Despite his nearly 5 year hiatus from the NFL, Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Aldon Smith enters the 2020 season with some lofty expectations. When/if the season gets underway, Smith is expected to pick up where he left off as one of the league's most feared pass rushers. If he returns anywhere close to to his previous form, he could be a sneaky Comeback Player of the Year candidate.
The NFL Comeback Player of the Year (CPOY) an award given to the player who has shown the most perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance. By that definition Aldon Smith should be a shoo-in to be the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year. Sadly, it's not that easy.
Many of us around Cowboys Nation believed Travis Frederick was the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year last season after sitting out the entire 2018 season with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Frederick rebounded and started all 16 games in 2019, yet it wasn't enough to win CPOY instead of going to Titans QB Ryan Tannehill.
Travis Frederick was no doubt more deserving to win the award, but sadly that wasn't how things played out. There seems to be more to winning Comeback Player of the Year than the previously mentioned definition seems to suggest. More times than not, this particular award seems to be handed to players who have had at least an above average season and a good story connected to their comeback. Being on a winning team seems to influence the results as well.
This is both good and bad news for Aldon Smith. There's no doubt he has story to make him a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, but everything else needs to play out before he's considered amongst the favorites. Unfortunately, that's where things get a little tricky.
With players like Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, JJ Watt, and Rob Gronkowski already favored to win Comeback Player of the Year in 2020, Aldon Smith is really going to have to stand out to overtake them. That may be too much to ask, however, it's not completely undoable.
If Aldon Smith plays like I think he's capable of he will become the first Dallas Cowboys player to win Comeback Player of the Year since Greg Ellis (2007) and the first defensive player in the league to win the award since Eric Berry (2015). Now all he has to do is go out on the field and meet those lofty expectations everybody seems to have for him.