The 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year race is the deepest in recent memory. Some candidates are certainly in better positions than others to win it. Throughout the season, we’ll continue to shine a light on the risers and fallers in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year betting odds.
The shortlist of favorites has changed dramatically as the first month of the season comes to an end. After watching each game and analyzing how each player performed, I’ve curated my list of best bets moving forward. Let’s jump into the risers worth placing futures action on and the fallers losing ground in the race.
Comeback Player of the Year odds heading into Week 4 | Risers
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (+250)
The biggest reason to bet on Saquon Barkley in the preseason both in futures bets and fantasy football was the opportunity. The Giants were going to feed Barkley regardless of his performance since they have no other viable option in the backfield, and he’s in the final year of his contract. It was a no-lose situation.
Through three weeks, our predictions that Barkley would be a true workhorse have come true. He ranks sixth in rushing attempts, second in yards, and eighth among backs in receiving yards. Barkley’s not far off the pace to be Offensive Player of the Year, let alone Comeback Player of the Year.
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For as much as the offensive line has struggled to protect Daniel Jones, they’ve given more holes for Barkley than what we’ve seen in recent years. Barkley is more explosive and back to his normal form as well. He’s a really good player who is producing with excellent efficiency (6.0 yards per carry).
There’s not much of a reason to predict change. The Giants are feeding Barkley the most carries of his career (17.7 per game), and he’s on pace for his average receptions per game (4.3). The No. 2 player in the chase is someone who hasn’t even played in an NFL game yet, Brian Robinson.
We’re not getting great value to bet Barkley now after his odds dropped to +600 after Week 2. His 126 total yards on 18 touches on prime time against the Dallas Cowboys was persuasive. I’d love to say wait to bet on Barkley, but considering how his competition is struggling or not on the field yet, this is still a fine bet to make.
Jeff Okudah, CB, Detroit Lions (+4000)
Wait, am I really including a cornerback in this chase? Absolutely. Even if there’s not a chance Jeff Okudah will win it barring a historic run of turnover production. The third-year cornerback has arrived as a true shutdown presence after struggling in his rookie season before suffering a torn Achilles in the first game of his 2021 season.
The Lions star looks the part and is putting up impressive coverage numbers. He ranks fourth in shadow rate after following Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson around the field in Week 3. But he’s also No. 9 in yards per reception allowed, 14th in passer rating allowed, and has only allowed 50% of targets to be completed for 73 total yards.
Okudah’s raw stats may not reflect a special defender since he has 18 tackles, two pass breakups, and zero interceptions. That’s not his game to this point. He deters targets through excellent athleticism, speed, and is one of the best face-guarding corners I’ve seen in the last few years. The Lions have given him safety help, but that’s also part of their defensive identity to protect over the top and allow their pass rush to feast.
If Okudah continues at this pace, the Lions will have an interesting decision as to whether they want to extend Okudah after the season and lock him in long-term early. This would be a good way to avoid paying a premium for the cornerback, but we’re also a long way from that point as of today.
Comeback Player of the Year odds heading into Week 4 | Fallers
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (+700)
When Baker Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers this offseason, the prevailing thought amongst even the most pessimistic analysts about Mayfield is he’s still an upgrade over Sam Darnold. In turn, Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore would thrive after still being fantasy stars with bad passers. Even as Mayfield has been below-average and not a disaster thus far, McCaffrey and Moore are suffering.
McCaffrey saw a slight dip in his Comeback Player of the Year odds this week despite producing 115 total yards on 27 touches in a big win against New Orleans. McCaffrey has been solid overall, with 243 rushing yards, 57 receiving yards, and one touchdown on the year. But he’s not getting as many valuable opportunities as his peers because Mayfield has struggled to get the Panthers into the red zone.
McCaffrey’s five carries for four yards in the red zone on the year pales in comparison to the NFL’s best backs. Mayfield has only attempted nine red-zone throws, completing two for 17 yards.
As you’d likely predict based on those red-zone struggles, Carolina has the second-worst third-down offense in the NFL, converting 27% for first downs. The unit also has the second-fewest first downs from passing plays. The anemic passing game has plagued McCaffrey’s quality touches and scoring opportunities.
With McCaffrey missing practices this week with a thigh/quad issue and uncertain availability for Week 4, it’s not the time to invest in his futures plays. His inability to stay healthy has overshadowed an impressive but small stretch of production and immense skill set.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (+1200)
My personal pick for who would win the Comeback Player of the Year Award is fading quickly in the race. Derrick Henry hasn’t found the same runways we’re used to seeing him bowl through the hearts of defenses. The Titans have made several offensive line changes over the last year, and Taylor Lewan’s latest injury hasn’t helped either. Now, Henry is stuck averaging 3.6 yards per carry in one of the NFL’s ugliest offenses.
Is Henry washed up? I don’t believe so, as his yards before contact has dropped from as high as 2.5 in 2020 to a career-low 1.3 this season. His yards after contact is the same as it was last season, but to be fair, those two marks are well-below his average from 2018-2020.
I think it’s more likely an issue with the line in front of Henry and a lack of respect for Ryan Tannehill and the Titans’ passing game from defenses more than any notable decline from Henry.
With Barkley’s injury history and lack of other clear threats to win the award, this could be an opportunity to buy low on Henry’s odds to win. Maybe that’s too optimistic, but I think it’s worth sprinkling action on still.