That Chiefs athlete was safety Eric Berry, who earned the honor after battling his way back from Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the 2015 season. “There were some tough times. There were times I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore,” Berry said in his acceptance speech at the time. “I knew I would be here, but I feel like I’m dreaming right now.”
The story is a little different in 2022, but long-time NBC Sports NFL writer Peter King believes a KC player could win the award for the second time.
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JuJu Provides Dark Horse Vibes for CPOY
Mike Florio of “Pro Football Talk” detailed the conversation with King, which took place on Friday’s “PFT Live” on May 27.
“For 2022, a very intriguing candidate [for Comeback Player of the Year], as mentioned by Peter King on Friday’s PFT Live, is Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster,” wrote Florio. “A shoulder injury limited Smith-Schuster to five games in 2021. He had only 15 catches for 129 yards on the season.”
Florio explained further: “Now with the Chiefs, his numbers could explode in the team’s pass-heavy offense. Combined with the high profile of the team, the likelihood that it once again will be very good, and the charisma of Smith-Schuster, high numbers of catches, yards, and/or touchdowns could position him to win the award.”
The NBC Sports analyst noted that the new KC wide receiver currently has odds of 25 to 1 on PointsBet (+2500), adding that Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston are the current favorites.
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Can Smith-Schuster Become the Go-to Guy?
As Florio voiced, Smith-Schuster is coming off a forgettable campaign in 2021 but if we’re being honest, his original slide began in 2019.
When Antonio Brown was still on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Smith-Schuster looked the part of a budding superstar at age 22. That season, the wideout posted ridiculous numbers with 111 receptions and 1,426 yards. One year later, his output dropped to 552 yards over 12 appearances.
After a slight bounce-back in 2020 of 800-plus yards through the air, the aforementioned disaster occurred. Going by his career trajectory, which has seesawed back and forth, Smith-Schuster is due for a successful campaign in 2022 — but that will come down to two key factors.
The first is health. Obviously, injuries have played a role in Smith-Schuster’s decline, as they tend to do with so many promising athletes. Stay on the field and good things tend to happen if you’re contributing at a skill position.
The second is Patrick Mahomes, and how Smith-Schuster can gel with him. This new Chiefs’ core has more weapons than ever but outside of Travis Kelce, there are no clear headliners for once.
Smith-Schuster is probably the biggest name on paper, but will he stand out on the field? Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson have made some early noise at OTAs, and much of the attention has gone to rookies Skyy Moore and Justyn Ross.
Due to all of that, Smith-Schuster has flown under the radar a little bit but where he ends up fitting in long-term will be crucial toward his eventual impact. With Mahomes at quarterback and Andy Reid calling the offense, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the ex-Steeler revisits his superstar roots.