We’re one week into the NFL season, and the landscape for Comeback Player of the Year has already changed.
The winner should be returning from injury or something beyond their control (hopefully never the case), but every now and then a player that improves dramatically sneaks in to the winner’s circle.
There was an early favorite because of a terrible on-field heath incident, but said player was a healthy scratch Week 1. Does that change them as the favorite for the award?
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Odds
All NFL odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook and are current as of Thursday, September 14, 2023, at 13:30 p.m. ET.
- Damar Hamlin, S, Buffalo Bills (-200)
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (+700)
- Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (+1000)
- T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers (+1600)
- Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams (+2500)
- Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets (+2500)
- Trey Lance, QB, Dallas Cowboys (+3500)
- Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos (+4000)
- Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (+4000)
- Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams (+4000)
- John Metchie III, WR, Houston Texans (+4000)
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4000)
- Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans (+5000)
- Chase Young, DE, Washington Commanders (+5000)
- D’Andre Swift, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (+5000)
- Derek Carr, QB, New Orleans Saints (+5000)
- Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (+5500)
- All Others At or Higher Than (+6000)
Hamlin is still the favorite for CPOY after coming back from suffering cardiac arrest during a game last season. Huge returns from injury highlight the biggest movers in odds.
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NFL Comeback Player of the Year Prediction
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (+700)
DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit
Hamlin is the rightful favorite, but it may be difficult to wager on him because it feels odd, and because he didn’t dress Week 1. It is important to forget that he was a depth safety and injuries vaulted him into playing time.
Tagovailoa showed Week 1 that he is a top QB in the NFL. For the second time in as many seasons, he traveled to L.A. and put up video game numbers against the Chargers. Tua also made some stellar passes that require talent, and not just having two of the best receivers in the league.
His concussion history is scary and he could be one hit away from another lengthy stay off the field. The hope is that that isn’t an issue and he continues to lead one of the most potent offenses.
Best NFL Comeback Player of the Year Sleeper Bets
Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets (+2500)
DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.75 Units
Hall was the running back equivalent to Tagovailoa Week 1. His explosiveness coming off ACL surgery was not in question against a tough run defense.
His role will need to be large with the loss of Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Based on snap and touch count after one game, Hall’s workload appears secure so long as his legs don’t betray him. The Iowa State grad could be one of those players that returns quickly from ACL surgery and performs like nothing happened.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (+2000)
Ridley was a top wideout before his suspension for violating the league’s gambling policies. He came back Week 1 rust-free and the apple of Trevor Lawrence‘s eye.
The question with Ridley is whether or not a monster season from him should be rewarded. A gambling suspension is different than PEDs, but a player returning from this type of punishment and winning CPOY is uncharted territory, especially since Ridley wagered on games that featured the Falcons.
The blurred line issue is that those bets came when he was injured. The situation is one to monitor.
T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers (+2000)
BetMGM Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.5 Units
I’d consider a higher unit wager on Watt if he had missed more time in 2022 (it feels awful using that as justification).
That said, the defender Watt brother came back with a vengeance in a lopsided loss Week 1, doubling his forced fumble total from 2022 (two) and surpassing the 50% mark of his sack total (3.0 Week 1, 5.5 in 2022).
With DE Cam Heyward (groin) out approximately eight weeks, Watt will have the brightest spotlight on him from opposing offenses. If he produces like any other season he has had (1 Defensive Player of the Year Award, 2 other top 3 finishes in 6-plus season), then (+2000) odds will be a bargain.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Las Vegas Raiders (+7500)
BetRivers Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.25 Units
The pick isn’t sexy even if Garoppolo is.
It’s been easy to shun Jimmy G because he isn’t seen as an elite QB, but the dude wins. He’s also efficient (career 67.8 completion percentage, 76.9% Week 1) and does a good job preventing turnovers (74 turnovers on 1,926 pass and rush attempts).
Like Watt, Garoppolo missed less than half of 2022, but was exiled from San Francisco and landed in a cushy role with Las Vegas. If the Raiders finish .500 or better and Garoppolo finishes with around 3,500 passing yards (on pace for 3,400) and approaching 30 passing TDs (32), he is very much live to win Comeback Player of the Year.