• Devan Flint

My Top 5 2020 CPOY Candidates

1. Ben Roethlisberger

I was torn between Cam Newton and fan favourite Rob Gronkowski for the number one spots for a long time, then I realised Ben Roethlisberger missed almost all of the 2019 and hence is eligible to be a comeback player in 2020. Therefore, in my mind it’s a no brainer.

Roethlisberger is now fully healthy and feeling better than ever after elbow surgery that costed him his 2019 season. Big Ben might be 38 and undeniably turnover prone but when last seen he led the league in passing yards with 5,129 yards and threw for 34 touchdowns. If Roethlisberger can return to his 2018 form, the Steelers could be a dark horse Superbowl contender in 2020 which would make him in my view the unanimous comebacker player of the year.

It’s not like Cam Newton’s situation in New England either, Roethlisberger has a plethora of potential weapons around him, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Dionte Johnson and James Washington on the outside, Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald at tight end and James Conner at running back. Roethlisberger might not have that one elite weapon but the Steelers offense does not have a single glaring weakness which favours Roethlisberger even more for the award. Oh, and most notably he is a quarterback and just like the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year is also weighted towards quarterbacks.

2. Cameron Newton

I’ve been on the Cam Newton bandwagon for years now and I was a huge supporter of his when the Panthers released him this offseason. Hence, nothing would make me happier for Newton to have a great comeback season and win the award. However, despite Cam’s talent he can’t run routes and catch his own passes and the guy he’s throwing to in 2020 were arguably the worst receiver unit in all of football in 2019.

Nonetheless, the idea Newton has fallen off and is no longer a good quarterback is completely false. When last seen in 2018 he put up some very nice numbers:

14 Games

67.9% Completion Percentage, a career best that ranked 9th in 2018 which was better than, Brady, Rodgers, Stafford, Mahomes, Wilson, Luck and Big Ben.

13 Touchdowns

13 Interceptions

7th best in Bad Throw percentage

Equally the notions that he is injury prone and a diva are also completely incorrect. Cam is an iron man and before having season ending surgery in 2019 he had only missed 6 games in 8 seasons despite taking the most punishment of any quarterback in the NFL over that 8 year stretch, and regarding Cam being called a diva and poor leader I haven’t heard many things more blasphemous than that in my entire life. There has not been a single credible source that has spoken out against Cam’s leadership but instead analysts and writers looking for a hot take. Bill Belichick literally just praised Newton saying ‘He’s an extremely hard worker. Nobody works harder than Cam does. He’s here early. He stays late, and he works very hard’ and Belichick has coached the greatest quarterback of all time for the last 20 years, so I think its safe to say he knows what he’s talking about. Old and new teammates have equally spoken out on his leadership stating that the rumours are false and that inside the lockeroom they ignore all the report regarding Cam’s leadership.

While New England clearly have a very poor receiver group, I think there are some interesting similarities in the receiving core Cam had in Carolina and that he now has in New England.

In Carolina:

Big Receiver – Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess

Undersized great route runner – Steve Smith, DJ Moore

Deep Threat – Tedd Ginn Jr

Pass catching running back – Christian McCaffrey

Great tight end – Greg Olsen

In New England:

Big Receiver – N’Keal Harry

Undersized great route runner – Julian Edelman

Deep Threat – Damien Byrd

Pass catching running back – James White

Great tight end – N/A

Plus, a great running back in Sony Michel

So, who knows Cam could light up opponents in 2020 on course to potentially making the playoffs with New England as well winning Comeback Player of the Year.

3. Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski is a fan favourite which will undoubtably elevate him in the voting but that is not to say his play will not be up to scratch.

While in my opinion Rob Gronkowski is far from his prime, he will still be great in the big moments due to his unrivalled chemistry with Tom Brady. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that coming off a year of retirement in which Gronkowski has seemingly got leaner and lost weight that he will be close to the Gronk of old, but Gronk has been an all-time great blocker throughout his career which will likely continue into 2020 and there is no doubt that in the RedZone and on 3rd downs Tampa will look to Gronk to make big plays.

If the Buccaneers can live up to their hype and if Gronkowski has around 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, I think there is a very large likelihood of him taking home the award.

4. AJ Green

A.J. Green missed the entire 2019 season and only played 9 games in 2018 due to injury troubles, but when on the field Green is a playmaker on every level and arguably a future hall of famer given his production and 7 straight Pro Bowls prior to 2018 and 2019.

For his career, Green averages 80.2 yards per game and when last seen healthy in 2018 he averaged 77.1. His impact on Burrow as a rookie cannot be underestimated, Burrow will look to Green as a natural reflex when pressure comes due to the respect and trust he will have in Green as both a veteran and potentially elite wide receiver. Not only do we all know Burrow needs Green, so does he, according to Peter King Burrow met with the Bengals during the draft process and made it clear he wanted them to find a way to retain A.J. Green.

The last two wide receivers to win Comeback Player of the Year were Keenan Allen in 2017 with 1,393 yards and Jordy Nelson in 2016 with 1,257 yards. Now if Green averages his career average of 80.2 yards a game in 2020 he will finish the season with 1,283 yards which as shown by Jordy Nelson is enough to win the award. However, my only concern is that Burrow might struggle as a rookie, especially behind that offensive line, meaning the Bengals might not be great and Green might not get his numbers.

5. Alex Smith

In my opinion, if Alex Smith steps on the NFL field as a starter he wins the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year by default, however, I’m just not sure he will see the field as benching 2nd year quarterback Dwayne Haskins would have a very negative impact on his confidence and could potentially derail his career.

Alex Smith horrific leg injury happened on November the 18th 2018 against the Houston Texans. After being sacked by J.J. Watt, Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula. Smith has had to undergo 17 surgeries on his way to recovery, during which he nearly lost his life to sepsis which is a life-threatening condition in response to an infection that meant his leg nearly had to amputated. Hence, his road back to the NFL is nothing short of miraculous and nothing like any other NFL player has had to endure, therefore, if he does take a snap under center in 2020 I believe he will win the award unanimously.

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