2017 NFL Punt & Kickoff Return Depth Charts: Fantasy Studs & 14 Players to Target

Jul 05, 2017
2017 NFL Punt & Kickoff Return Depth Charts: Fantasy Studs & 14 Players to Target

With a well-timed touchdown, a kickoff or punt returner can provide the key points that end up pushing your fantasy team over the top.

Some returners are better than others, so it’s important for fantasy owners to keep an eye on depth charts to see which players will return kicks and punts for each team.

Editor's Note: Click here for 2018 Return Depth Charts.

More 2017 Positional Draft Strategies: QB | WR | Zero RB | TE | Streaming D/ST | IDP

Below are kickoff and punt return depth charts that will be updated throughout the offseason -- through the seemingly endless amounts of drops, pickups, and training camp battles -- until the season begins.

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2017 NFL Kickoff & Punt Return Depth Chart
Team Punt Returner Position Kickoff Returner Position
Arizona Kerwynn Williams RB Kerwynn Williams RB
Arizona Chad Williams WR Brittan Golden WR
Arizona Jeremy Ross WR T.J. Logan RB
Atlanta Andre Roberts WR Andre Roberts WR
Atlanta Justin Hardy WR Brian Hill RB
Baltimore Michael Campanaro WR Chris Moore WR
Baltimore Ladarius Webb DB Michael Campanaro WR
Buffalo Brandon Tate WR Brandon Tate WR
Buffalo Kaelin Clay WR Walt Powell WR
Buffalo Walt Powell WR Tre'Davious White CB
Carolina Christian McCaffrey RB Fozzy Whitaker RB
Carolina Damiere Byrd WR Damiere Byrd WR
Carolina Curtis Samuel WR Christian McCaffrey RB
Chicago Bryce Callahan CB Deonte Thompson WR
Chicago Eddie Jackson DB Tarik Cohen RB
Chicago Tarik Cohen RB Benny Cunningham RB
Cincinnati Adam Jones CB Alex Erickson WR
Cincinnati Alex Erickson WR Joe Mixon RB
Cincinnati Tyler Boyd WR John Ross WR
Cleveland Jabrill Peppers DB Jabrill Peppers DB
Cleveland Duke Johnson RB Ricardo Louis WR
Dallas Ryan Switzer WR Ryan Switzer WR
Dallas Jourdan Lewis CB Darren McFadden RB
Dallas Cole Beasley WR Noah Brown WR
Denver Isaiah McKenzie WR Cody Latimer WR
Denver Brendan Langley CB Brendan Langley CB
Detroit Golden Tate WR Dwayne Washington RB
Detroit T.J. Jones WR T.J. Jones WR
Detroit Jamal Agnew CB Jamal Agnew CB
Green Bay Randall Cobb WR Jeff Janis WR
Green Bay Trevor Davis WR Trevor Davis WR
Green Bay Quinten Rollins CB Aaron Jones RB
Houston Tyler Ervin RB Tyler Ervin RB
Houston Will Fuller WR Akeem Hunt RB
Houston Jordan Todman RB
Indianapolis Chester Rogers WR Quan Bray WR
Indianapolis Quan Bray WR Chester Rogers WR
Jacksonville Dede Westbrook WR Marqise Lee WR
Jacksonville Jalen Myrick CB Corey Grant RB
Jacksonville Corey Grant RB Dede Westbrook WR
Kansas City Tyreek Hill WR De'Anthony Thomas WR
Kansas City De'Anthony Thomas WR Tyreek Hill WR
Los Angeles Chargers Travis Benjamin WR Travis Benjamin WR
Los Angeles Chargers Isaiah Burse WR Isaiah Burse WR
Los Angeles Rams Tavon Austin WR Pharoh Cooper WR
Los Angeles Rams Pharoh Cooper WR Tavon Austin WR
Miami Jakeem Grant WR Jakeem Grant WR
Miami Kenyan Drake RB Kenyan Drake RB
Miami Jarvis Landry WR Damien Williams RB
Minnesota Marcus Sherels CB Marcus Sherels CB
Minnesota Rodney Adams WR Rodney Adams WR
Minnesota Stacy Coley WR Jerick McKinnon RB
New England Danny Amendola WR Danny Amendola WR
New England Phillip Dorsett WR Matt Slater WR
New Orleans Ted Ginn WR Ted Ginn WR
New Orleans Tommylee Lewis WR Tommylee Lewis WR
New York Giants Dwayne Harris WR Dwayne Harris WR
New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. WR Sterling Shepard WR
New York Jets Marcus Murphy RB Marcus Murphy RB
New York Jets Jeremy Kerley WR ArDarius Stewart WR
Oakland Jalen Richard RB Cordarrelle Patterson WR
Oakland T.J. Carrie CB Jalen Richard RB
Oakland DeAndre Washington RB DeAndre Washington RB
Philadelphia Darren Sproles RB Wendell Smallwood RB
Philadelphia Donnel Pumphrey RB Nelson Agholor WR
Philadelphia Nelson Agholor WR Donnel Pumphrey RB
Pittsburgh Antonio Brown WR Eli Rogers WR
Pittsburgh Eli Rogers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey WR
Pittsburgh Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Artie Burns CB
San Francisco Victor Bolden WR Victor Bolden WR
San Francisco Trent Taylor WR Raheem Mostert RB
San Francisco Marquise Goodwin WR Trent Taylor WR
Seattle Tyler Lockett WR Tyler Lockett WR
Seattle J.D. McKissic RB Paul Richardson WR
Tampa Bay Adam Humphries WR Ryan Smith S
Tampa Bay Bernard Reedy WR Bernard Reedy WR
Tampa Bay Vernon Hargreaves CB Justin Evans S
Tennessee Eric Weems WR Eric Weems WR
Tennessee Adoree Jackson CB Adoree Jackson CB
Tennessee Kevin Byard S Kevin Byard S
Washington Jamison Crowder WR Chris Thompson RB
Washington Bashaud Breeland CB Bashaud Breeland CB

Related: Fantasy Football Depth Charts

Double-Down: Fantasy Studs That Return Kicks

Many teams have game-breaking playmakers on offense they can’t help but use in the return game as well. This is where fantasy owners in return yardage leagues should stand up and take notice. With the amount of talent and speed at the skill positions throughout the league, multiple teams are using these dual-threat options as multi-purpose offensive weapons, as well as dynamite players in the return game. The following players will likely get a boost and should be considered for their added return value:

  • Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs – Hill was one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL last season, scoring nine touchdowns on offense and three on returns. With Jeremy Maclin released during the offseason, the Chiefs may attempt to feature Hill more on offense, limiting his return duties. But with how talented he is, it’s hard to imagine he won’t still be a factor on special teams. Hill led the league last year by maintaining a staggering 15.2 yards per punt return on 39 attempts (second only to Tavon Austin). Hill also averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return on 14 returns, splitting time with De’Anthony Thomas. Thomas will continue to play a role, and rookie running back Kareem Hunt may also be in play, but Hill should still be a multi-threat playmaker who makes waves in every facet of the game. He should be considered a prime target in all leagues, but especially in those that reward for return yardage.

Related: What Can We Expect From Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill?

  • Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers – The Panthers didn’t get much out of their return game last season, and their top returner, Ted Ginn Jr., fled for New Orleans in free agency. Carolina was lacking in team speed and playmaking and used their first round pick to address both with the versatile McCaffrey out of Stanford. McCaffrey is the definition of a playmaker, and while his return duties took a step back last season due to his role on offense, he was third in the NCAA in kickoff return yardage in 2015. The Panthers will use McCaffrey in a variety of roles both on offense and on special teams, and while his ADP is already in the fourth and fifth round in most league formats, in return yardage leagues, a case can be made for him as high as the second or third.
  • Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks – Lockett’s numbers dipped in his second season, both on offense and in the return game. After a tremendous Pro Bowl season as a returner in 2015, he averaged 1.1 yards less per punt return last season on 21 fewer returns. His offensive production also went down by ten receptions and 67 yards, while he caught only one touchdown pass after snagging six in his rookie year. He broke his leg in Week 16 against the Cardinals, and is still recovering but be ready for Week 1. The Seahawks didn’t do much in the offseason to add challengers to Lockett in either facet of the game, so as long as he’s healthy and hasn’t lost his game-breaking speed, he should still be considered a breakout candidate as a dual-threat option.
  • Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins – Crowder was quietly a very good slot receiver last year, catching 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns. He should continue in that role as a reliable option for quarterback Kirk Cousins, but he also should retain his job as the team’s primary punt returner. While Washington may want him to focus more on offense, it’ll be hard to ignore Crowder’s 12.1-yard punt return average from a year ago (fourth in the league). Crowder should be considered a nice WR3 option in PPR formats, and he gets a boost in return leagues.
  • Tavon Austin, WR, Rams – Playmaking is what Austin does best, and the return game is just one more way to get the ball in his hands. While his punt return average hasn’t been particularly impressive the last two years – 7.9 yards in 2015 and 8.3 yards last season – Austin has scored a punt return touchdown in each of his first three seasons. As mentioned, he led the league in punt return volume in 2016 (44). Austin’s offensive production slipped last year, however, as he wasn’t as effective in the run game, but he still wound up with four touchdowns on offense and caught a career-high 58 passes in a horrible offense. The Rams have nowhere to go but up this season, and Austin should continue to be a solid dual-threat option in return leagues.
  • Ryan Switzer, WR, Cowboys – Switzer will need to win the job over incumbent wide receiver Lucky Whitehead, but given the fact that the Cowboys ranked 23rd in punt return average (7.1) last season and 28th in kickoff return average (20.5), Whitehead might be on his way out. The Cowboys invested a fourth-round pick in Switzer, a shifty slot receiver out of UNC, and they’ll be looking for him to make the roster and contribute. With Cole Beasley already locked in as the slot receiver, it’s likely Switzer will be called upon as a return specialist, particularly on punts; he returned five for touchdowns in 2013 for the Tar Heels. With inconsistency outside of Dez Bryant at wide receiver, Switzer could also very easily earn time on offense as a rookie. One injury to Bryant, or struggles from Terrance Williams or Beasley, and Switzer might be able to work his way in.
  • Ted Ginn, WR, Saints – Although he has been primarily a return man throughout his career, Ginn has been productive on offense the last two years in Carolina. His return numbers were down some last season, but he still returned 29 punts and 18 kickoffs. The Saints could use the help, as they were next to last in kickoff return average last year. In addition to being a return specialist, Ginn should be in line for the third spot on the wide receiver depth chart. On a team that threw for more yards than anyone else in 2016 that will no longer have top deep threat Brandin Cooks, Ginn could contribute some big plays on offense to go with his return numbers.

Other names to consider: Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots; Adam Humphries, WR, Buccaneers; Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins; Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals; Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers; Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles

Just for Kicks: Return-Only Specialists

Some players are such good return specialists that they are able to make a roster based solely on that. If you’re not in a league with an extra slot for returners, the players below are unlikely to create enough production on offense to make a real difference on your roster, but they can be valuable in leagues that allow you to start a returner.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Raiders – A new uniform for Patterson might make him a candidate to get some offensive work, but with three receivers firmly entrenched ahead of him on the Oakland depth chart, his most likely impact area will again be on kickoff returns. Patterson has been incredible as a kickoff returner throughout his career, and once again led the league in kickoff return average last season (31.7 on 25 returns). He has five kickoff return touchdowns over his four-year career and he should provide an instant spark to an Oakland unit that ranked 22nd in the NFL in kickoff return average (20.5) in 2016.
  • Alex Erickson, WR, Bengals – Erickson took the job and ran with it last year, averaging 27.9 yards per kickoff return -- second only to Patterson. Erickson's 7.0-yard punt return average was less impressive, but with cornerback and long-time punt returner Adam Jones nearing the end of his career, it’ll be a shock of Erickson doesn’t retain the job. While it’s possible rookie speedster John Ross gets some consideration in the return game, Erickson proved his value last year. He should be given every chance to win both jobs again this season.
  • Brandon Tate, WR, Bills – Tate was a top-10 returner on both punts and kickoffs last season after being picked up by the Bills, and Buffalo should keep him in that position this year. The Bills did sign former Packers defensive back Micah Hyde, who returned punts for years for Green Bay, as well as former Washington return man Rashad Ross this offseason, but this is Tate’s job to lose. A dark-horse candidate to replace him is first-round rookie Tre’Davious White, but he’ll be relied on heavily on defense to replace the departed Stephone Gillmore at cornerback. Ultimately, Tate the most likely player to retain the job.

Other returners unlikely to play a big role on offense: Quan Bray, WR, Colts; Jalin Marshall, WR, Jets; Tyler Ervin, RB, Texans; Isaiah Burse, WR, Chargers; Dwayne Harris, WR, Giants; Marcus Sherels, CB, Vikings

NFL Teams With Open Kickoff or Punt Return Jobs

There was a lot of turnover around the league at both return spots this year -- Eric Weems left Atlanta, Baltimore didn’t re-sign Devin Hester, and an influx of youth from the draft always provides fluctuations in the return game. Below is a list of teams with open competitions worth keeping an eye on for potential breakout special teams stars, or for productive offensive players who could end up with added return stats.

  • JaguarsBryan Walters was hurt and then waived early in the offseason, which opens up a spot for the Jaguars. While reserve running back Corey Grant will still be in the mix, watch this training camp battle for potential dual-threat players. Marqise Lee only returned 18 kickoffs last season, but scored a touchdown and averaged an impressive 30.3 yards per return. The Jaguars also drafted a pair of speedsters in receiver Dede Westbrook and cornerback Jalen Myrick, who will be in the mix. Lee is already a potential value pick in what has been at times a voluminous passing offense, and if he wins the kickoff return job outright, he could be in for some bonus points.
  • Steelers – The Steelers badly want someone other than Antonio Brown to return punts, but they simply haven’t found someone consistent enough to take the job. Additionally, the Pittsburgh receiver depth chart continues to look crowded, so the battle for the return job could have ripple effects on the offense, and vice-versa. Receivers Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, and Demarcus Ayers are all being given legitimate chances to win a job as a return specialist, with running back Knile Davis also getting serious looks as a kickoff returner. If Ayers wins out, then it’s unlikely Pittsburgh will be a haven for fantasy production in the return game. However, if Rogers – who also played some significant snaps as a slot receiver last year – or Davis wind up winning the jobs, pay attention. (Davis also has a chance to win a backup running back job behind LeVeon Bell.)
  • Packers – The Packers are hoping speedy undrafted free agent cornerback Daquan Holmes can provide a spark to their middling return game, but if he can’t find his way onto the roster, Green Bay could turn back to receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery, or slot man Randall Cobb, for return help. Wideouts Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis will also be given long looks after getting lots of work as returners last season. If Montgomery or Cobb end up getting the work, they would be in line for a nice boost in fantasy value.
  • Dolphins – The Dolphins have been one of the most difficult teams to evaluate at the return spots over the past couple of seasons, as they continue to use Pro Bowl slot receiver Jarvis Landry as a punt returner even though they clearly don’t want to. They’re hoping second-year receiver Jakeem Grant can fully take the job this season, although he wasn't effective as Landry last season while the two split the duty. If Grant struggles, roster-bubble receiver Drew Morgan may get a look. Backup running backs Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are also in the mix at kickoff returner. If Grant wins the job outright, he’ll be a return specialist only, and leagues looking for dual-threat options can ignore the Dolphins. If Grant and Morgan are both cut, then Landry and Drake will have added value in return leagues.

Other teams with an open competition for return jobs: Ravens, Broncos, Lions, 49ers, Falcons, Eagles

IDP Love: Defensive Players That Return Kicks

If you play in an IDP league, there are always a few corners or safeties that bolster their stats with returns. This year, there are also some talented rookies will be in play for lead return spots, so depending on what happens with final depth charts, some rookie could end up being steals in IDP leagues.

Related: IDP Rankings - 2017 NFL Season

  • Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals – The Cardinals continue to inexplicably use their all-world starting cornerback as their primary punt returner. While this could change -- receivers John Brown and Brittan Golden, and running back Kerwynn Williams will be in play -- the Cardinals seem more than willing to expose Peterson to additional hits in the return game. He had 14 punt returns last season and only averaged 6.2 yards, so maybe this will be the year the Cardinals finally wise up. Peterson has been practicing with the return team, however, so as long as he continues in this role, he’ll have added value in IDP leagues that reward for return yardage. Additional return duties could make Peterson much more valuable in return leagues, helping to offset the limited amount of tackles cornerbacks tend to rack up compared to safeties.
  • Jabrill Peppers, DB, Browns – It’s possible running back Duke Johnson and receiver Mario Alford continue to split duties in the return game, but early reports from Cleveland camp indicate Peppers is being installed at multiple positions on defense and special teams. Peppers is a playmaker that was successful returning both punts and kickoffs at Michigan the past two years, and scored 54-yard touchdown on a punt return against Colorado last season. The Browns ranked in the bottom seven in both kickoff return average (18.6) and punt return average (6.7) last season, so Peppers will be given every opportunity to win the job.
  • Eddie Jackson, DB, BearsEddie Royal had a touchdown as a punt returner last season for the Bears, but he averaged only 8.7 yards per return. It’s unlikely the Bears will bring him back with three free agent receivers brought in over the offseason, as well as the return of Kevin White. Jackson is a ball hawk on defense who only returned 11 punts last season at Alabama, but averaged 23 yards per return and scored two touchdowns. He is a playmaker that will get every chance to contribute on both defense and special teams. The fourth-round rookie might even push Chris Prosinski and Quintin Demps for a starting role opposite Adrian Amos in the defensive backfield.
  • Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Titans – The Titans brought in veteran returner Eric Weems in the offseason, but with so many young receivers on the roster, it’s possible Tennessee will decide to save a roster spot and rely on one of the speedsters they added to handle return duties. Jackson was their first round pick, so they may protect him and hand the job to seventh-round-pick Khalfrani Muhammad out of California, but if Jackson gets a chance to do the job, he could be a valuable pick in IDP leagues. He stands a good chance to win the starting cornerback job opposite Logan Ryan. Jackson was wildly productive in the return game last year at USC, scoring four touchdowns on returns and ranking third in punt return average (15.8) and kickoff return average (29.5). (Update: Weems and Muhammad did not make the final roster, and Jackson looks to be the primary returner in Tennessee, increasing his value in IDP leagues with return yardage points)

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