2015 Chiefs’ Comeback Player of the Year candidates

1 of 2

Every year in the NFL, players face unique challenges that can derail an entire season. A number of Kansas City Chiefs had first-hand experience just last year. Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito, Jeff Allen, Sanders Commings, and Mike Catapano were all claimed by season-ending injuries in 2014. Donald Stephenson and Marcus Cooper lost the opportunity to play after falling out of favor with the coaching staff.

In the former case, Stephenson fell on the depth chart after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In the latter, Cooper’s inconsistent play at the cornerback position prompted the loss of his starting job.

As a player, I’m sure it’s disheartening to lose a season in a league that has a life expectancy of about five years. Fortunately for them, barring additional setbacks, they’ll have an opportunity to bounce back in 2015.

Travis Kelce was the team’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2014. He rebounded nicely from a knee injury that tanked his rookie campaign. Kelce seamlessly integrated into the offense and posted 67 catches, 862 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns. If the Chiefs are to take another step toward becoming a viable contender in the AFC, they could stand another quality comeback performance in 2015 — either from a star player returning to form (Johnson or DeVito) or a young player having a Kelce-esque season of his own (Catapano or Commings).

The organization doesn’t have a team award to acknowledge a stellar performance after a year marred by injury or a lack of productivity. For the purposes of today’s column, they do now, and we’re calling it the Eric Berry Award. A torn ACL drew the curtain on his 2011 season, but he recovered and earned himself a Pro Bowl berth the following year. It’s fitting that he should be the namesake for such a (fictional) award.

Berry’s currently facing one of the biggest challenges of his professional career and life after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he’ll be on the comeback trail again soon enough.

Let’s take a look at the players most likely to claim the EBA at the end of 2015:

Derrick Johnson

Johnson is clearly the most talented and well-decorated player on this list. Between those truths and the workout videos circulating on the web the past four months, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that he won’t win this award going away. That said, it’s still reasonable to speculate about how the injury will affect his game at this stage of his career.

At 32 years of age, Johnson’s in his twilight (he’ll turn 33 in late November). Kobe Bryant can tell you all about the ills of a late-career Achilles injury. That said, DJ has arguably the best setup of any player in this bunch for a successful comeback. The Chiefs’ new-look defensive line group comprises two vastly improved linemen in Allen Bailey and Dontari Poe. A healthy Mike DeVito further solidifies the Chiefs’ odd front and gives Johnson the ability to roam free and mount another triple digit tackle campaign.

Next: Another vet coming off a torn Achilles and more...