Predictions For 2023 Winner Include Damar Hamlin, Trey Lance, Tua Tagovailoa

Calling all bettors! The NFL Draft is now firmly behind us. Next, we turn fully to the approaching 2023 campaign — and with it, the glory that awaits a player who will be named Comeback Player of the Year. Here are the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year odds and predictions for the coming regular season. All NFL betting lines are based on DraftKings Sportsbook from May 4, 2023.

NFL Comeback Player of the Year Odds

The NFL bestows this award on someone returning from an injury or a player who significantly elevated his game after performing poorly the year before. When examining the latest NFL Comeback Player of the Year betting odds, there are several players who fit one of these categories heading into the 2023 season.

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Typically, this award is hard to predict because performance doesn’t always matter, and neither does pedigree. Those criteria might apply to the MVP or even Offensive Player of the Year awards. Yet, they hold little correlative value for this particular award, making an NFL Comeback Player of the Year prediction difficult.

Here are DraftKings’ betting lines for each promising candidate:

  • Damar Hamlin, S, Buffalo Bills (-650)
  • Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos (+2500)
  • Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers (+2500)
  • Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (+2500)
  • Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams (+2500)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Las Vegas Raiders (+2500)
  • Carson Wentz, QB, Free Agent (+2500)
  • Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (+2500)
  • Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (+2500)
  • Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (+2800)
  • Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (+2800)
  • Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons (+3000)
  • Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans (+3000)
  • Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3000)
  • Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (+3000)
  • Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots (+3000)

Who Is the Favorite To Win Comeback Player of the Year?

All right, let’s call this what it is. Damar Hamlin’s odds of winning this award have gone from “great” to “nearly automatic” these past couple of months. His formerly +150 odds have jumped to +650. There are two central reasons why.

First, as many remember, the football world stopped on the night of Jan. 2, 2023, when Hamlin collapsed to the ground following a tackle. As we learned later, he had suffered a cardiac arrest, and his life literally hung in the balance while rescue workers revived him on the field.

Miraculously, he recovered and was medically cleared to resume regular football activities last month.

Hamlin’s legacy is secure. He changed the game by drawing the world’s attention to a moment when football didn’t matter. Or rather, many moments, all of them nerve-wracking and heartbreaking, as everyone waited to see if he’d make it off the field alive.

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He’s the heavy favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year, not because he “recovered from an injury,” but because he nearly died playing a game he loves, and is now poised to return to it.

This kind of thing isn’t normal in sports. So when it happens, it takes on a unique meaning.

The former sixth-round pick in 2021 isn’t someone like Joe Burrow, whose season-ending injury in 2020 was followed by an incredible performance leading his team to the Super Bowl the following season, culminating in Comeback Player of the Year honors.

The closest recent example — and nothing comes close to Hamlin’s example, so let’s put this in perspective — was Alex Smith suffering a gruesome leg injury that required 17 surgeries and almost resulted in amputation. While he didn’t exactly shine in his return to the field, the fact that he did return was enough to merit the award.

In a sense, the Comeback Player of the Year is awarded for perseverance in the face of adversity. And no one can possibly rival Hamlin’s perseverance in the face of adversity in 2023.

Comeback Player of the Year Predictions

It has to be Hamlin. We’d have to twist ourselves in knots to justify anyone else. And candidly, many of the other offerings are stretches.

How could Kyle Pitts win this award? He’s entering his third season. Yes, he could/should return to that 1,000+ yard plateau. But he’d sooner win MVP than Comeback Player of the Year. The same goes for Trey Lance, who simply hasn’t done enough to warrant a “comeback” moniker.

Then there are second-year guys like Dameon Pierce and Jameson Williams. What are they doing on this list? I don’t know. It’s hard to “come back” with only a partial NFL campaign under your belt. Like Pitts, if Pierce somehow leads Houston to glory, he’ll be an MVP candidate, not a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. As for Williams, a six-game suspension essentially knocks him out of the running.

It’s notable that aside from Hamlin, no one has odds better than +2500. That’s how big a gap this is.

Among those +2500 guys, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson are the most intriguing. Jackson, at full strength, is one of the game’s most electric playmakers, period. And with rookie Zay Flowers and a seemingly healthy Rashod Bateman steadying his wideout corps, he should have the best surrounding personnel of his career.

For Wilson, it all comes down to whether he’s still got it. Did the Seahawks trade him knowing he was headed downhill? Or can we discount the last 18 months and believe in Russell Wilson’s greatness, at least for one more year?

Comeback Player of the Year Sleepers

We don’t have any decent sleeper options in this top-heavy slate. It’s Hamlin, and then it’s everyone else. So that makes everyone else a sleeper.

But the best realistic long shot might be Cooper Kupp. The Rams’ offense could be in trouble once again. We don’t yet know if Matthew Stafford’s struggles last year are a sign of his body breaking down. But we can be confident that he’ll lean on Kupp as much as possible.

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And I still maintain that there’s a good chance the Rams will move Kupp before the trade deadline. Entering his age-30 campaign, he’s signed for four more seasons. The team has an out after 2024.

Still, if the Rams determine that they have almost no shot at another title by early October — if this team is headed toward a middling-at-best record — then they might have to make a tough-yet-necessary decision: trade Kupp at near-peak value now, or let him play out his contract on a team that might be forced into a multi-year rebuild.

On a new team with a “better” quarterback, Kupp could take a step back … or he might even have the capacity to take a step forward. After his season-ending injury last year, there’s a lot of interest in seeing if he can return to an elite level — perhaps on two teams in the same season.

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