NFL Comeback Player of the Year Pick & Prediction: Why Healthy Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Will Win

NFL Comeback Player of the Year Pick & Prediction: Why Healthy Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Will Win article feature image
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Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Dak Prescott.

We were all watching.

It was October 11 last fall, the Cowboys were playing the Giants, and it was on national television, because of course it was. Late in the third quarter, Dak Prescott took the snap, dropped one step, then took off on a designed draw.

He was brought down from behind eight yards later, and that’s when it happened. You saw it, too. Prescott’s leg was mangled. His foot was literally turned the wrong direction. It was gruesome.

That was the last time we’ve seen Dak Prescott on a football field, unless you count Hard Knocks. Prescott has yet to suit up in the preseason, though not because of the leg injury. He’s waiting out a shoulder injury right now, but everyone expects him to be ready for Week 1.

And if Dak Prescott is ready for that NFL season opener on Sept. 9 in Tampa, he’ll be the story from the moment the new season kicks off, and he’ll remain a major storyline all the way to a walkover award win.

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Prescott is +220 at BetMGM to win Comeback Player of the Year. He’s a heavy favorite at every sportsbook — but not heavy enough.

And the time to bet Dak Prescott is now.

So why will Prescott win Comeback Player of the Year? Come on, why wouldn’t he? If he stays healthy, Prescott is in for a huge season.

Just look at the talent around him. The Cowboys offensive line cratered last season with injuries up and down the line, but with both tackles healthy again, Dallas could have a top-five line again.

Ezekiel Elliott should eat, but this may be a passing team now. CeeDee Lamb looks ready to break out, and he and Amari Cooper are one of the best one-two punches in the league. Add in Michael Gallup, and you’ve got the best receiver trio outside of Tampa.

And you better believe the stats will be there.

Lest you forget, Dak Prescott was four games into a monster season before the injury. Through four healthy games, he was on pace for a record-smashing 6,760 passing yards, along with 48 passing and rushing TDs. That would’ve won more than a few awards.

Prescott did it all early on for Dallas, passing all over opponents to keep the Cowboys in the game. His numbers were also buoyed by pace. Dallas led the league in pace last season by a wide margin. According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys averaged 23.59 seconds per play. Only one other team was even below 25.9 seconds, so Dallas was way ahead of the pack.

Add it all up, and Dallas should have a terrific offense if healthy, and the Cowboys will put up numbers. Remember, last time Prescott was healthy, he threw 30 touchdowns and almost 5,000 yards. He might be even better now, and he could be ready to ascend into the top-five quarterbacks.

Plus, you know Dallas isn’t going anywhere. They’ll find a way to get the Cowboys on national TV like 12 times this year like always.

And the Cowboys might be pretty good this year. They have the second easiest projected schedule in the NFL by Vegas win totals. Though the defense is a work in progress, they have 10 games against a quarterback outside the presumed top 20 — starting with six in their own division against Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, plus four more against Sam Darnold and whoever the Patriots, Broncos, and Saints start.

Zoom out, and what do we have?

We have Dak Prescott, with a whole lot of yards and TDs, playing quarterback on America’s Team on national TV every week as the Cowboys charge back into the playoff picture. And we have all that narrative on top of the PTSD we’ll all feel every time we see Dak on a football field and remember that awful leg injury.

In the end, Dak Prescott will win Comeback Player of the Year because this is a narrative award, and how can you get any more narrative than that? Outside of being Tom Brady, it’s hard to be more visible than quarterbacking America’s Team on television week after week.

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This is a quarterback’s league, after all. The last three Comeback Players of the Year were QBs, and nine of the last 13 winners were quarterbacks too. Quarterbacks are so much more visible, and they touch the ball on every play. Prescott has every angle in his favor — he just needs to stay healthy.

Plus, if you look at the other top betting favorites for the award, there’s not much obvious contention.

Joe Burrow is the next favorite, and he’s barely even played in the NFL yet so he doesn’t have much of a “return” story. Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey return from more routine injuries, and both could post big numbers but will do so for bad teams. All three will play behind three of the worst offensive lines in the league, so that won’t help. Carson Wentz should have more help along the line but he’s returning from what exactly? Poor play?

Speaking of offensive lines, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is another favorite. The Chiefs right guard, like others, returns after opting last season out for COVID reasons. But Duvernay-Tardif didn’t just stay home. He returned to Canada as a Doctor of Medicine and helped fight the pandemic.

That’s genuinely inspirational, and he won an ESPY for his courage, but let’s be honest: An offensive lineman most people have never heard of is not winning Comeback Player of the Year over the quarterback of America’s Team.

There just isn’t another great comeback candidate on the board, and Dak Prescott is a great candidate. He plays the right position. He’s super visible. He’ll have the numbers and maybe the wins. Everyone saw the injury. The narrative is obvious. He’s the whole package.

Some may stay away from this bet since Prescott is the heaviest award favorite on the board, but I’m going the other way and getting my money in now. Even at +220 at BetMGM, that’s an implied 31% chance of winning. Is there really less than a one-in-three chance of Prescott being Comeback Player of the Year?

I don’t buy it. This has the makings of one of those awards that’s basically over by mid-season if Dak comes out, looks healthy, and puts up early numbers and gets back into the national conversation. This number could be at minus juice before October if things start out well.

Check the bill of health, and make sure Dak Prescott looks ready to go. If he stays healthy, he looks like our 2021 Comeback Player of the Year.

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