The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is one given annually to a player that bounces back from injury or adversity to have a successful year the next season. Offensive players have ruled this award in recent years, particularly quarterbacks, as the last four were all QBs. Below are listed previous winners and why they won the award and who are the most likely candidates to take home Comeback Player of the Year in 2022.
Previous award winners
As mentioned previously, quarterbacks have dominated this award. Joe Burrow won the Award in 2021 after having torn his ACL in the 2020 season and leading the Bengals to their first Super Bowl since 1989. He threw for 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns with a 71% completion percentage.
Alex Smith won the award in 2020 after a gruesome injury that almost led to the loss of his leg. He stepped in due to injury and went 5-1 as a starter and threw for 1,582 yards on a 67% completion percentage.
Ryan Tannehill also stepped into being the starter his first year in Tennessee throwing for over 2,700 yards on 70% completion percentage.
Andrew Luck lost the entire 2017 season due to a significant shoulder injury. He came back in 2018 and threw for roughly 4,600 yards at a 67% clip.
Potential Candidates for 2022
Recent trends for this award suggest quarterback being favored to win this award in 2022. One of the more obvious candidates for this award is Jameis Winston. Winston was 5-2 as the Saints starter in 2021 before tearing his ACL against the Buccaneers. Before the injury, Winston had the highest quarterback rating of his career, per PFF, at 74.2. He had thrown for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions at the time of his injury. Winston has long been scrutinized for his play, despite leading the league in passing yards in 2019. His major downfall has been for his interceptions as he had 33 touchdowns in 2019 but also 30 interceptions. A major staple for NFL offenses is to keep the ball out of the defense’s hands so this flaw led to his release and reset in New Orleans. He was able to learn under Drew Brees and Sean Payton and was having a solid half of a season in 2021. Expect him to only improve as the Saints have made upgrades to their receiving corps by drafting Chris Olave, signing Jarvis Landry, and getting Michael Thomas Back from injury.
Henry came into the 2021 season with high expectations after rushing for over 2,000 yards and winning the Offensive Player of the Year Award for the 2020 season. He suffered a Jones Fracture midway through the 2021 season and came back for the playoff game against Cincinnati but only rushed for 62 yards on 20 carries. Henry is 28 years old and recent trends have not been favorable to veteran running backs. However, Henry is a recent 2,000-yard rusher and had five straight games rushing for over 100 yards on over four yards a carry. The Titans drafted Hassan Haskins in this past draft to help lessen the load but expect Henry to be the driving force of the Titans offense in 2022 as he aims for Comeback Player of the Year.
McCaffrey is a talented back who serves a threat in the passing game as well as the running game. He ran for 1,387 yards on 4.8 yards per carry and caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards in 2019. He poses a significant threat for opposing defenses when healthy. However, injuries have plagued him the past two seasons as he only played three games in 2020 and seven games in 2021. Health is the biggest question mark to his game as it is known what he can do when on the field. His health will be prioritized in 2022 as he is the main point of attack in the Panthers offense.
Watson will be one of the bigger question marks heading into the 2022 season as he was the focus of a lot of drama the past year. Watson is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league. In 2020, Watson threw for over 4,800 yards, 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on a 70% completion percentage. However, with lawsuits and allegations off the field, his status for the 2022 season remains up in the air as a possible suspension looms.