This week I was assigned the impossible task of ranking the NFL’s top kick returners for fantasy football. At first, I thought I’d pull out players who also have other complimentary roles on their teams, like wide receivers and running backs who get playing time and return yards would add to their fantasy points. However, in the end, I decided returners even without complimentary roles do help the DT/S position (Defensive Team/Special Teams) in leagues with return yardage and the rare touchdown. In researching 2017’s return stats, I found only twelve players handled at least twenty kickoffs. Many who start the season as the kickoff returner, don’t finish the season as the kick off returner. Some guys are rotated out, for example: Alvin Kamara who gained a bigger role at running back as the season progressed. Others guys struggle with injuries: Marlon Mack and Curtis Samuel.
Another hurdle to overcome is trying to predict who will start this season returning kicks for each team. Most teams have players capable of filling the role, but may find a newcomer can do it better. So my list is bound to fail if compared to the end of season list, but it is a good starting point when thinking about returners who may add an advantage to fantasy football teams this year. Remember this is kickoff returns and not punt returns, Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown handled zero of these in 2017 between them.
#10 – Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Samuel only returned ten kickoffs in 2017, but missed seven games due to injury. This season, his second, I’m betting he’s a much more dynamic player for the Panthers and will contribute nicely on kickoff return duty.
#9 – Corey Grant, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have said they plan to get Grant more involved in the offense this season. His return abilities are an added bonus in return yardage leagues. In 2017, he returned nineteen kickoffs for an average of 24.9 yards — which was one of the top averages in the league.
#8 – Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Cohen in 2017, even with his role at running back on offense, returned 26 kickoffs. The Bears have a new coaching staff so will they be comfortable having him remain on kick return duties is the question. If so, he’ll easily be a fantasy advantage with added return yardage; 583 yards in 2017.
#7 – Alex Erickson, Cincinnati Bengals
Erickson returns punts and kickoffs for the Bengals. His position is wide receiver, but he doesn’t get consistent snaps in this offense. So, his contribution would strictly be with return yardage counting towards your DT/S position. He returned 32 kickoffs last season.
#6 – Trevor Davis, Green Bay Packers
Trevor Davis has returned punts and kickoffs for Green Bay the last two seasons. He returned 31 kickoffs in 2017 at 22.8 yards per return. The question here is does he make the team. Green Bay has a crowded receiver group with Adams, Cobb, Allison, Yancey and the three rookies added in the draft this year. My guess is Davis makes the team and once again handles returns.
#5 – Andre Roberts, New York Jets
Roberts is now considered a veteran returner. Last season in Atlanta, he led the NFL with 38 returns and was third in kick return yardage. Last season, the Jets had a few players handle returns for them, but this year I think the job goes to Roberts. Roberts won’t help on offense unless there are injuries ahead of him, but he will add return yards for your DT/S.
#4 – Tavon Austin, Dallas Cowboys
Austin did not handle return duties for the Rams last season, but he is most likely Dallas’ best option on both punt and kickoff returns. With a role as a gadget running back/receiver on offense he could be a nice depth running back towards the end of fantasy drafts this season.
#3 – Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper finished 2017 third in kickoff return attempts and second in kickoff return yardage. He adds very few yards as a receiver, but 1400 all-purpose yards only on punt and kickoff returns should help in any league that adds return yardage.
#2 – Cordarelle Patterson, New England Patriots
As with Tavon Austin, the Patriots will find a role for Patterson beyond kick return duties. I’m excited to see how they use him this coming season. He also solidifies the return position where he has excelled since entering the league.
#1 – Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Lockett lead the NFL in kickoff return yards in 2017 and was second in attempts. He has been great in this role since entering the league in 2015. Lockett is also most likely the WR2 in Seattle this year, so definitely move him up your draft boards if your league adds return yardage.
I wanted to also mention a few other returners who are definitely capable of being on this list. Jakeem Grant in Miami, Ryan Switzer with the Raiders, Adoree’ Jackson in Tennessee and Brandon Tate with the Bills are all good returners in their own right.
Check back next week as I give my top 10 Punt Returners for the coming year. As always, good luck this fantasy season!
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday July 22nd, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #130 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts and James Wilk live Thursday July 26th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #86 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will discuss everything NFC North!