When your team gets stung by the injury bug, you’re bound to have players nominated for Comeback Player of the Year the following season. PFF listed their top-10 candidates for Comeback Player of the Year for the upcoming season, and two San Francisco 49ers made the list. While they’re both prominent names, the two players have a realistic shot at winning—especially the signal-caller. Here’s what PFF had to say.
QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo brought about a revitalization of the San Francisco 49ers’ franchise, and it finally marked the end of the quarterback drought that had plagued them from 2013 to the latter stage of the 2017 season. Garoppolo made his first start for the team in Week 13, and he put all concerns about sample size behind him, as went on to record overall grades of 70.0 or higher in all five of his games until the close of the season. He ended his first season with the ‘Niners with an 86.6 overall grade, and he displayed remarkable, game-changing poise both from a clean pocket (110.1 passer rating – sixth among quarterbacks) and while under pressure (108.0 passer rating against unblocked pressure) – much like his mentor during his time in New England.
The quarterback position didn’t pan out how the 49ers had planned after re-signing Garoppolo in the offseason. After Garoppolo’s ACL tear in Week 3, both C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens posted mediocre passing grades of 65.5 and 66.7, respectively, and the ‘Niners lost all the momentum they had built up with the arrival of their franchise quarterback. With almost a full season of rehab, Garoppolo will be looking forward to retaking the reigns of the offense and proving that 2017 was no fluke.
The other quarterback on the list was the Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton. Many fans are hoping Garoppolo is up for a more prominent award by the end of the season. The numbers PFF references above tell you all you need to know about Jimmy G and how he will elevate the offense once he plays a full season. Now he has to play.
The other option is a bit more far-fetched, but a player that is easy to talk yourself into. New 49ers CB Jason Verrett has all the talent in the world. He’s also played the equivalent of one full season and a couple of games when you look at his snap counts over his five-year career. Here’s what PFF said.
If there is ever a comeback story to get behind, it’s this one. Verrett, a supremely talented cornerback out of TCU, has managed all of 1,266 snaps over his first five years in the league, no thanks to his improbably bad injury luck. However, in his lone “full” season in 2015 (and even that consisted of only 720 snaps), he managed to put together an elite 90.9 coverage grade while allowing a passer rating of just 82.9 on throws into his coverage.
If he can stay healthy (and it is a big if), he is, without doubt, a starting-caliber cornerback, one that can bring the ‘Niners defense back to former glory.
Verrett is a great guy that is easy to root for. Watching him in training camp go 1-on-1 with Dante Pettis will be a treat. The 49ers have a gem if they can get quality snaps out of Verrett. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel plausible to rely on him. He’s one of the most exciting players to watch when healthy, in any case.