UPDATED: October 9, 2010
More and more fantasy football leagues are extending their scoring to include return yardage. Guys like Joshua Cribbs, Darren Sproles and Percy Harvin make kick returns exciting things to watch. This added element lends another point of fantasy strategy.
Depending on how many points your leagues gives per return yards there are some names you should know who could potentially bring fantasy riches to your team. The standard in most leagues is to allot 1 point per 25 return yards, but some leagues give a point for every 10 yards, and that’s significant.
The key to kick returners is finding guys who are also involved in other aspects of the game and not merely return specialists. Below are the offensive players who should see valuable time in the return game for their teams.
- Joshua Cribbs, WR, CLE ~ Cribbs is THE current king of returns. Last season he racked up 4 return touchdowns. But he’s also used in the Browns passing game, and in wildcat packages. If he’s on the field he can score in any capacity from anywhere on the field, and he comes with the added bonus of lots of return yardage.
- Brandon Tate, WR, NE ~ I can’t bring myself to remove Cribbs at #1 yet, but through 4 weeks, Tate has been a beast, with over 600 return yards and 2 return TDs. At the rate he’s going he could be the top 3 return men all by himself.
- Dexter McCluster, WR/RB, KC ~ McCluster is the Chiefs human version of a utility knife. He is used in the run game, the receiving game, hell he can even throw the ball. On top of all that he returns kicks and punts, and has already returned one for a score. Look for big things from this kid the rest of the way.
- CJ Spiller, RB, BUF ~ As expected Spiller got the return job duties for the Bills, and he has fulfilled them quite well so far averaging 120 yards per game. He also ran one back 95 yards for a score. With Marshawn Lynch gone to Seattle we will also see more of Spiller in the run and receiving game.
- Tiquan Underwood, WR, JAC ~ Who? Underwood came out of nowhere and has shined in the return game, and has also earned himself some time in the passing game. On the rturn side he’s averaging over 100 yards per game.
- LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, ARI ~ LSH has looked like Darren Sproles so far this season. he’s made big noise on returns and is the only player for the Cards, not named Fitzgerald, who has been consistent for the team. He is eclipsing 115 yards a game on returns and ran one back 102 yards for a TD.
- Leon Washington, RB, SEA ~ Washington has been a beast on returns,and already has over 100 yards a game and 2 TDs on returns alone, on only 10 attempts. Catch a clue Pete Carroll, Leon is da man! Time will tell how Marshawn Lynch’s arrival will impact Washington, but he’s the best return threat the Seahawks have had in years.
- Marc Mariani, WR, TEN ~ One of my return sleepers heading into the season, Mariani is returning kicks and punts for the Titans and has over 500 yards and a TD to show for it through 4 games. Not a bad start. The Titans need every extra inch of field position they can get.
- Jordy Nelson, WR, GB ~ Since Tramon Williams can barely stay healthy for the Packers, the team opted to give return duties to Nelson this season. So far it’s proven to be a solid move. He’s averaging about 25 yards a return, and over 100 a game.
- Stefan Logan, RB, DET ~ Aaron Brown was expected to get the return gig again this season, but a last minute pick up of Steelers cast-off, Logan changed those plans. Through the first quarter of games it seems to be paying dividends for the Lions.
- Percy Harvin, WR, MIN ~ Harvin is as prolific and as exciting as Cribbs above, and he’s far more involved in the team’s overall offense. However, with Sidney Rice out for half the season, and Harvin with his string of medical and emotional maladies, I worry the team may curb some of his return duties in favor of RB Darius Reynaud.
- Darren Sproles, RB, SD ~ Sproles is more than an obvious handcuff to rookie Ryan Mathews. He will play a large role in the Chargers running game, especially as the team’s pass catching back. More important for the purposes of these rankings, he is the teams primary return man, and one of the league’s most explosive.
- Mike Goodson, RB, CAR ~ Goodson has been another fantasy surprise this season, and one of the few bright spots for the ailing Panthers. He has over 100 yards per game on returns and has also been catching some balls in the pass game for the team.
- Darius Reynaud, RB, BAL ~ A last minute trade sent this kid from the Vikes to the Ravens, and he’s been the teams primary return man on kicks and punts since his arrival. He hasn’t set the world on fire yet, but he’s got the jets to explode every time he gets the ball.
- Mardy Gilyard, WR, STL ~ Many experts pegged WR Danny Amendola as the team’s return man due to pre-season injuries to Gilyard. but through four games, the rookie has looked pretty solid for the Rams. Now he just needs to stay healthy. he’s a tool the team desperately needs.
- Antonio Brown, WR, PIT ~ Stephen Logan has handled the Steelers’ return duties for some time, but the emergence of rookie Antonio Brown may have ended his days in Pittsburgh. Brown’s been the better return man this summer, and he can help the team in the receiving game as well.
- Jalen Parmele, RB, BAL ~ Rookie Parmele enters 2010 as the Ravens primary return man, and he’s been very effective in the run game this preseason as well. If Willis McGahee were to be traded, he could be even more valuable.
- Courtney Roby, WR, NO ~ Roby was a return stud last season for the New Orleans Saints and is expected to continue that role this season. He put up 1154 return yards in 2009 including a return for a TD. So far this season he’s on pace to exceed last year’s production.
- Bernard Scott, RB, CIN ~ Scott is going to push Cedric Benson for playing time in the running game this season, but he will also split time with rookie WR Jordan Shipley in the return game. Another one of those added bonus picks.
- Steve Slaton, RB, HOU ~ Oh how the mighty have fallen. After starting last season as a top 10 fantasy pick, he fell off the radar in 2010 drafts. Even a season ending injury to rookie RB Ben Tate could not get Slaton a second chance. Now he’s relegated to return duties alongside Jacoby Jones.