Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


Who will be the 49ers Comeback Player of the Year?

Aug 20, 2020 at 12:25 PM


The NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award is earned by the athlete who has overcome adversity from the previous season—injury, poor performance, or not being on a roster—and performing at a high level in the following season.

Several players on the 49ers are familiar with this type of adversity from the 2019 season, and while they may not win the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award, they are poised to play a big role in what is hoped to be another Super Bowl run this upcoming season. With that, here are the top 5 players who have the potential to be the 49ers own Comeback Player of the Year:

LT Trent Williams

The drama surrounding Trent Williams and the Washington Football Team, which started with a dispute with the medical staff that ultimately led to a trade to the 49ers, has been well-documented. As a result, the seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle did not play a single snap in the entire 2019 season. When on the field, Williams is one of the best, if not the best, offensive tackles in the NFL. In 2018—the last time he played in an NFL game—he allowed just one sack, earning him the number 81 spot on the NFL's Top-100 list. He has explosive strength that can overpower any defensive lineman, while his speed and agility allow him to block downfield and allow the ball carrier to gain extra yards. His overall style of play fits perfectly with Kyle Shanahan's system, a system that Williams says he knows "like the back of my hand."

A year removed from sitting out last season, Williams told 49ers reporter Keiana Martin he "feels like I'm 25 again," with his body being given ample time to fully heal. A healthy, rejuvenated Trent Williams is a big weapon who will elevate the 49ers offense and he should have no problem getting back to the star-caliber offensive tackle that he is.

RB Jerick McKinnon

When McKinnon signed a 4-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers in 2018, there were extremely high expectations that he would become one of the league's top running backs. After tearing his ACL right before the start of the 2018 season, followed by a season-ending complication in his surgically repaired knee in the 2019 season, McKinnon received a lot of criticism for his lack of ability to stay healthy. This, however, is a brand new season for McKinnon, who is finally healthy and comfortable with his knee. FB Kyle Juszczyk told the 49ers media that McKinnon has looked "phenomenal," stating he is "going to have a really good year." Kyle Shanahan shared the same notion, believing that this is the year McKinnon will make a comeback.

In 2017, the last season McKinnon played NFL football, he finished with 570 rushing yards on top of 421 yards receiving, scoring a total of 5 touchdowns. He is the epitome of a dual-threat running back with his ability to find and burst through holes at the line of scrimmage, while also having the route-running skillset of a wide receiver. With his ability to open up Kyle Shanahan's playbook and be another reliable target for Jimmy Garoppolo, McKinnon can be the ultimate difference maker in the 49ers offense.

TE Jordan Reed

Reed did not play a single down in the 2019 regular season due to a season-ending concussion. Unfortunately for Reed, concussions have plagued his career with a total of seven diagnosed concussions since 2013. Now that Reed has had a year to get healthy and has been given a change of scenery with his new team, it is hoped that he can find himself staying on the field.

When on the field, Reed is one of the better tight ends in all of football. In 65 career games, Reed has totaled 329 receptions for 3,371 yards and 24 touchdowns, as well as one Pro Bowl appearance in 2016. In 2018, he finished the season with 54 receptions for 558 yards and two touchdowns. With that, the 6-foot-2 TE poses a large threat to opposing defenses. Kyle Shanahan even told George Kittle that Reed is the "best route running tight end he's ever had." By staying healthy and playing under the offensive guru that Shanahan is, Reed can become one of the best low risk/high reward signings the team has made and can propel the offense to win more ball games.

The pairing of a healthy Jordan Reed with the NFL's best tight end in George Kittle will be fun to watch.

CB Jason Verrett

Similar to Jordan Reed, Verrett has been plagued by injuries throughout his entire career. Since being drafted in 2014, Verrett has only played in a career total of 26 games. His last appearance came in Week 3's matchup against the Steelers, during which he played a total of four snaps—one of which resulted in an allowed touchdown. Following this game, he once again found himself back on the injured reserve for the rest of the season.

Despite having several setbacks throughout his career, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh reported that Verrett has once again found confidence in himself and looks a lot more comfortable on the field. When healthy, Verrett has the potential to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. In the 2015 season, during which he played a total of 14 games, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the best coverage defender among all cornerbacks as he logged a total of three interceptions and three pass breakups. Despite being a smaller cornerback, listed at 5 foot, 10 inches, he plays with a high level of physicality that makes it hard for receivers to get open. If he can remain healthy and return to his 2015 form, Verrett can once again become one of the league's most prominent cornerbacks and be the difference maker on the 49ers defense.

WR Trent Taylor

Trent Taylor showed a lot of promise in his 2017 rookie campaign, during which he totaled 43 receptions for 430 yards with a catch rate of 71%. He was an extremely reliable target for Garoppolo and acted as a third-down conversion machine. Unfortunately, Taylor was limited in 2018 by a nagging back injury that cut his production numbers in half. Poised for a breakout season in 2019 following a strong offseason, during which he was reportedly Garoppolo's favorite receiver, Taylor fractured his foot. The injury ultimately required five surgeries and kept him out of the season.

Now, for the first time in two years, the wide receiver is finally healthy. Though he may be undersized—listed at 5-foot-8, 180lbs—his shiftiness and physicality allow him to get open and beat out opposing defenders. If he can pick up from where he left off in 2019's training camp, he is going to create even bigger problems for opposing defenses that already have to deal with the likes of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Raheem Mostert. In all, Trent Taylor has the potential to produce a breakout season and elevate the 49ers offense from "really good" to "virtually unstoppable."
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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