Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, but he didn’t show any sign that his injury robbed him of the skills that made him one of the NFL’s top receivers upon his return to action in 2016.
Nelson caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns while helping the Packers pull off a late season run that made them the NFC North champions. Nelson’s performance was recognized by the Associated Press voters on Saturday night when he was named the league’s comeback player of the year.
That performance made a significant difference to the Packers offense, which struggled at times without Nelson in 2015. It struggled for periods in 2016 as well, but Nelson’s strong finish to the regular season was a big reason why Green Bay was able to go from 4-6 to the postseason.
Nelson beat out some strong competition for the award. Dolphins defensive end Cam Wake had 11.5 sacks after tearing his Achilles in 2015, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith recovered from the same injury to catch 70 passes in his final NFL season and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell had nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage after missing the final eight games of the 2015 season with a knee injury. Good as they were, though, Nelson’s performance stood out among players returning from serious injuries in 2016.