Look for value for your NFL picks for Comeback Player of the Year with these individuals who are coming off bad injuries or playing for their job.
5Dimes is running odds on Comeback Player of the Year, and while I love a well-foreshadowed redemption story as much as anyone, I think they've got some intriguing down ballot names to target for the award. It's not just limited to Adrian Peterson and Eric Berry.
(Let's be real though, if Eric Berry has anything near the quality of his normal season, sentimentality is going to push it over the top for him).
I think the cleanest targets on the board are great players coming off injuries that shouldn't be long-term hindrances. That invites a number of interpretations, but these are my favorites.
NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers, +3300
Bowman lost his entire 2014 season to a devastating ACL injury in the NFC Championship game against Seattle. All signs are that he's on track for the opener, and he's expected to play in San Francisco's preseason game against Houston this week.
Here's why I like Bowman: the quality of middle linebackers has taken a few hits over the last couple of seasons. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson got hurt. Teammate Patrick Willis retired. Arizona's Daryl Washington can't stay out of trouble long enough to play.
If Bowman can bounce back to his pre-injury level, he's right in the conversation with Luke Kuechly of the Panthers and Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks as the best middle linebacker in the NFL. Nothing boosts a bounce-back case like an All-Pro award.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers, +4000
Two 49ers in a row? It's simple: the media narrative for this team is so wildly out of control that I think any good performance on the team is going to be looked upon favorably.
Kaepernick had an abysmal 2014 season. Let's remember that, coming into that season, he was looked at as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. He's clearly taken his offseason seriously, going as far as to train with Kurt Warner. I think he understands where his career is at this point.
And given how often I expect this team to find itself trailing I think there's a lot of garbage time potential for Kaepernick to throw bombs at Torrey Smith and Vernon Davis. Last year's offense didn't fit him much – and while I don't think offensive coordinator Geep Chryst is some sort of guru, I think they can coax better play out of Kaepernick than they did in 2014.
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals, +10000
After being called out for being "just a guy" by his own defensive coordinator last season, I'm willing to put money on Atkins playing better in 2015. His torn ACL happened late in the 2013 season, and I believe he never really got healthy in 2014.
Flash forward to 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals are banking on him returning to form. It's always a risk to put money on someone who hasn't played poorly of late, but Atkins was one of the most dominant players in the league before he got hurt.
I find these NFL odds very comfortable to dip a toe in and see what happens. If Atkins recovers to 90% of his previous form, he could walk away with this trophy.