By Connor Fulton @ConnorFultonRS on July 17, 2014
Every year, the NFL produces remarkable stories. The Comeback Player of the Year Award immortalizes a particular type of story—the ever-popular bottom-to-top tale. With the odds against them, who will emerge as the 2014 version of Philip Rivers? Let’s check out the top 10 candidates for the honor.
With Wilfork back in action this fall, expect the New England Patriots’ defensive line to be menacing, especially on the interior, where Wilfork makes his bread. Wilfork will be the face of any success the defense has, and if he carries the unit deep into the postseason, he could very well pick up this award. The odds are against him, however, as only three defensive players have earned the honor.
For the St. Louis Rams to play in January, they will need an extremely high level of quarterback play to unseat the powerhouses in the NFC West. Mark this: if they Rams are in the playoffs, Bradford will be the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year after missing nine games in 2013. The reason he is ranked low on this list is because the Rams are a long shot to get out of their division.
At age 35, Wayne is no spring chicken—especially after a suffering a torn ACL that held him out of nine games last year. Opposing secondaries won’t be very worried about Wayne in a receiving corps that features T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. Because he is currently an afterthought in the Colts’ offense, Wayne has a great chance to rack up production put this award on his bureau.
To win this award, Vick would have to become the starter—either in training camp or early in the season—and run with the opportunity. Former Jets receiver Plaxico Burress predicted that Vick would win the job over Geno Smith, so it’s quite possible that Vick will have the chance to regain his form of several years ago in the wake of a disappointing six-game campaign in 2013.
After bursting onto the NFL scene as a rookie and earning the nickname “Muscle Hamster”, Martin played in only six games last season due to a shoulder injury. With underwhelming competition expected in training camp, Martin is in good standing to get his career back on track this season. If he eclipses 2,000 yards from scrimmage (as a rookie, he pumped out 1,910), then Martin will definitely be in contention for Comeback Player of the Year.
If you’re looking for a case study of the classic sophomore slump, look no further than Richardson’s 2013 season. But, the chips are falling in place for Richardson to return to his rookie form in 2014. His competition is eighth-year man Ahmad Bradshaw, who gets hurt seemingly every few carries, and Vick Ballard, who is coming off of an ACL injury. With the stacked receiving corps the Colts now have, there will be more room for Richardson.
After Gronkowski sustained one of the more gruesome injuries of the 2013 season, the New England Patriots passing game was a shadow of its already lackluster self. With Gronk back, expect Tom Brady to use the athletic tight end more than ever. When the ball is in his hands, Gronkowski simply makes plays. As long as he stays off the injury report, Gronk will rack up big numbers and put himself in the conversation for this award.
With everybody and their mother rooting for Johnny Manziel, it would be a huge story if Hoyer puts the Cleveland Browns in contention for the playoffs. It’s not like Hoyer is a stranger to winning; he was undefeated in three starts last season before tearing his ACL. If he experiences sustained success as a starter—we’re talking at least nine wins—Hoyer could land himself the Comeback Player of the Year award.
In one of the more tragic developments of the 2013 training camp season, Maclin tore his ACL and missed the entire year. During his absence, quarterback Nick Foles transformed himself from an unproven former backup into a star. Now that DeSean Jackson isn’t wearing Eagle green, the time is now for Maclin. Because of his outstanding situation in Philly’s pass-happy offense, Maclin is a frontrunner for the award.
You would be hard-pressed to find a player more excited for the upcoming season than RG3. With a new head coach in Jay Gruden, a trio of weapons in DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, and Pierre Garcon, and a rejuvenated left knee, Griffin has all the tools to lead the Redskins back to the playoffs in 2014. Put your mortgage on Griffin winning Comeback Player of the Year honors if he is throwing touchdowns in January.
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