henry could be better than ever.
The Titans revamped their offensive line after seeing a dip in 2021. Getting star left tackle Taylor Lewan back is the biggest addition, and we should see recently drafted blockers Dillon Radunz and Nicholas Petit-Frere fight for starting jobs. Considering Henry’s average yards per carry dipped from 5.4 in 2020 to 4.3 in 2021, the new faces can’t be much worse.
Henry’s game showed signs of continued development in his sixth season prior to his injury. He was just one reception shy of tying his career-high and was 52 yards short of tying the best receiving total of his career. If Tennessee continues to unleash him on routes, his production potential will continue to climb.
We know Tennessee runs their offense through Henry unlike any offense in the league does with their tailback. Henry is a tremendously strong candidate to win Comeback Player of the Year and can only be upended by a quarterback who goes above and beyond their previous level of play.
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