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2011 NFL Predictions: 12 Players Who Could Win Comeback Player of the Year

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIAugust 19, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: 12 Players Who Could Win Comeback Player of the Year

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    With the start of the NFL season right around the corner, players who missed all, or the majority of, last season finally get an opportunity to get back on the football field. Each of these players will have the chance to contend for Comeback Player of the Year.

    This award is generally given to a offensive player, as only three defensive players have won the award since 1972. However, with the large amount of extremely talented players on defense who missed last season, this award could go to one of a handful of players.

    Here are 12 players with the best chance to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Matthew Stafford, QB

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    2010 Statistics: 3 games played, 535 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT

     

    Matthew Stafford was a candidate to win this award last year until he got injured again.

    In two years, Stafford has only played 13 games, so his health is a major issue. However, if he can stay healthy, he has plenty of weapons around him to put together a fantastic season.

    His greatest weapon is Calvin Johnson, who is an absolute beast and has the ability to make terrible quarterbacks look good. Just look at how good Detroit's backup Shaun Hill looked last year for proof.

    The key for Stafford will always be his health, but if he plays all 16 games this year, he should have good enough statistics to make him one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

Tony Romo, QB

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    2010 Statistics: 6 games played, 1,605 yards, 11 TDs, 7 INTs

     

    For the past few seasons, Tony Romo has been one of the better quarterbacks in the league. He is accurate and should lead a very high-powered offense this year.

    With Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, Romo has plenty of options to throw the ball to. He should also have an improved running attack with the addition of DeMarco Murray to the team.

    Should Romo lead the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs this year, he would almost be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year.

DeAngelo Williams, RB

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    2010 Statistics: 6 games played, 361 rushing yards, 1 TD

     

    DeAngelo Williams has been one of the best running backs the past few seasons. That is especially impressive when you consider that he has been splitting time with Jonathan Stewart.

    Most would agree that the Carolina Panthers overpaid for Williams, but that won't have any negative effect on his statistics. In fact, he might ever get more carries since the Panthers have so much invested in him now.

    Even if he doesn't play up to his paycheck, Williams should still have a great season and put up plenty of yards and touchdowns to be in contention for this award.

Ryan Grant, RB

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    2010 Statistics: 1 game played, 45 rushing yards

     

    Ryan Grant was coming off back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons before he was injured in the first game of the 2010 season. The Green Bay Packers struggled all season running the football due to the loss of Grant.

    The only issue Grant will have will be trying to fend off James Starks for carries. Starks exploded onto the scene during the Packers' Super Bowl run and will challenge Grant for the starting position.

    Should Grant prove during the first few games to be the better back, he could get the majority of carries, and another 1,200-yard season wouldn't be out of the question. If Grant finishes near the top of the league in rushing yards, he should run away with this award.


Plaxico Burress, WR

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    2010 Statistics: N/A

     

    Plaxico Burress is coming back after missing the past two seasons and comes into a good situation with the New York Jets.

    The Jets picked up Burress to replace Braylon Edwards, and he should become Mark Sanchez's favorite red-zone target this year.

    Last year, Michael Vick won the award, and if Plaxico Burress puts up even decent statistics this year, he could get the sympathy vote on his side.

Dallas Clark, TE

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    2010 Statistics: 6 games played, 37 receptions, 347 receiving yards, 3 TDs

     

    Dallas Clark is one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets. That fact alone should guarantee him to put up some top numbers for a tight end.

    He has sure hands and runs great routes. He often acts as a safety valve for Manning, and this year should be no different.

    During the 2009 season, Clark had 100 receptions and over 1,100 yards. If he can come back and put up similar statistics to that season, he could become the surprise winner for Comeback Player of the Year.

Elvis Dumervil, DE

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    2010 Statistics: N/A

     

    Before getting injured prior to the 2010 regular season, Elvis Dumervil was well on his way to becoming one of the league's top pass rushers. 

    He recorded 17 sacks in 2009. He is a young player and could still grow and develop his talents.

    It is true that Dumervil may struggle with a new defense, but his abilities should still allow him to be effective.

Derrick Morgan, DE

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    2010 Statistics: 4 games played, 5 tackles, 2 sacks

     

    Derrick Morgan is only entering his second season in the NFL and the Tennessee Titans have high hopes for him. He will need to play extremely well, considering the Titans lost their best pass rusher in Jason Babin.

    Morgan looked good when he was on the field last season and he could break out during his sophomore season. He has great athletic ability and can make plays all over the field.

    If Morgan becomes the leader of the Titans' defense and becomes the pass rusher that everyone in Tennessee hopes he can become, he has an outside shot at this award.

Nick Barnett, LB

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    2010 Statistics: 4 games played, 24 tackles

     

    Nick Barnett landed with the Buffalo Bills this offseason and is entering an ideal situation.

    The Bills lost Paul Posluszny to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Barnett will start from day one. He was the defensive leader for the Green Bay Packers and could easily become the leader for Buffalo's defense.

    The Bills' defense is going to need all the help they can get, and if Barnett plays like he was a few years ago for Green Bay, he could have a Pro Bowl-caliber season.

Shawne Merriman, LB

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    2010 Statistics: 3 games played, 6 tackles

     

    Shawne Merriman was picked up by the Buffalo Bills last year after he was released by the San Diego Chargers, and before he could play a game, he ended up on the IR.

    While in San Diego, Merriman was one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. He possessed great speed for a player of his size and had a knack for pressuring the quarterback.

    Merriman looked great during Buffalo's first preseason game and could have a fantastic season.

Mathias Kiwanuka, LB

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    2010 Statistics: 3 games played, 11 tackles, 4 sacks

     

    Mathias Kiwanuka was off to a great start to the 2010 season before he got injured. If he had played the full season, the New York Giants' defense might have played well enough for them to reach the playoffs.

    Kiwanuka is a superb talent who plays extremely well in New York's 4-3 defense. He can rush the quarterback, stop the run and drop into coverage.

    If Osi Umenyiora continues his holdout, or even ends up on a different team, Kiwanuka's statistics should increase. In fact, they might become good enough to win Comeback Player of the Year.

D'Qwell Jackson, LB

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    2010 Statistics: 6 games played, 59 tackles

     

    The Cleveland Browns looked very good in their first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Both their offense and defense looked very good.

    It appears as if the Browns could possibly become a respectable team this year and D'Qwell Jackson should be the leader of their defensive front seven. He has been a very good player and racks up tackles in bunches.

    If the Browns challenge for a playoff spot it will be because of the outstanding play of Jackson, he could sneak in and swipe away this award.

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