Last week I ranked the top ten kickoff returners for the upcoming season, and this week I move on to the punt returners. For some teams the same player handles both, but for most they do not. In ranking a position like punt returner I have no choice but to draw from last season’s performances as we do with any position, but with returners the positional player is changing more often as coaches covet reliability and punish turnovers. Pre-Season camps are now in full swing and the first pre-season game is in the books. Positional battles are also in full swing, and while I think I have a pretty good group of returners ranked for the coming season, at least one is bound to be replaced at some point in the near future.
Returners can also make themselves more fantasy relevant. With added return yardage a player can separate themselves from a similar player who has no return yardage. Of course not all returners get much playing time outside of special teams, but the ones who do are definitely more valuable players because of their return abilities. My top ten for the coming season are:
10) Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears – Cohen was a dynamic kick and punt returner in his rookie season and will continue to be unless the new coaching staff has other plans for him. In 2017 he finished ninth in yards per punt return and total returns, and tenth in punt return yardage.
9) Tavon Austin, Dallas Cowboys – Dallas traded away their punt returner, Ryan Switzer, in the offseason. They also brought in Tavon Austin who has plenty of return experience and is the best bet to handle returns this season.
8) Brandon Tate, New Orleans Saints – The Saints just signed Tate in the last week. He has handled return duties for several teams, the latest being Buffalo. With the receivers already on the roster chances are the Saints want Tate’s experience as a returner on the team, because he would only get rare looks at receiver.
7) Trent Taylor, San Francisco 49’ers – Taylor was a rookie in 2017 and had some success at slot receiver for the 49’ers. He also had success on both kickoff and punt returns, ranking ninth in yards per punt return and eighth in punt return yardage.
6) Jaydon Mickens, Jacksonville Jaguars – Mickens should stick around at receiver again this year because of his special teams abilities. He finished 2017 seventh in punt return yardage and fifth in yards per return.
5) Marcus Sherels, Minnesota Vikings – Sherels is a defensive back who is more known for his special teams play than his coverage in the secondary. He finished third in punt return yards and seventh in yards per punt return last season and should once again handle returns for the Vikings.
4) Adoree’ Jackson, Tennessee Titans – Jackson, in his rookie season, added to his IDP value by handling both kickoff and punt returns for the Titans. He finished the season fifth in punt return yards and fourth in attempts. The Titans did sign another good returner in Michael Campanaro, so keep any eye on who is named to return duties towards the end of camp.
3) Trevor Davis, Green Bay Packers – Even with the crowded receiver position in Green Bay, Trevor Davis should stick around to handle returns. He finished 2017 third in yards per punt return and finished sixth in punt return yardage even while falling outside of the top ten in attempts.
2) Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams – Cooper may be the best all around return man currently in the NFL. He finished second in both punt return yardage and yards per punt return in 2017 and will surely be a mainstay near the top of returner rankings as long as he is returning kicks for the Rams.
1) Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions – Agnew, a defensive back, lead the league in punt return yardage, average yards per punt return and with two punt return touchdowns. He is a defensive back heading into his second season and should again handle punt returns in Detroit.
Remember, on most teams return duties are decided in camp. So while I think the players I have ranked will win the job these positions aren’t set in stone.
Check back next week as I rank everyone’s favorite category in fantasy football – Kicker! 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 29th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #131 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.
Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Sunday and he focuses on spot starting pitchers for the coming week.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts, and James Wilk live August 2nd, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #87 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 South!