I’m a value seeker when looking for futures. I’ll take a few of the most obvious bets on the board, but I’m also out there looking for the rare +500 bets and above to throw a few bones at and hope it skyrockets into a large sum.
We’ve taken a look already at some of the league leaders in different categories, but I wanted to approach a different subject with this week’s gambling topic. Comeback Player of the Year is one that has historically been given out to quarterbacks by the Associated Press. Over the last decade however, we’ve seen all kinds of players win it — receivers, tight ends, even a safety won it in 2015 (Eric Berry)! That’s what makes this award a much more challenging one to wager on. Luckily, DraftKings has adjusted to that, providing some really nice odds for us in the process.
Remember, futures bets are generally risky propositions. Even just missing one game due to injury puts a player significantly at a disadvantage. The highest “favorite” in this category is still listed at +350 odds.
Note: All odds listed below are from DraftKings.
The biggest favorite is San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo (+350). Garoppolo missed 13 games last season, and while the 49ers did an admirable job staying in some close one-score games without their top signal caller, his presence was sorely missed on the field. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a quarterback take home this trophy 11 times. The trade that took him to San Francisco was supposed to be franchise-altering. We saw a spark of that at the end of 2017, but after a dull 2018 season with Garoppolo spending most of it in the trainer’s room, look for Garoppolo to take this offense to new heights in 2019. “Quarterback wins” aren’t a thing, but the AP’s archaic voters still think that way. If the 49ers make it to the playoffs coming off last year’s 4-12 season, Garoppolo could run away with this award.
The next highest odds to take home Comeback Player of the Year would be the Jets’ Le’Veon Bell (+400). After holding out all of last season, Bell is in a unique situation compared to our other candidates. After willingly sitting out the year due to a contract dispute — and not having a poor performance due to injury or poor play — I’m not sure how many votes he’ll get in this award even if he returns to a vintage Steelers-Bell stat line. A typical Bell stat line could be lofty aspirations with him now playing on a squad that Vegas figures to be behind often (6.5-win team) and playing with a far less talented offensive line. We also haven’t seen a running back capture this award since 2001 (Garrison Hearst). With Adam Gase calling the shots, the Jets figure to have a slow tempo and less overall play volume to accumulate stats. I’m going to let others take this bet and fade Bell.
The next tier is kicked off by Devonta Freeman (+800) and Carson Wentz (+800) coming in at the same odds.
Injuries limited Freeman to just two games last season. A a knee contusion forced him out of Game 1 and forced him to miss the next three games, then a bone bruise to his foot in Game 5 limited him to just 38.9% of the offensive snaps. Sports hernia surgery ultimately ended Freeman’s season in one that was easy to forget. Freeman is now three years removed from his last 1,000-yard season, as multiple knee injuries and concussions have kept him off the field. When on the field and off the injury report, few players are as well rounded as Freeman to pick up yardage rushing and receiving. Returning to the 1,000-yard mark (as arbitrary as it sounds) and posting double-digit touchdowns may be required for Freeman to have a chance at taking this home. After the Falcons bolstered their offensive line taking linemen with their first two draft picks, health is the only thing keeping Freeman from a fantastic 2019 season.
The other +800 odds candidate, Wentz could actually be the best bet on the board. Returning from a major back injury, Wentz could take home this award with ease if able to stay healthy for all 16 games. He’s missed three and five games over the past two seasons, but has posted quality numbers across the board during that span. Throwing a 6.4% touchdown rate and sporting a 102.0 quarterback rating during that span — both top-10 rates last season — Wentz has been upgraded with even more offensive talent around him this year with DeSean Jackson, Miles Sanders, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and first-rounder OT Andre Dillard. Wentz is reportedly in terrific shape with his back fully healed, set to enter training camp without restrictions. Health is the only thing keeping him back from a return to his 2017 form that saw him as a near MVP candidate.
The lone defender inside the top-five, Earl Thomas (+1200) is looking to shed 2018’s disappointing outing and have a career-year in his first season with Baltimore. Signing a four-year, $55M contract ($32M guaranteed), the Ravens are hoping for the same for the 30-year-old. History tells us that it’s going to be tough for Thomas to capture this award. Berry is the only defensive back to have won the award over the past 20 years. Among active safeties, Thomas currently ranks fifth in interceptions (28), 10th in passes defensed (67), and 12th in solo tackles (479). Not only is Thomas going to have to rival his best seasons in Seattle to take home this award, he’ll also have to convert those interceptions for game-changing touchdown returns if he wants to keep this award away from others.
Four different players come in at +1400 odds — A.J. Green, Derrius Guice, Cooper Kupp, and Cam Newton. I don’t think either Green, Kupp, or Newton missed enough games to really contend here in this category. The receivers were dominating at the time their injuries struck, and Newton still put together a very solid year playing through a shoulder injury. It doesn’t have that zero-to-sixty feel that I think may be required to take home this hardware. I’d prefer Newton over the wideouts, but still not enough to actually lay something on the wager. Guice on the other hand, has the early draft pedigree from last season and enough intrigue after him missing the year that he could be a legitimate contender. Unfortunately, he may not get enough touches here to really excel with Adrian Peterson breathing down his neck in what should be a committee. The split backfield in Washington is what ultimately makes this a tough wager to take at this time, and we also just received news last week that Guice may have had another setback (hamstring) that keeps him out of the start of training camp.
Wentz is probably my favorite bet at +800, but I also am really intrigued by the David Johnson (+1600) odds. Since we’ve already discussed Wentz, I’ll dive into the DJ argument a bit more extensively for those that like the longshot odds. I showed in an earlier article that Johnson was misused to the nth degree last season.
Continuously running your stud running back into the back of your center isn’t going to win you ball games. A player of Johnson’s caliber excels in space, taking outside runs for big gains and working the ball all over the field as an outlet receiver. Entering what should be a voluminous, fast-paced offense, Johnson figures to see a ton of work as the workhorse in this offense. If he can return to 2016’s incredulous stat line — or (gasp) even surpass it — he could contend with the best of them for Comeback Player of the Year.