“Cut to the Chase” Kickoff Returner Rankings 2014
In creating an in-depth look at Kick Returners, Major League Fantasy Sports fully understands that with each league comes individual scoring quirks and edges to grab within. MLFS leagues invite the kick and punt return game into scoring and wholly impact teams’ roster moves and game outcomes on a week-to-week basis. Make sure you read your league scoring carefully (especially if it’s your first year) and see what kind of reward you’re looking at for return yardage and touchdowns.
A Roger Goodell-led NFL’s new return rules in 2010 were abrasive to players that were once solely valuable in the return game, limiting their attempts and yardage. In leagues that comply, finding players that not only play their position to a high level while accruing statistics as a returner can still be a goldmine. IE 2013 Cordarrelle Patterson’s 1393 yards and two touchdowns, which found him in the top 30 of return friendly leagues.
20. Niles Paul, WAS
Niles Paul will forever be known for his special teams play on the other side of the ball when he creamed St. Louis returner Austin Pettis during his rookie season in 2011. He has continued to be a steady returner, before and after his switch from wideout to tight end in 2012. Paul’s versatility continued in 2013 when he actually started at full back when starter Darrel Young went down for a game.
19. Jermaine Kearse, SEA
An undrafted free agent signing in 2012, Kearse is a born-and-bred Washingtonian with something to prove. With their wideout corps bolstered, he may not see many targets, but will find plenty of return duties awaiting him with Percy Harvin focusing more on his receiving this year.
18. Marcus Thigpen, MIA
Marcus Thigpen is a Canadian Football League alumni that has made a name for himself with this wheels in the return game. 2013 saw Thigpen rack up the third most (39) kickoff returns in the NFL for the Dolphins. The issue with the former track star is that he will juke and jive a bit too much, driving down his yardage per return.
17. Trindon Holliday, NYG
A true burner for the Broncos last year, Holliday is the favorite to pick up return duties in New York over recently acquired Quentin Demps. Holliday’s jets occasionally take a back seat to his questionable ball fielding decisions. If he fails to make an impact on the return game, he will almost certainly be let go by the Giants.
16. Brandon Tate, CIN
The former Tar Heel Brandon Tate has played his way out of Bengals’ wideout targets and almost solely relies on return duties to provide value in Cincinnati. Adam Jones is the only obstacle for Tate to acquire both kick and punt return jobs.
15. Marquise Goodwin, BUF
Another track star, Marquise Goodwin is hoping first round-pick Sammy Watkins doesn’t take a large cut of return duties. Goodwin is electric in the open field and the Bills would be well suited to leave Watkins to attend his respective wideout job.
14. Jacoby Ford, NYJ
A great start to his career, Jacoby Ford’s injury issues have pigeon-holed Jacoby Ford as almost strictly a returner. Jalen Saunders, a fourth round-pick from Oklahoma, will be Ford’s main competition to nail down duties at Met Life stadium.
13. Kenjon Barner, CAR
The return jobs in Carolina look to be a mixed bag, but Kenjon Barner will get a hard look due to his history at Oregon and his overall, blazing fast skill set.
12. TY Hilton, IND
Strictly speaking return duties, TY Hilton is dangerous. Combine that with his increasingly prolific receiving numbers and Hilton shows out as a tremendous value in respective fantasy leagues. Don’t be surprised if Hilton’s return game is dialed down as he picks up more targets in the Colts’ offense.
11. LaMichael James, SFO
The Niners breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the former Oregon Duck would be back on the field for the season opener. LaMichael James is an electric returner with nitrous fast cut ability, but monitor the San Francisco roster as keeping David Reed could spell competition for James’ special teams game.
10. Darren Sproles, PHI
Darren Sproles’ arrival in Philly has some critics shaking their heads with a larger, more durable version (LeSean McCoy) already manning the half back duties with the Eagles. Sproles will bring a capable and experienced role player to special teams on top of his running back duties. Damaris Johnson showed spark in 2013, but Chip Kelly will plug-in the waterbug Sproles at returner as much as he can.
9. Keshawn Martin, HOU
If Keshawn Martin can hold on to the ball, he will hang on to the return duties in Houston. He ranked fourth in kickoff return duties in 2013 and rarely stays in the endzone, regardless of the placement of the kick.
8. DeAnthony Thomas, KCC
How many Oregon Ducks does it take to make up an article about kickoff returners? DeAnthony Thomas is the latest and greatest burner from the sales tax-less northwestern state. He is by far the most elusive and athletic returner the Chiefs have had since Tamarick Vanover.
7. Tavon Austin, STL
The Rams may be reluctant to use Tavon Austin at returner after 2013 saw Austin take too many steps before point of engaging possible tacklers. If he can get free, the former Mountaineer can go the distance in a heartbeat.
6. Jacoby Jones, BAL
An almost certain Pro Bowl berth was Jacoby Jones’ to be had if it weren’t for an unfortunate party bus injury caused him to miss four games. He is a dependable, elite level returner that offers value as a solid slot receiver.
5. Leon Washington, TEN
The combination of Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster will immediately make the Titans a premier special teams anchor in the NFL. Washington is surgical in dissecting returns and shows no sign of slowing down in his eighth year and fourth team in Memphis.
4. Devin Hester, CHI
Nobody is looking to Devin Hester as a receiver in Atlanta. This will provide the former Bear with plenty of time to focus on his return abilities. Hester is due for a touchdown after a league leading 1436 kickoff return yards and no endzone in 2013.
3. Ted Ginn, ARI
Goodbye Javier Arenas, hello Ted Ginn. The burner’s arrival should spell the end of any thoughts about Patrick Peterson returning. Ginn is superbly gifted in space and has elite cutting ability. A possibility Ginn finds some targets as a receiver improves any miniscule fantasy value he has.
2. Dwayne Harris, DAL
An asset in the slot on offense and an elite return man, Dwayne Harris was second only to Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson in return yards per attempt in 2013. Harris is a must own for anyone playing in a return-rewarding league and offers a composed, consistent approach to a position not associated with either.
1. Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN
Second only to Devin Hester in kickoff return yards, Cordarrelle Patterson’s 1393 yards were a result of elite speed and cat-like awareness. In leagues that reward return yards, Patterson is worthy of a first round-pick due to his high-to-elite receiving capabilities. Norv Turner’s arrival in Minneapolis should spell even more value for the former Tennessee Volunteer.
Leagues that employ a returner yards-only position are rare, but do exist. Your fantasy league maneuvers should hinge on finding players that have value at their respective position as well as have consistent return duties. Cordarrelle Patterson is a conduit for fantasy owners looking to push their commissioners for return-friendly scoring, but his skill set and the Vikings’ commitment to employ his return services are one-of-a-kind.
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