Return Yardage League Strategy Guide
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Return Yardage League Strategy Guide

Most fantasy football leagues don't account for return yardage. Likely the only reason these stats are important to you is you're a hardcore fantasy football junkie, or perhaps you've stumbled into a league that scores all sorts of categories. Either way, FFToolbox is here to help.

Kickoff and punt return yardage could be incorporated into your league in a few ways:

  1. It may be counted as a part of your defensive unit. Thus, if you choose the Philadelphia defense, you'll also get credit for return yardage and points scored from Philly's special teams. Incorporating return stats with the defense is generally a difficult task. Good defensive teams allow fewer touchdowns and thus, fewer kickoff return opportunities... but they'll allow more punt return opportunities. Since there are typically more touchdown returns from punts than kickoffs (less distance to go), a good defensive team with a known return weapon is a boon to your team. So if this is how your league is set up, Chicago is a good team to have because of Devin Hester (see below for more).
  2. Return stats may be counted with individual offensive players' stats. (E.g., if you have a receiver who returns punts, you get the points from his return yardage and scores.) There are many players listed below who can help your team because of their return abilities and their participation in the offense.
  3. Or maybe you're in a league that actually keeps track of offense, defense, and special teams separately, which would allow you to choose players solely for their special teams play (or to choose teams for their combined special teams output). If so, you are a true fantasy football addict - congratulations.

The best kickoff and punt return players in 2006

Determining the best players from last year depends on how you set up your scoring. But assuming you value touchdowns more than yardage or number of returns, only a couple of guys stand out.

Devin Hester (Chicago) is the obvious number one guy, especially after becoming the first to return the Super Bowl's opening kickoff for a touchdown. He had two kickoff return TDs and three punt return TDs during the regular season. This year he's been promised more touches on the offensive side of the ball. Assuming he'll still have his same return duties, and if your return stats are counted with the offense (scenario two above), his new role could make him a promising pickup as a backup running back or receiver. But don't expect to see the same return success as last season, since teams will be focusing more on containing him. However, if your league counts special teams performance separate from offense and defense (scenario three above), he is still likely to be one of the best return guys this season.

Adam "Pacman" Jones (Tennessee) was the second best return man last season with three punt return touchdowns. He has been suspended for the 2007 season because of off-field conduct issues. But on the crazy assumption that it wasn't Jones' skills but rather those of his blocking teammates, it's intriguing to think his replacement will also find success.

The third best return man last year was Justin Miller on the NY Jets. He scored on two kickoff returns. He didn't see punt return duty, but if your league will be counting return yards (he was 8th in kickoff return yardage) or return average (he was 1st with a 28.3 average), Miller (or the Jets, again depending on how your league is set up) could make a nice addition to your team. For your information, Miller is a second-string defensive player.

 

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