Written by Jason Feiner
The 2018 season was marred with injuries that left franchises in states of panic. Teams were forced to play without their leaders and playmakers. Fans were in agony as star players continued to drop like flies and landing on IR. The talent pool for the 2019 Comeback player of the year is filled with impact talent on both sides of the ball holding some of the game's elite. Each athlete will have a chance to claim this award by season’s end.
The NFL will be getting some heavy firepower back onto the field in 2019 including Earl Thomas, Deion Jones, Jason Verrett, Hunter Henry, Jimmy Garropolo, and Derrius Guice to name a few. Each big name player is a centerpiece on their side of the ball and has the talent to impact each game, but just like an article posted around this time last year, we will be focusing on the fantasy implications for the return of these star players.
Although Earl Thomas is an enticing option for the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year, defensive players are nearly eliminated from this prize. Here are the frontrunners to run away with Fantasy's Comeback Player of the Year award.
Devonta Freeman RB, Atlanta Falcons:
My pick for this years Fantasy Comeback player of the year lies in the legs of the Atlanta running back. After missing 14 games last season, Freeman is reportedly healthy and ready for training camp as looks to retain his role as the Falcons bell cow. With Tevin Coleman now in San Francisco, Freeman has a clear path back to the 330 touch mark he accrued during his dominant RB1 performance in 2015 where he secured 21.1 points per game in PPR formats. Ito Smith doesn’t pose much threat if Freeman can stay healthy, and his rise back into RB1 contention seems like a straight path to certainty.
With Freeman out of the lineup, the Falcons never found their true all-purpose runner, and Tevin Coleman couldn’t find the production we all thought he was capable of. Now healthy and in total control of the backfield in a high powered offensive unit, Freeman should once again secure his spot among the fantasy elite. His 317 total points in 2015 may have been a pipe dream in a crowded backfield, but he has a chance to repeat his dominant performance from four years ago. Devonta Freeman will be sure to take the pressure off of Matt Ryan and give the Falcons a successful running game yet again.
Cooper Kupp WR, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp has morphed into one of the premier slot receivers in the league quickly becoming Jared Goff’s go-to receiver in a high-flying offense. The mighty if has reared its head once again and lies in a potentially different outcome in Super Bowl 53: “IF” Kupp was on the field tormenting New England’s defensive backs could the Rams have pulled off an upset? Unfortunately for all residents outside of the New England area, we will never know the answer to this. We all just have to watch the Pats go into 2019 as the defending champs… Again.
Although Kupp wasn’t on the field in Super Bowl 53, He will be returning to the fold in 2019 giving Sean McVay another lethal weapon to exploit throughout the season. Prior to his injury, Kupp was the WR15 with 16.9 points per game in PPR formats. This number qualifies for a high impacting WR2 and his numbers will only grow in 2019. His impressive numbers were halted in week 10 after suffering a torn ACL. He played in eight games but still finished the 2018 campaign with 40 catches for 566 yards and 6 touchdowns. Had he kept that pace, Kupp would have provided 80 catches for 1132 yards and 12 scores reaching an impressive 265.2 points. This qualifies for WR1 numbers pushing him past Keenan Allen for the 12th most points for a receiver.
Kupp is expected to be at 100 percent by week 1 of the 2019 regular season and should make his mark early on. A certain high commodity draft pick in all fantasy leagues, The LA receiver will be in the mix for this year's comeback player of the year.
Jimmy Garoppolo QB, San Francisco 49ers
In 2017, the San Francisco 49ers traded for their presumed franchise quarterback at the week eight trade deadline. Garoppolo made his first start in week 13 and proceeded to knock off each opponent he faced. Jimmy G lead the 49ers to five consecutive wins to close out the 2017 campaign and was awarded a whopping five-year 137.5 million dollar deal. With the deal secured and their franchise quarterback in place, SanFran was looking to make a mark on the 2018 season, but in week 3 their worst nightmare was made into reality as Garoppolo took a hit on the sideline and tore his ACL ending his season in the process.
Now looking to return to the lineup, Jimmy Garoppolo must look to regain the poise that once made him the highest paid player in league history. Although his average of 16 fantasy points through his first eight games in San Francisco is uninspiring, John Lynch has surrounded their quarterback to finally make a jump in 2019. Those 16 points would have given Garoppolo the 21st most fantasy points at the position in 2018, a stat that makes his Comeback Player of the Year more of a hopeful than guarantee. If Jimmy can learn to slide and stay healthy, a breakout season may be on the horizon. He has the talent, but health and his surrounding talent will certainly play a factor.
Derrius Guice RB, Washington Redskins
Primed to receive a bell cow role in Washington during his rookie season, he failed to step on the field. Guice tore his ACL in the first preseason game after a dazzling 34-yard run. He has the talent to become a true 3-down back and primary ball carrier for the Redskins. In a backfield that features a rookie signal caller expected to start in week 1, Washington will be leaning on the run and should give early-down work to their young buck with a Marshawn Lynch-like play style. Likely to receive goal-line work due to his power and desire for contact, Guice is certainly the runner to own in a crowded backfield that features the aging, but immortal Adrian Peterson and pass catching specialist Chris Thompson. Although both players, barring injury, will undoubtedly break into Guice’s workload, he will still get the necessary opportunity to make him an RB2 in fantasy throughout the 2019 season. He has a chance to start his career off the right way following a devastating injury ended his rookie season before it began.