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Everybody Loves A Long Shot
We’ve talked a lot about narratives already this preseason. You know, those stories that fill up 8-hour pregame shows on Sundays, turn the endless grist mill that is the NFL hype machine, and end up making the best memes throughout a long 17-game season.
One of the biggest stories, which never fails to moisten every eye it touches, is the epic of the Comeback Player of the Year. Each and every season, at least one player turns in a magical yarn, and we eat it up like surf n’ turf at a casino buffet. Not to say the award is meaningless; some of the stories are legitimately stranger and more emotionally wrought than any Pixar script could hope to be.
Remember Alex Smith? Of course you do. At least you remember his leg.
In any event, that quarterback, on that leg, did the seemingly impossible and played again IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. It’s simply absurd, and a true testament to the power of what a person (and millions of dollars, and the best medical care, and nothing but free time, and did I mention millions and millions of dollars) can overcome when pursuing their dreams.
So Alex Smith absolutely was deserving of CPoY. Almost every other winner since the modern award began (1998, for those keeping score at home), though, checks off just a few simple boxes:
- They had a season-ending injury the year prior
- They play an offensive skill position
- Already a known player league-wide (more on that later)
Who’s In The Running?
Here are the top 10 best odds for this year’s CPoY, courtesy of Vegas Insiders:
- Derrick Henry +350
- Jameis Winston +500
- Christian McCaffrey +700
- Daniel Jones +900
- Baker Mayfield +900
- Michael Thomas +1200
- Mitchell Trubisky +1200
- Chase Young +1400
- Marcus Mariota +1600
- J.K. Dobbins +2000
Let’s get some things out of the way: it’s not going to be Jameis Winston, Daniel Jones, Baker Mayfield, Mitch Trubisky, or Marcus Mariota. If you need me to explain why that is, please go back to reading Barstool and let the adults continue the conversation.
Removing the evident failures leaves Henry, McCaffrey, Thomas, Young, and Dobbins. Let’s put a couple more facts down before we look at these guys in a little more detail:
- Four of the past five, and 10 of the past 15, have been starting quarterbacks.
- There have only been five defensive players to win the award, ever. (Shoutout to my man Eric Berry)
- Only one winner, ever, has been a running back. One. AND IT WASN’T EVEN MARSHALL FAULK, a crime against humanity. (Garrison Hearst)
Right off the bat, it doesn’t look great for everybody except Michael Thomas. On the scale of “What’s More Likely?” We can all get on board with the idea that we’ll award the second-ever running back, rather than Daniel Jones or Mitch Trubisky winning anything of more consequence than a clipboard endorsement.
Why It’s Gonna Be Henry
- Injury? Check-ish. (He only missed nine games, and looked about as comfy against the Bengals in the playoffs as I would have.)
- Skill position? Big check, but only if you consider “Absurd Stiff Arm Robot” a skill position.
- Known quantity? Triple, extra foam, coconut milk check. NFL Top 100 four times (#99 in 2019, #10 in 2020, #4 in 2021, and I assume again in 2022.)
All he has to do is do his job, get 300-325 carries, crack 1,400 yards and 10 TDs, and stay healthy. Oh, and have a better statistical season than the Garbage Pail QBs.
Why It’s Gonna Be McCaffrey
- Injury? Check-ish. He missed ten games last season (and 13 the season before that)
- Skill position? Mega-check, a proud standard bearer for white running backs everywhere. (Shout out to nobody’s man Payton Hillis)
- Known quantity? Is a 2022 fantasy ADP of 1.3 known?
Why It’s Gonna Be Thomas
- Injury? He missed all last season due to an injury he sustained in Week 1 of 2020.
- Skill position? I have heard stories that he plays at the wide receiver position, but no recent evidence is available.
- Known quantity? NFL Top 100 #13 in 2019, so I’d say so, back in the Before Times at least.
Why It’s Gonna Be Young
- Injury? Torn ACL after nine games last season, and will miss at least the team’s first game this season.
- Skill Position? That’s a big negative, Ghost Rider.
- Known quantity? NFL Top 100 #61 in 2021, and he’s just…massive. He’s a bad, bad man.
Why It’s Gonna Be Dobbins
- Injury? Torn ACL in the 2021 preseason, which is part of why the preseason games are kind of the worst.
- Skill position? The Ravens have more running backs than my pantry has types of bronze-cut pasta, and Dobbins is the best among them.
- Known quantity? Sort of; he didn’t make the Top 100 in ‘21 but was a second-round pick in 2020 and has the expectations that carries.
Why It’s Gonna Be Tom Brady
- Injury? Lost in the playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, which to Brady is equivalent to taking a Jordan Hicks fastball in the junk. Check.
- Skill position? Sure, let’s call it “skill” and not some sort of Faustian strawberry-hating bargain.
- Known quantity? He is the only player to be #1 on the NFL Top 100 more than once, and he’s done it three times.
Oh, did y’all forget? Brady retired for 40 days this calendar year. After unretiring, that’s technically a comeback season. He’s going to win his eighth Super Bowl on the road to be the only 50-year-old quarterback in NFL history. You know it, I know it, he knows it, your bookie knows it, and there’s not a f*cking thing any of us can do about it.
All hail our Lord and Master, TB12.