Any time you can successfully fade the top two favorites in a betting market, you’re well on your way to finding some value. That’s exactly what we’re going to do with this year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. The icing on this value cake is that BetMGM is offering the longest odds of any sportsbook on many of these players.
Fading the favorites
Tennessee Titans wrecking ball Derrick Henry sits atop the field as a +300 favorite to win the award. I’m passing up on the running back for a plethora of reasons. First of all, he already made his comeback from a right foot fracture at the end of last season when he returned for Tennessee’s home playoff loss to the Bengals.
Henry is a machine, but he’s a machine that has taken a pounding. His 900 carries over the last three seasons leads the NFL by a healthy margin. Dalvin Cook ranks second with 811 totes, despite playing two more games. Henry often finishes his runs in the field of play, and all those hits add up over time. I’m not saying he’ll be a dud this season; I just don’t think there’s enough value at +300 for the kind of numbers he’ll need to post to get this award.
The other favorite who I’m fading is Deshaun Watson (+650). Even if Watson dodges a suspension this season and puts up MVP numbers, I can’t see a majority of writers voting for him to win any honors. When Mike Vick was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2010, he had already served time, expressed remorse for his actions and sat through an entire season on the bench in 2009.
Five players we like:
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints (+750)
This is going to seem like one of us is having a stroke when you read this next part, but it’s true: Winston was enjoying an MVP season last year before tearing his ACL. Famous Jameis threw 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions as the Saints went 5-2 in the seven games he started. New Orleans went 4-6 without him and missed the playoffs, but at least we know that the LASIK surgery worked.
Quarterbacks have won this award the last four years and 10 of the last 14 times. Of the previous eight winners, seven players were returning from injuries. BetMGM’s +750 price on Winston is currently the longest odds offered by any sportsbook.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (+900)
It’s impossible to know which version of Thomas will return from his ankle injury and general malaise, but I’m willing to wager a small amount that the NFL’s single-season receptions record holder still has some gas left in the tank.
The target tree in New Orleans only has a few branches and Thomas is the biggest one when he’s healthy. A return to dominance could make him the first wide receiver to win the award since Keenan Allen in 2017.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (+1800)
Star power goes a long way when it comes to this trophy. If you’re not overcoming a life-threatening injury or illness like Alex Smith in 2020 or Eric Berry in 2015, it helps to be a household name. The top pick in fantasy football drafts over the last few years definitely has that.
In 2019, McCaffrey became only the third player in NFL history to gain 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. He’s an unbelievable talent.
The Panthers’ front office, unfortunately, isn’t so talented. Their decisions to rush McCaffrey back to action through his injuries in 2020 and 2021 were borderline negligent.
No running back has won the award since Garrison Hearst in 2001, but I think there’s serious value on Run CMC this year. He’ll only be 26 years old when the season kicks off and he’s an elite weapon with a brand new mauling left tackle in sixth overall pick Ikem Ekwonu.
McCaffrey’s +1800 price on BetMGM is much longer than the +800 and +1200 you’ll find on other books.
Allen Robinson II, Los Angeles Rams (+2000)
The Rams ranked fifth in passing yards last season, throwing the ball on 60% of their offensive plays. Robert Woods is gone and Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t been re-signed, opening the door for football vacuum Robinson to see a ton of volume.
It’s fair to question whether Robinson still has the ability to separate like he used to, but he’s still blessed with incredible hands and should get plenty of opportunities in the red zone while the defense have their own hands full with Cooper Kupp. A double-digit touchdown campaign following his 12-game, one-touchdown season could be enough to win Comeback Player of the Year.
Will Fuller V, free agent (+6600)
There are a number of perfect landing spots for Fuller, who missed most of 2021 with a broken thumb. The speedster would fit right in with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
Maybe the best fit, though, would be a reunion with Watson in Cleveland. The two torched the league when they were together in Houston, with Fuller catching 10 touchdowns in their first seven games together and then eight touchdowns in their last nine games as a duo. Cleveland finally has a quarterback who can throw an accurate deep ball and Fuller would give them a receiver who can catch it.
Some sportsbooks have Fuller as low as 14-to-1 to win Comeback Player of the Year. A lot has to go right for him to walk away with the trophy, but there’s some good value at 66-to-1 on BetMGM.
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference, teamrankings.com, and StatMuse.