Return To Relevance 15 Candidates For NFL Comeback Player Of The Year
What’s better than a comeback story? Nothing is better. Well, maybe pizza is better. But pizza can’t save a team’s season. I know what you’re thinking. “What if the pizza had extra pepperoni?” Perhaps that is an argument for another time.
Every NFL season has great comeback stories. Whether it’s Peyton Manning coming back from a potential career ending neck injury to lead the Broncos to a 13-3 record and first place in the AFC, or Chad Pennington rising from the ashes to lead the 2008 Miami Dolphins to first place in the AFC East, the NFL is rich with comeback kids. Chad did it twice by the way.
There are a few factors that go into effect when considering an individual for Comeback Player of the Year. First and foremost, the player needed to be great or at least good at one point in their career. Otherwise, he would just be a breakout star. Second, the player has to be coming off a down year or, if they really want to be awarded Comeback Player of the Year, coming off multiple lousy years. Lastly, and most often than not, the player is coming off a year they missed due to injury.
With that being said, let’s delve into the players most likely to make our hearts leap with joy at their burning inner desire to succeed, dominate, and become the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
- JIMMY GRAHAM
Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, you were once the most dominating players at your position, possibly the most dominating player at any position. You were basically impossible to cover. Way too fast for linebackers, way too tall for corners, what was a defense to do? Jimmy, you had 51 touchdowns in your first five seasons and you are a tight end. In 2013, you caught 16 touchdowns for 1,215 yards. Jimmy , that’s insane. Then, Jimmy, you were traded. In 2015, you were shipped to the far corner of our country for an offensive lineman. I do hope Drew Brees gave you a kind farewell. As a member of the Seahawks, Jimmy Graham has struggled to find chemistry with Russell Wilson totaling a dismal two touchdowns in 11 games. However, 2016 is off to a mildly respectable start. Although, missing the first game of the year due to injury, Graham has corralled receptions for 266 yards to go along with one touchdown. It only makes sense that once the deadliest red zone threat in the NFL will find his way back to the top. We shall see.
- MIKE WALLACE
As a Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Wallace was the most polarizing deep threat in the NFL. So much so that the Miami Dolphins signed him to a $60 million dollar deal in hopes of this trend continuing. Spoiler alert, the trend did not continue as most free agents who come to Miami sink to the bottom of the ocean. That was a pun. However, in 2014 Wallace managed to put up respectable numbers with the Dolphins scoring 10 touchdowns to go along with his 862 yards receiving. At the beginning of the 2015 season Wallace was traded to the Minnesota Vikings and had the least productive year of his career totaling a mere 473 yards and two touchdowns. In 2016 Wallace has returned to the AFC North to play for his former foe, the Baltimore Ravens. After Week 5, Wallace already has more touchdowns this year than all of last year with three, including one for 66 yards. Perhaps the return to the north along with the steady arm of Joe Flacco will help Wallace return to relevance.
- JASON PIERRE-PAUL
I promise I’m going to make a minimal amount of fireworks jokes here. Jason Pierre-Paul, a short while ago, was a force to be reckoned with. Much like the force of gun powder that explodes from a roman candle and other fireworks, Pierre-Paul exploded off the line to burn down the dreams of a passing quarterback. Okay, it’s out of my system. In 2011, Pierre-Paul heralded the ferocious defensive line of the New York Giants on his way to 16.5 sacks and a Super Bowl ring. Then, on July 4th before the 2015 season, Pierre-Paul mangled his hand in a fireworks accident. He still managed to return that season for a total of eight games. Now, five games into the 2016 season Pierre-Paul is not quite back to his glory days form, but he is holding his own. He has amassed 18 tackles, one sack, two batted passes, and a forced fumble, while sporting 1.5 hands. Personally, I’m rooting for the guy. He gets a thumbs up in my book.
- CAMERON WAKE
The “Beast” was caged last season after suffering a torn achilles tendon against the New England Patriots in Week8. At the age of 32, which is ancient for defensive ends, Wake had seven sacks through the first seven games of the 2015 season. Wake’s 71 career sacks ranks him second all time in Miami Dolphin’s history behind Jason Taylor, who boasts a staggering 139.5 sacks. Wake has the uncanny ability to sprint past offensive lineman while almost crawling a foot above the ground. Try blocking a guy who is sprinting at your knee height. In the early stages of the 2016 season, Wake has been used as a pass rushing specialist rarely seen on first and second down. Given that the Dolphins rarely have a lead in the fourth quarter, or any quarter for that matter, it will make it difficult for Wake to be on the field when the opponent is pressed into a must-pass situation. However, Wake’s work ethic coupled with his quick first step off the line could make for a return to greatness. His twilight years are near. It could be a now or never year for the former Pro Bowler.
- JAMAAL CHARLES
I know. After Week 5, we have yet to see Jamaal Charles toting the rock in Kansas City. However, this writer believes that once Coach Reid is comfortable with Charles’ health, he will quickly return to form. Charles only managed to play in five games during the 2015 season after succumbing to every running back’s greatest fear, the torn ACL. He still got four touchdowns that year. And in the years prior, Charles averaged above 1000 yards on the ground and 300 yards in the air. In 2013, Charles ran for 1,287 yards and caught passes for 693 yards, while finding the end zone 19 times. That’s nasty. Kansas City is sitting at a 2-2 record right now. Once the chains are taken off this star, the Chiefs might see that .500 record soar with the eagles nest.
- TONY ROMO
Tony Romo is another victim of the injury bug. Before the 2016 season began, Tony was crunched in half by Cliff Avril of the Seahawks. Romo’s 2015 season was also plagued by a back injury. By the time Tony is done playing football the skeletal structure of his back is going to be chop suey. Unfortunately for Romo’s imminent return, he will possibly be in a lover’s quarrel with the current starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott. Dak is kind of killing it. After Week 5, the Cowboys are 4-1. Dak is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. But he isn’t Tony Romo. Tony Romo is awesome. Tony is a four-time Pro Bowler and has been the face of the Dallas Cowboy’s franchise for nearly a decade. Jerry Jones loves him. The fans love him, and he’s so handsome. But when it is all said and done, and the Cowboys make the decision to stick with Dak or Tony, whoever it is gets to throw the ball to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. He gets to hand it to the other Rookie of the Year candidate, Ezekial Elliot. And he gets to play behind the best offensive line in the NFL. If Tony gets another shot he’s bound to be in the Comeback Player of the Year discussion.
- JORDY NELSON
The “Great White Hope” at wide receiver is off to a great start in the 2016 season. At 6-3 and 217 pounds, Jordy Nelson is a beast. Jordy finds himself eligible for the Comeback Player of the Year award after tearing his ACL during the preseason of 2015. In 2011 Jordy went berserk catching 15 touchdowns for 1,263 yards. In 2014, Jordy shot to stardom making first team All Pro after accruing 13 touchdowns and 1,519 receiving yards. Must be nice to have Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback. On that note, it must be nice to go from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers if you are the Green Bay Packers. But I digress. Through four games of the 2016 season Nelson already has five touchdowns. Those kind of numbers put him on track for 20 touchdowns. Which would assuredly give him the honor. Of course, the NFL is an unpredictable animal. The Packers are 3-1. and they’ve already enjoyed a relaxing bye week. Will Nelson’s knee hold and guide him to glory?
- KELVIN BENJAMIN
Out of all the wide receivers in the NFL, Kelvin Benjamin might be the prettiest. He just seems to have a natural feminine glow about him. I wonder if that glow contributes to his stellar play, because Kelvin Benjamin is a rare find. As a rookie in 2014, Benjamin caught nine touchdowns for just a hair over 1000 yards. He is a whopping 6-5, and he weighs 245 pounds. For comparison’s sake, New England’s Rob Gronkowski is also 6-5 and he weighs 265 punds. Gronk is a tight end. Benjamin is a receiver. The dude is massive for his position. Benjamin’s 2015 season ended before it began when he came up lame after a non-contact injury messed his knee up during a practice with the Dolphins. However, Benjamin is off to a great start this year. After five games, he has four touchdowns and over 300 yards receiving. Not having Cam Newton under center for the time being is definitely going to hurt Benjamin’s production. Although, once Superman returns the dynamic duo will be back in action and possibly flying his way right into the Comeback Player of the Year award.