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Ask the Experts

Who is the Comeback Player of the Year?

Geno: Punchline to Pro Bowler

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 is the Comeback Player of the Year?

SCOTT SACHS

Geno Smith came back from...oblivion! From promising rookie to 2nd-round bust; from clubhouse cancer to the twilight zone; Smith came out of absolutely nowhere to lead Seattle to being in the playoff conversation. Whether or not he is NFL and/or fantasy relevant next year, this season was as unforeseen a scenario as I can ever recall in my 50+ years of watching the NFL. Saquon Barkley carries the runner-up trophy, with Christian McCaffrey a strong third.

With 2 perfect seasons and multiple league championships to his credit, Sachs runs Perfect Season Fantasy Football, featuring LIVE Talk & Text Advice. He is a 3-time Winner of the Fantasy Index Experts Auction League, as well as a previous Winner of the Fantasy Index Experts Poll.

MICHAEL NAZAREK

This is an easy one...Christian McCaffrey. Most didn't think he would stay healthy, but he did, so if you took him instead of Jonathan Taylor as the first overall pick, you greatly increased your odds of still playing at this time, in Week 16.

Nazarek is the CEO of Fantasy Football Mastermind Inc, celebrating 25 years online! His company offers a preseason draft guide, customizable cheat sheets, a multi-use fantasy drafting program including auction values, weekly in-season newsletters, injury reports and free NFL news (updated daily) at its web site, www.ffmastermind.com. He has been playing fantasy football since 1988 and is a four-peat champion of the SI.com Experts Fantasy League, a nationally published writer in several fantasy magazines and a former columnist for SI.com. He's also won nearly $30K in recent seasons of the FFPC High Stakes Main Event. Nazarek can be reached via email at miken@ffmastermind.com.

DAVID DOREY

For my money, Saquon Barkley is the Comeback Player of the Year. And really, that's two lost seasons before he finally remained healthy and had enough blocking to reassert himself as one of the elite running backs in the NFL. Barkley already has 1,170 rushing yards to rank No. 4 in the metric and scored nine touchdowns. Best yet, he's caught 47 passes for 294 yards as a dual threat. He was easy to pass by in fantasy drafts this summer, but richly rewarded those who took the chance.

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.

SAM HENDRICKS

Geno Smith. 26 TDs, 8 picks, 3,671 passing yards and 281 rushing yards and a score. The Seattle quarterback was so far off the radar on draft day that he was not on some of the stickers used; 2014 was his last year of significant stats. I'd say that was a pretty big comeback.

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 30-year fantasy football veteran who participated 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.

IAN ALLAN

Geno Smith. It’s been a long road back. It’s been eight years since he’s been a starter. But he’s kept working on his game, hoping he’d get another opportunity. He did a decent job filling in for Russell Wilson last year, with a 103 passer rating, but he actually won only one of his three starts, and it was against lowly Jacksonville. Most, I think, thought Drew Lock would be Seattle’s opening day starter. But Smith got the nod, and he’s done well with it. He’s 7-7 as a starter, completing a league-high 71 percent of his passes. He looks like an above-average starting quarterback, and I don’t think anybody saw that coming. What exactly he “came back” from, I’m not sure, but he gets my vote.

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.

JASON WOOD

Trevor Lawrence. I penned a detailed article this summer looking at the 2021 rookie quarterback class and they're historically bad starts. Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields all had three of the worst rookie seasons of the modern era, and history has been very unkind to quarterbacks with similar career starts. As we can now see, at least in two of three, they've wiped away the doubts and are emerging as franchise difference-makers. While Fields is already at 1,000 yards rushing and poses the same kind of early-career dual-threat impact we saw from Lamar Jackson, it's Lawrence who's completely reshaped his trajectory of late. We have to remember he's only 23 years old, and it's now clear Urban Meyer's impact on the Jaguars will go down in NFL history as an all-time anchor. Lawrence was as close to a can't-miss prospect as we had seen since Andrew Luck, and how he's playing like it

Wood is Senior Editor at Footballguys.com and has been with the company since its start in 2000. For more than 20 years, Footballguys has provided rankings, projections, and analysis to help fantasy managers dominate their leagues.

ANDY RICHARDSON

He doesn't qualify, because "Comeback" typically references the previous season, and he's just a rookie. But some mention must be given to Brian Robinson -- shot in August, nearly leading his team to a crucial Week 15 win in December (Commanders got out-and-out jobbed last week). But I will instead take the other half of that matchup's running back collection, Saquon Barkley. After a great start to his career, Barkley was injured in 2020 and a 3.7-yard per attempt, 46-rushing yards per game yawner in 2021. I was able to select him at 2.12 in a draft this year, and he saved my team that drafted Jonathan Taylor at 1.01. Barkley has had a great season, arguably the only offensive weapon on New York's somehow-playoff-bound team, and he's been a very nice starter in fantasy lineups all season.

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.

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