Fantasy Index

header banner img
CHEAT SHEET UPDATES: ON SALE NOW
Win here.

Factoid

Decline of the kick return

Very few touchdowns league-wide these days

There have been times in recent years when the NFL seemed ready to get rid of the kickoff entirely. There are too many injuries, including concussions, on such plays. At this point, more than 60 percent of returns result in touchbacks -- i.e., nothing happens. What's surprising is that there seems to have been a ripple effect on punt returns.

It's not surprising, with new legislation, to see that touchdowns on kickoff returns have declined over the last decade. As recently as 10 years ago, there were 23 touchdowns on kickoffs in a season -- close to 1 per team (2010). There were an average of 11 in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, too. Since then, it's been a steep decline, with no more than 7 in any of the last seven years, and just 5 league-wide in the 2018 season. Hardly worth factoring in fantasy drafts at all.

KICKOFF RETURN TOUCHDOWNS, 2010-2019
Team10111213141516171819Tot
Minnesota11120210008
Baltimore10211001006
Seattle30100101006
Kansas City00021010015
New England20100001105
NY Jets21100000105
Buffalo10101000014
Miami00100010114
Oakland31000000004
Philadelphia00002020004
Tennessee11100000104
Washington10000200014
Arizona20000100003
Chicago01001000013
Denver10110000003
Detroit10010000013
Indianapolis10100010003
Carolina01000001002
LA Chargers01100000002
NY Giants00100100002
Pittsburgh10000001002
San Francisco01000000102
Atlanta10000000001
Cincinnati00000000011
Green Bay01000000001
Jacksonville00000010001
LA Rams00000001001
New Orleans00000001001
Tampa Bay10000000001
Cleveland00000000000
Dallas00000000000
Houston00000000000
Total23913767775791

What's surprising is that punt return touchdowns are also in decline, without any apparent reason. Maybe teams are employing more hands guys, preferring to avoid turnovers rather than get long returns, or coverage teams are getting better. Whatever the case, there have been four straight seasons of just 7-10 touchdowns on punt returns; only 7 in each of the last two years. The previous six years saw at least 13 touchdowns on punt returns each season -- nearly twice as many.

PUNT RETURN TOUCHDOWNS, 2010-2019
Team10111213141516171819Tot
Chicago32010012009
Kansas City10021021108
Baltimore01110101106
Dallas30110001006
Detroit00010022016
Philadelphia10102200006
Arizona04001000005
Denver02110100005
Green Bay01112000005
LA Rams01012100005
Minnesota00110120005
Pittsburgh01011100015
Tennessee11300000005
Buffalo01201000004
Cleveland01110100004
Jacksonville10000101104
LA Chargers00100001114
Miami00100110104
New England11101000004
Atlanta10001000013
Houston01010010003
Indianapolis00100000023
New Orleans01000100013
Carolina00001001002
Cincinnati01100000002
NY Jets00100000102
San Francisco11000000002
NY Giants00000100001
Oakland00000000101
Seattle00000100001
Washington00000010001
Tampa Bay00000000000
Total132018131313101077124

Notably bad in these areas is Tampa Bay. The Bucs haven't returned a kick of any kind for a touchdown nine years in a row. The Raiders have just one return score in the last eight years. Atlanta has only 2.

If you're going to give any team a boost for its return game, the Super Bowl champs are the ones (not surprisingly, with Tyreek Hill, pictured, for some of those seasons, and Mecole Hardman now). Kansas City is one of two teams, along with Baltimore, to rank in the top 5 in both punt and kickoff return touchdowns over the last decade.

Bottom line: if you're participating in best-ball drafts now, or making some early defensive rankings for the 2020 season, best not to place too much emphasis on who has the best return teams. You're chasing very long odds of getting a touchdown on a return of any kind no matter who you pick. Slight boost to Kansas City, but that's about it.

--Andy Richardson

Fantasy Index