After missing most of 2019 with a foot injury, LA Chargers safety Derwin James was thought of to be a 2020 comeback player of the year candidate for most of the offseason and training camp. I wrote about it back in May of last year. Unfortunately for James, a season-ending meniscus injury in August ended any of those potential ambitions.
Would James have won comeback player of the year last year? Considering the weight of the Alex Smith story, the answer is most definitely not. But in 2021, he will have a chance to win the award if he stays healthy.
1. Tougher for defensive players to win Comeback Player of the Year
Defensive players just don't get a fair shake at the award often. In the last 20 years, just three defensive players have won the award. The most recent was safety Eric Berry in 2015, who made a heroic Pro Bowl level comeback from Hodgkin's lymphoma.
On paper, it's easy to see why it's so hard for defensive players to win the award. Only EDGE players are really in control of their numbers from a raw statistics perspective. I'd favor someone like Nick Bosa over Derwin James for that reason alone. The media is more likely to notice sack numbers than they are interceptions and PFF scores. Bosa has the fifth-best odds to win the award at +800.
Even if James led the league in interceptions and put up a few sacks, I don't think it would pass the eye test for voters in comparison to the numbers that offensive players are going to put up.