Jobe Watson will return to AFL after a drugs ban.
Jobe Watson will return to AFL after a drugs ban. JULIAN SMITH

Returning Watson outside chance for Brownlow

PUNTERS are backing former Essendon captain Jobe Watson to claim what would be one of the most popular Brownlow Medal wins in the game's history in 2017.

The man who was controversially stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal win over Essendon's crippling supplement scandal has been the fourth-best backed player with TAB.

Watson, who turns 32 today, is currently listed at $34 to take out this year's coveted prize.

Only last year's winner Patrick Dangerfield ($5), Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli ($11) and Collingwood running machine Adam Treloar ($26) have attracted more money than the Essendon ball magnet in pre-season betting.

Watson almost quit the game as he served a one-year ban for doping violations last year but has returned to Essendon in outstanding physical shape, dismissing any concerns about his fitness levels in his comeback season.

He is not expected to be given back the captaincy when the announcement is made today , with Dyson Heppell set to be formally welcomed as the Bombers' new skipper in front of teammates.

A strong-bodied midfielder, Watson has been one of the standouts in early match simulation training, racking up big possession numbers through the middle and using his prodigious handball to help release outside midfield runners.

Essendon is expected to swap the gun midfielder between the engine room and the forward line in 2017.

However, a Watson victory would hurt the bookmakers, with fans continuing to put money on the returning Bomber ahead of their opening pre-season game against Collingwood on Thursday night, February 16 at Etihad Stadium.

"Punters are tipping a fairytale comeback for Jobe this season but the bookies will be hoping for different as he is currently our worst result,” TAB's Nick Quinn said.

Melbourne hard-nut Jack Viney ($81) would be its second-worst result, ahead of Treloar ($26), Essendon teammate Zach Merrett ($34) and Demons' ace ruckman Max Gawn ($101).

2017 Brownlow Medal betting

$5 Patrick Dangerfield

$8 Any other player not listed

$9 Nathan Fyfe

$11 Marcus Bontempelli

$11 Dustin Martin

$17 Patrick Cripps

$17 Daniel Hannebery

$17 Luke Parker prices

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