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2015 NFL Honors Predictions: Comeback Player of the Year
Who will win the AP Comeback Player of the Year?
On January 31st, the evening before the Super Bowl, the fourth annual National Football League Honors Show will air on NBC and NFL Network. The NFL’s version of the Academy Awards, yearly awards will be handed out to the best players and coaches in the NFL. Among standard awards such as Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, there will also be awards like the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and the Fed Ex Air and Ground Players of the Year. In anticipation for this exciting night I decided to select each player or coach I believe deserves to win the award. To be honest, there are a few cases were the player I feel SHOULD win isn’t the player I think WILL win. Over the next week or so I will write an article for each award and each winner for said award. Some of the selections are pretty much a given, others are up in the air. It’s always fun to make our guesses at who will win, so please feel free to submit your own thoughts in the comments.
AP Comeback Player of the Year
This award is a bit confusing. The conditions to get votes and be the winner seem varied. Sometimes a player who returns from major injury wins, like Peyton Manning in 2012. Other times it can be breakout year after a lackluster season, like Phillip Rivers in 2013. This year has some good candidates, most of which are returning from major injury. In my estimation the award should go to a super star that has had a bad year or two due to injury, a difficult coaching situation, lack of talent, etc, only to bounce back with a profound year that silences all doubters and critics.
Justin Forsett: The only thing stopping Forsett from running away from this award is the fact that he really isn’t coming back from anything. This is the first time Forsett has ever had a relevant NFL season. His highest rushing total ever was in 2009, with 619 yards. For most of his career Forsett was a change of pace back that only started 7 games in his career before the 2014 season. With the Ray Rice case looming over the Ravens, it looked like Forsett would get just 2 weeks to prove the Ravens he can start in the NFL. Instead the Rice situation took a bunch if well documented crazy twists and turns and Forsett started 14 games for the Ravens. Taking advantage of his opportunity, Forsett ended the season fifth in rushing with 1,266 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. His 5.4 yards per carry led all backs with at least 60 attempts.
Von Miller: Since entering the league in 2011, Von Miller has been regarded as one of the best outside linebackers in the league. His 30 sacks in his first two seasons were as impressive as it gets. Sadly, in 2013 Miller tore his ACL Miller missed the whole second half of the season with the Broncos and the entire Super Bowl run. Miller looked just as amazing as ever in 2014, as he returned with the power and burst he showed his first two seasons. His 14 sacks were sixth best in the NFL. Von Miller is one of the frontrunners for the award, as he is the prototypical player that embodies the reason the award exists. He came into the league and took the NFL by storm, he was injured and sorely missed in 2013, and then he returned to incredible form this year. The scary thing is that Miller is only 25 and another off season will only help his knee to heal even more, 2015 could be an even more dominate year for the goggle wearing Bronco.
Rob Gronkowski: Speaking of scary 25 year olds, Rob Gronkowski is truly the most dominate player of his position and perhaps the most intimidating tight end to ever play. His speed matches corner backs, his hands are among the best in the league, and he is almost always the most powerful player on the field. He runs with dominance and authority with the ball in his hands and he is legitimately terrifying to tackle. Since entering the league in 2010, Rob Gronkowski has been the heart and soul of the Patriots offense. When Gronk is full strength, he is almost unstoppable. His 2011 season was among the best a tight end has ever produced. Unfortunately Gronkowski missed 5 games in 2012 and 9 more in 2013. Even when on the field it was evident that Gronk just wasn’t Gronk. It’s incredible that a battered and bruised Gronkowski is still the best tight end in the game and still is able to put up monster numbers. 2014 was Gronk’s healthiest season since 2011, but he still isn’t 100%. He played in 15 games and started 10. Gronkowski led all tight ends in receiving yards and touchdowns. If nothing else, 2014 was another great year for Gronk and a possible bridge year as well. If he piles on the success of this year with finally being fully healthy again in 2015 and beyond, Gronkowski can go down as the greatest offensive force of his era.
Arian Foster: From 2010 to 2012 Arian Foster was the best overall running back in football. His one cut running style and his receiving skills were unmatched. 2013 however was a terrible year for Foster. He played in only 8 games and was a shadow of his former self. Not sure if he lost his vegan powers via some Scott Pilgrim mind’s eye type trick but Foster looked like he hit the running back wall and lost his legs for good. But in 2014 Foster was back, for the most part, he missed 3 games and that may be the killer blow to his chance at the award. Still, his 1,246 yards were sixth best and his 13 total touchdowns showed that he still is one of the best all around backs in the NFL. Before he was hampered by some small injuries he was right in the conversation with Bell and Murray as the best running back in the NFL.
Jeremy Maclin: Maclin has been looked at as a top notch number two receiver since coming into the league in 2009. With DeSean Jackson dominating the field for the Eagles, most considered Maclin to be the beneficiary of less coverage and less pressure. No one necessarily down-played his talent, but it looked like Maclin was not quite a number one guy; instead perhaps the best number two receiver in the NFL. In 2013 Maclin tore his ACL in training camp in July and he missed the entire 2013 season. Maclin had his doubters during the 2014 offseason. Some wondered if Maclin should be re-signed at all by the Eagles, favoring players like Riley Cooper. In the most shocking move of the offseason, the Eagles cut DeSean Jackson from the roster completely and Maclin was thrust into the number one receiver role, he took advantage of it. Maclin played all 16 games for the first time since 2010. He put up his best statistical numbers of his career in 2014. Maclin’s 1,318 yards were ninth best, his 85 receptions were tied thirteenth, and his 10 scores were tied for twelfth. Perhaps most importantly he came up with big time plays, especially during the early parts of the season when the Eagles had most of their success. When the Eagles needed a play, Maclin always seemed to make it.
Who should win: Jeremy Maclin—The only player to miss the entire 2013 season on the list, Maclin deserves to win. Not only did he miss all of 2013, but he also played all of 2014—something that Gronk and Foster both failed to do. Maclin was consistent all year. He not only came back from a major injury but he also proves critics wrong about his ability to be a number one receiver. With that said, Maclin wins the award in two separate ways.
Who will win: Rob Gronkowski—voters, fans, media, everyone loves Gronk. He’s high energy, he’s crazy, he’s dominating, and he’s the best at what he does. Gronk may not have had the comeback year that he could have, I’d like to see him play all 16 games again and put up 2011 type numbers. But nonetheless he bounced back this year significantly.
My favorite to watch: Gronk—just look at him. He’s absolutely massive and frightening. Along with JJ Watt, he’s the most intimidating player at his position in the NFL.