ASK THE EXPERTS appears weekly from training camp through the Super Bowl with answers to a new question being posted Thursday morning. How the guest experts responded when we asked them: Who will be the Comeback Player of the Year?
Things are set up for one winner and one winner only: Dak Prescott. He had the hardest 2020, hands down, so he’s already won the narrative-driven vote. And he steers an offense built around his talents and stacked with arguably even bigger talents, from a league-best-or-close-enough receiving trio to a great pair of backs to a line that should regain its collective form right in front of him. There are other nice stories brewing — and I suppose Saquon Barkley could replicate Adrian Peterson’s “Call Me Maybe” season — but as of today the hardware is Dak’s to lose.
Eleff hosts the Fantasy Index Podcast, available in the iTunes Store now. He has worked for Fantasy Index off and on all century.
The easy answer is Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley or Michael Thomas since all three were Top-10 picks last year and ended up as fantasy team killers. However, both Barkley and Thomas are still nursing injuries from last year and McCaffrey is the universal No. 1 overall pick anyway. I'll take a swing for the fence with Joe Mixon who was Top-12 for two seasons and then missed ten games with a foot injury last year. Mixon was coming off two straight seasons with over 1,400 total yards and at least eight scores in each. The Bengals now possess a passing offense that must be respected and that was upgraded in the NFL draft. Giovani Bernard is gone and Mixon is a clear workhorse and has been described as much by HC Zac Taylor. He's a second-rounder this year, but will bounce back.
Dorey co-founded The Huddle.com in 1997. He's ranked every player and projected every game for the last 23 years and is the author of Fantasy Football: The Next Level. David has appeared on numerous radio, television, newspaper and magazines over the last two decades.
There are plenty of good candidates, with Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Dak Prescott leading the way. To a lesser degree, Joe Mixon, George Kittle and Austin Ekeler. I’m going to go with Prescott. McCaffrey is the top player on my fantasy board, but the injury he’s coming back isn’t as severe (at times last year, I was wondering if they were just holding him out to improve their draft position while preserving his health). With Prescott, he’s had to undergo multiple ankle surgeries, and I’m thinking he’s going to have a really big year. With the weapons he’s got around him, I’m thinking Prescott has a really good chance of finishing with top 5 quarterbacking numbers.
Allan co-founded Fantasy Football Index in 1987. He and fellow journalism student Bruce Taylor launched the first newsstand fantasy football magazine as a class project at the University of Washington. For more than three decades, Allan has written and edited most of the content published in the magazines, newsletters and at www.fantasyindex.com. An exhaustive researcher, he may be the only person in the country who has watched at least some of every preseason football game played since the early 1990s. Allan is a member of the FSTA Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame.
Sam Darnold gets my early vote for comeback player of the year. He is young, out of New York and Adam Gase's system. Now he has a stud running back in Christian McCaffrey to lean on and some pass catchers in Robby Anderson and DJ Moore. The third overall pick in 2018 has some proving to do and the Panthers are going to let him loose in 2021. He will do enough to turn heads. My honorable mention is new Bears running back Damien Williams who could slip into the start role easily (after sitting out 2020) if and when David Montgomery goes down.
Hendricks is the author of Fantasy Football Guidebook, Fantasy Football Tips and Fantasy Football Basics, all available at ExtraPointPress.com, at all major bookstores, and at Amazon and BN.com. He is a 25-year fantasy football veteran who participates in the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) and finished 7th and 16th overall in the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC). He won the Fantasy Index Open in 2013 and 2018.
As a Browns homer, Odell Beckham is a player I am shamelessly biased toward in both fantasy and game results. Both he and Jarvis Landry are poised to be pain-free as Cleveland has actual reality-based dreams of an NFL championship. OBJ looks reborn so far in camp; very smooth, effortless, and snagging one-handed grabs over and over. Comeback year prediction of 75 catches, 1,100 yards, 7 TDs. My 2nd choice is my last year's pick, I believe, and that's Indy wideout Parris Campbell. Made a great play last week, and Wentz may be returning in Week 1. Parris has had the "Will Fuller" plague for awhile now as when healthy, he's virtually uncoverable, so if he can just avoid injury in 2021, he could easily leapfrog T.Y. Hilton to be the No. 2 wideout for the Colts.
Sachs runs Perfect Season Fantasy Football, offering LIVE Talk & Text consulting. He has multiple league championships including 2 perfect seasons. Scott is a past winner of the Fantasy Index Experts Poll and a 2-time winner of the Experts Auction League.
The obvious answer is Dak Prescott. But if you want to take a long shot, here's an incredibly unpopular answer: Jimmy Garoppolo. He fits almost every criteria needed to win the award. Quarterbacks have won nine of the past 13 awards. Garoppolo is surrounded by high-end offensive talent, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel. He's got the NFL's best offensive mind as his head coach. And Kyle Shanahan remains steadfast that Garoppolo is his starter. Fantasy owners desperately want Trey Lance to start. So do I. But if Garoppolo plays well and the Niners win games, he's a darkhorse to win the NFL's Comeback Player Of The Year. (He's +5000, for those of you in legal betting states.)
Charchian is the CEO at GuillotineLeagues.com. Guillotine Leagues are a new way to play in which the lowest-scoring team each week gets chopped from the league, and all the players go to the waiver wire. Charchian was inducted into the Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
I hope it's Dak Prescott, because the NFL is more fun when the Cowboys are relevant (though I have Washington winning the NFC East), and Dallas is overflowing with talented skill talent. And we know how awards go, quarterbacks generally get the most consideration. Put me down for Prescott.
An FSWA award-winning writer (with nominations in four sports) and podcaster, Scott has been with Yahoo Sports since 2008. On the rare occasions when the computer is turned off, he enjoys word games, poker, music, film, game theory, and a variety of condiments. He lives in suburban Detroit.
I'm going with George Kittle. Although he's viewed as a top-3 tight end, there's nowhere near as much enthusiasm or confidence as for Kelce and Waller. He missed half of last season due to injury, saddling him with the critique of being injury-prone. But the two previous years, he caught 85-88 passes and went over 1,000 yards both seasons. If you didn't look it up you might think he's missed far more time than just 3 games combined his first three seasons. Tremendous upside if he stays on the field.
Richardson has been a contributing writer and editor to the Fantasy Football Index magazine and www.fantasyindex.com since 2002. His responsibilities include team defense and IDP projections and various site features, and he has run the magazine's annual experts draft and auction leagues since their inception. He previews all the NFL games on Saturdays and writes a wrap-up column on Mondays during the NFL season.