After a stress fracture unfortunately forced him to sit out most of 2019, Derwin James might be in a position to win Comeback Player of the Year in 2020.
Comeback Player of the Year odds were released last week and LA Chargers safety Derwin James had pretty high odds, relative to the field. James ranks second in odds amongst defensive players, only second to Texans’ star J.J. Watt.
+2500 may not seem like great odds, but there is a lot of quarterback and skill player bets with higher odds that don’t quite make sense. Alex Smith, Antonio Brown, and Cam Newton were given higher odds than James.
While it’s understandable to see where the thought comes from on those bets, they’re still pretty unrealistic. Smith probably is a year away from playing if he does return at all. Brown will likely have to serve a prolonged suspension when he comes back. The odds for Newton might be decent if he finds a starting job, but that’s becoming more and more unlikely.
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The main advantage that James holds over the rest of the field is age. Looking at the rest of the field, it feels more likely to see James getting back to his 2018 form at the age of 23 than it is to see players like Ben Roethlisberger and Rob Gronkowski achieve their top form again. Those two have the top two odds out of the league currently.
James also came back at the end of the last season and played well. His overall grade on PFF was 82.4 while his coverage grade was even higher at 83.9. James certainly wasn’t 100% when he came back, and there was no way he was going to be after being out for so long. Playing almost as well as he did in 2018 after his return from injury bodes well for even further improvement in 2020.
James also proved that he was able to take on a full workload in the stretch that he came back, having only four fewer average defensive snaps per game in 2019 than 2018. While he started on a snap count in his first game back vs. Denver, he played his normal starting role in the other four games.
While Watt has higher odds because of his popularity, it should be James that has the highest odds amongst defensive players. Watt played 16 games in each of his first five seasons but has missed 32 games in the last four years. Some of it is luck, but constant surgeries and missed time for the Texans’ star defensive end will only become more likely as he heads into the other side of 30. James has a far less extensive injury and is younger.
Predicting NFL awards can be a crapshoot so early on, but it seems like James is a prime candidate to win Comeback Player of the Year in 2020. He’s still young and has a better chance of staying on the field than many of the other candidates who have suffered several injuries in their careers.
He also has the best-defined role as the starting safety and will be on the field a lot, in comparison to other comeback player of the year candidates whose football futures are up in the air.
Derwin James would be the second Charger to win the award after Keenan Allen, won it in 2017 following a torn ACL that ended his 2016 season.