You may have already heard that the NFL changed the Kickoff Rule. Now NFL teams must kick off from the 35 yard line versus the 30 yard line. Players also must line up within 5 yards of the 35 yard line which should take away some momentum from the kicking team and result in less injuries during kickoff.
So how does the new NFL kickoff rule change your fantasy football draft? Well if your fantasy league awards points for kick return yards and touchdowns then you need to listen up.
Flash back to 1993 (the last time the NFL kicked off from the 35 yard line) and you'll see that only 4 Kickoffs resulted in a touch down. Versus last season where 23 kickoff were returned for a touchdown. Rich McKay (Atlanta Falcon's President) stated no one is sure what the effect will be but they expect anywhere from 5 to 15 percent more touchbacks! And obviously since the kicking team now closer to the return man, and the return man will be gathering the ball deeper in his endzone, I'd expect kickoff return yards to drop too.
Plenty of big return guys like Joshua Cribbs and Devin Hester have publicly expressed concern about the new rule.
Hester spoke up on ESPN 1000 in Chicago
They’ve gone too far. They’re taking the whole fun out of the game,” Hester said. “The fans come out, especially in Chicago, to see returns. That’s one of our key assets to our team. Fans love our big returns. Not only do they kick it out of bounds when it’s time to punt the ball. But now they get this advantage on kickoffs where we felt we were guaranteed a kickoff return. Now you’re taking that away from our return game. The return game is out of the picture.
I agree with Hester.. For teams with an average or below average return game most of the time the kickoff is only returned to about the 20 anyways. But for the teams that do have a strong kickoff return game this rule is crushing! The overall impact across all key fantasy players on these teams is slightly diminished if they don't adjust. Read here for more info about the evolution of fantasy football.