Punt & Kickoff Return Depth Chart and Players to Target
With a well-timed touchdown, a kickoff or punt returner can provide key points that push 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. Below you will find kickoff and punt return depth charts. They will be updated at least weekly, through the seemingly endless amounts of drops, pickups, and training camp battles. Keep in mind, return specialists are often some of the most vulnerable personnel to final cut-downs and roster moves, so things will change heavily between now and the start of the season, then will further change as the season progresses. Follow #ReturnerRotations on Twitter, which I’ll use for notes right up until the start of the regular season.
2022 Punt and Kick Returner Depth Chart
|Team||Punt Returner||Position||Kick Returner||Position||Comments|
|Arizona Cardinals||Greg Dortch||WR||Greg Dortch||WR||This was mostly Moore last year, but Dortch is listed on the initial depth chart.|
|Arizona Cardinals||Rondale Moore||WR||Rondale Moore||WR||I'm guessing Moore will be in play as well, and Arizona is notorious for cutting their return specialist early on.|
|Arizona Cardinals||Eno Benjamin||RB||Eno Benjamin||RB||Benjamin or Keontay Ingram could be in play here as well, but I'm betting Dortch and Moore end up being the guys.|
|Atlanta Falcons||Avery Williams||RB||Avery Williams||RB||Expect Patterson to take a step back with Williams getting more run.|
|Atlanta Falcons||Jared Bernhardt||WR||Jared Bernhardt||WR|
|Baltimore Ravens||Devin Duvernay||WR||Devin Duvernay||WR||This was all Duvernay last year, should be the same.|
|Baltimore Ravens||James Proche||WR||Justice Hill||RB||If anyone challenges Duvernay, it'll be Proche, but I like him more on offense. Hill might be the first one out the door when Gus Edwards comes back, but he's listed on the initial depth chart as the backup KR.|
|Buffalo Bills||Khalil Shakir||WR||Isaiah McKenzie||WR||McKenzie seems to be the KR, with Shakir as the PR. Shakir looks like he's going to be one of the prime inactive options on gameday, so we may see him and Crowder both.|
|Buffalo Bills||Jamison Crowder||WR||James Cook||RB||Crowder in play here, and if Marquez Stevenson gets healthy and stays on the roster, he has a chance as well.|
|Carolina Panthers||Andre Roberts||WR||Andre Roberts||WR||If Roberts makes the roster, it'll be for this purpose.|
|Carolina Panthers||Shi Smith||WR||Shi Smith||WR|
|Chicago Bears||Velus Jones Jr.||WR||Khalil Herbert||RB||This was Herbert and Jakeem Grant last year, but Grant is now gone. The rookie Ebner will get his shot, but this is an open job.|
|Chicago Bears||Trestan Ebner||RB||Velus Jones Jr.||WR||Dazz Newsome didn't make the final roster, so this should be Jones or Ebner with the PR job|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Trent Taylor||WR||Chris Evans||RB||This was Wilson and Darius Philips last year, but Trent Taylor pushed in later and should keep the role. Wilson is starting the season on IR, so Evans could win the job here.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Brandon Wilson||DB||Brandon Wilson||DB||I still think Wilson probably takes the job back when he returns from injury.|
|Cleveland Browns||Demetric Felton||RB/WR||Demetric Felton||RB/WR||Mostly Felton (PR) and Schwartz (KR) last year, but Felton seems to be gaining an edge at both spots. It's not guaranteed yet, but Felton becomes a potentially elite RS if he can secure both spots.|
|Cleveland Browns||Donovan Peoples-Jones||WR||Anthony Schwartz||WR|
|Dallas Cowboys||KaVontae Turpin||WR||Tony Pollard||RB||This was mostly Pollard and Lamb the last two years. It might be all Turpin this year, with Pollard sprinkled in.|
|Dallas Cowboys||Tony Pollard||RB||KaVontae Turpin||WR||Cowboys are going to try Pollard at both spots, but Turpin's emergence in the preseason makes him the most likely.|
|Dallas Cowboys||Jalen Tolbert||WR||Rico Dowdle||RB|
|Denver Broncos||Montrell Washington||WR||Montrell Washington||WR||Diontae Spencer has been the guy three years in a row now, and the Broncos are hoping the rookie Washington can replace him.|
|Denver Broncos||Tyrie Cleveland||WR||Tyrie Cleveland||WR|
|Detroit Lions||Kalif Raymond||WR||Craig Reynolds||RB||This was nearly all Raymond and Igwebuike last year, but Igwebuike is gone, so KR is up in the air, but it sounds like Reynolds will get first crack at it. This could change as the season progresses.|
|Detroit Lions||Amon-Ra St. Brown||WR||Kalif Raymond||WR||Amon-Ra St. Brown will be the emergency and change-of-pace PR, but KR is still open with most of the candidates not making the initial 53.|
|Green Bay Packers||Amari Rodgers||WR||Amari Rodgers||WR||PR was all Rodgers last year, but KR was a group of people, led by Hill and then Rodgers. I expect Rodgers to be the guy.|
|Green Bay Packers||Randall Cobb||WR||Kylin Hill||RB||Hill is starting the season on IR, but may take the KR job back when he returns.|
|Green Bay Packers||Romeo Doubs||WR||Romeo Doubs||WR||Doubs is getting some run in practice and has experience.|
|Houston Texans||Desmond King||CB||Tremon Smith||CB||Tremon Smith and Desmond King took over after Andre Roberts was released and both are experienced.|
|Houston Texans||Tremon Smith||CB||Desmond King||CB|
|Houston Texans||Derek Stingley||CB||Chester Rogers||WR||Early camp reports have Stingley mentioned at PR, Rogers was brought in late and could be in play for both jobs.|
|Indianapolis Colts||Nyheim Hines||RB||Isaiah Rodgers||CB||This was all Rodgers and Hines the last two years. No reason to think that changes.|
|Indianapolis Colts||Isaiah Rodgers||CB||Nyheim Hines||RB|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Jamal Agnew||WR/CB||Jamal Agnew||WR/CB||Agnew is still on the roster, so it should be him again - he shared with Jayden Mickens last year, who's gone.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Chris Claybrooks||CB||Chris Claybrooks||CB||We could also see Christian Kirk is a supplemental role at PR, but that's unlikely to be a regular thing.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Mecole Hardman||WR||Isaih Pacheco||RB||This was Hardman on punts and Pringle on kicks last year, but Pringle is gone. This is likely a competition and may depend on Hardman's role on offense.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Skyy Moore||WR||Mecole Hardman||WR||Watch Pacheco, who has 4.37 speed and has been working at KR in camp.|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Hunter Renfrow||WR||Ameer Abdullah||RB||Renfrow by default it looks like, but Abdullah makes for an intriguing option, with some potential passing down work as well.|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Ameer Abdullah||RB||D.J. Turner||WR|
|Los Angeles Chargers||DeAndre Carter||WR||DeAndre Carter||WR||Carter was probably brought in for this.|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Jalen Guyton||WR||Jalen Guyton||WR|
|Los Angeles Rams||Brandon Powell||WR||Brandon Powell||WR||Powell will definitely get the first opportunity at both jobs.|
|Los Angeles Rams||Tutu Atwell||WR||Kyren Williams||WR||Williams seems more likely to make the roster and will get a look here.|
|Miami Dolphins||Tyreek Hill||WR||Raheem Mostert||RB||Mostert listed as the KR on the initial depth chart. Hill at PR. Might see a bit of a committee though.|
|Miami Dolphins||Jaylen Waddle||WR||Jaylen Waddle||WR||A lot of Waddle last year, but will that continue? I'm skeptical. I still think he'll get a few looks though.|
|Miami Dolphins||Jevon Holland||DB||Chase Edmonds||RB|
|Minnesota Vikings||Jalen Reagor||WR||Kene Nwangwu||RB||This looks like an open competition at PR, but Kene is likely the KR. Looks like Reagor will get first crack at PR work, after filling that role in Philly.|
|Minnesota Vikings||K.J. Osborn||WR||K.J. Osborn||WR||Osborn might get a look at both spots. Jalen Nailor also a name to watch.|
|New England Patriots||Marcus Jones||CB||Ty Montgomery||WR||With Gunner Olszewski now in Pittsburgh, this is a wide-open competition.|
|New England Patriots||Ty Montgomery||WR||Pierre Strong Jr.||RB||This may fluctuate as the season progresses, but Montgomery should get plenty of work at both spots. Jones is a talented returner, but he's looking so good on defense, they might save him.|
|New England Patriots||Jakobi Meyers||WR||Jakobi Meyers||WR|
|New Orleans Saints||Deonte Harty||WR||Deonte Harty||WR||This has been Harty for the past three years, when healthy, and should continue to be.|
|New Orleans Saints||Marquez Callaway||WR||Marquez Callaway||WR|
|New York Giants||Richie James||WR||Gary Brightwell||RB||The depth chart keeps changing, but this is looking like the Week 1 tandem. This could change rapidly.|
|New York Giants||Darius Slayton||WR||Darius Slayton||WR||Slayton was expected to do the work, but it looks like maybe in a reserve role now. Watch for this to change, as it doesn't seem like the team is set yet.|
|New York Jets||Braxton Berrios||WR||Braxton Berrios||WR||This was mostly Berrios at both spots last year, with some Tevin Coleman and Keelan Cole on kicks as well. Expect a committee, but led by Berrios.|
|New York Jets||Elijah Moore||WR||Ty Johnson||WR|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Quez Watkins||WR||Kenneth Gainwell||RB||Reagor was the main guy last year, but with him in Minnesota, Gainwell and Watkins should be in play. Don't rule out the Eagles adding someone else as well.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Kenneth Gainwell||RB||Quez Watkins||WR|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Gunner Olszewski||WR||Gunner Olszewski||WR||This was all Ray-Ray McCloud last year, but he's gone and they brought in Gunner specifically for this purpose.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Ray-Ray McCloud||WR||Ray-Ray McCloud||WR||Was mostly Trenton Cannon and Aiyuk last year, but McCloud was brought in for this reason and should stabilize the job in 2022.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Brandon Aiyuk||WR||Danny Gray||WR|
|Seattle Seahawks||D'Wayne Eskridge||WR||DeeJay Dallas||RB||This was Dallas and Swain last year. With Freddie Swain a late cut, the PR job is open. Eskridge should get the early chance.|
|Seattle Seahawks||Tyler Lockett||WR||D'Wayne Eskridge||WR|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jaelon Darden||WR||Rachaad White||RB||This was mostly Darden last year, but White seems to have leapfrogged him. This battle may not be fully settled, but White has interesting double-dip potential as the possible pass-catcher there as well.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Scott Miller||WR||Jaelon Darden||WR||Gio Bernard could be in play as well.|
|Tennessee Titans||Kyle Phillips||WR||Dontrell Hilliard||RB||This was Chester Rogers last year, who isn't there anymore. These two will get the first crack but expect an open competition. Cannon might make the roster for this specific purpose.|
|Washington Football Team||Dax Milne||WR||Dax Milne||WR||This was all DeAndre Carter last year, but he's gone, so this is an open competition. Milne seems to be the favorite, but it wouldn't surprise me if Washington adds someone else after cutdown day.|
|Washington Football Team||Jahan Dotson||WR||Antonio Gibson||RB||These two are going to be in play, but if Milne is active on game day, I think it'll be him.|
Last update: 9/9/22
With the clear attempt by the league to reduce the number of kickoffs, it’s worth checking in on whether or not the steep decline since 2013 has continued.
|Year||Total Punt Returns||Total Kick Returns||PR Change from Previous Year||KR Change from Previous Year|
Last year, there were no rule changes affecting return specialists. I expected numbers to be back in line with 2018-2019 on a per-game basis, with obvious increases based on the addition of another game. It turns out, kick returns went up on a per-game basis (64.8) to the highest since 2017, so kick returners might be getting a bit bolder. Punt returns were down by 3.1 per game from 2019 levels, but higher than in 2020. An upward trend is a positive sign for fantasy managers in return-yardage leagues, and there seems to be no immediate threat to the validity of these league structures.
There are no rule changes this year that directly impact return specialists, although the increased number of practice squad spots from 12 to 16 might create a little more turnover.
Double Dip: Fantasy Studs in the Return Game
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. Only players whose value increases are included. Players like CeeDee Lamb and Jaylen Waddle, who inexplicably could still be used on returns, won’t be mentioned because they’re going to be top picks regardless.
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
If I were the Cowboys, I would give all the return work to rookie Jalen Tolbert – who may indeed take over the punt return role – but for now, it seems Tony Pollard is still the favorite to remain the team’s primary kick returner. Pollard had 489 yards and a touchdown on 17 kick returns last season, which isn’t a lot for a returner but is tremendous when you add it to his 1,056 yards from scrimmage. Pollard should continue to see a significant role on offense while padding his stats in return-yardage leagues with kick returns. Punt returners are nice, but kicks are where the bigger yardage usually comes from and if Pollard maintains that role, he’ll be in contention for RB1 numbers in the right league formats.
Update: I'm officially concerned about KaVontae Turpin, who has been electric in the preseason, and now seems like a lock for the final 53. His roster spot is likely specifically for return work. I think Pollard will still get some work on kicks, but Turpin is very likely to be the guy at both spots now.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts
Hines has been a steady option in the return game for three seasons now, adding 240 return yards to his offensive stats in 2021 and leading the league with 30 punt returns in 2020. He’s expected to retain that role this season, and he usually gets a small handful of opportunities on kick returns as well. Hines is coming off a down year offensively with a career-low 57 targets in the passing game. With Matt Ryan at the helm, expect his numbers to be more in line with 2020, when he finished the season with 63 catches, 862 yards from scrimmage, and seven touchdowns. Add in 200-300 return yards and he’ll be an RB2 option in return-yardage leagues.
Rondale Moore, WR, Cardinals
Moore ended the season as the primary returner for the Cardinals last year and should be the leader in the clubhouse for the role heading into 2022. He also has a golden opportunity on offense with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for six games and A.J. Green entering his age-34 season. Moore saw 64 targets and 18 rushes last year and wound up with 973 all-purpose yards in a multi-faceted role. Entering year two, the Purdue standout could progress further into the offense while maintaining his special teams' role. Eno Benjamin is a threat to do some kick returns, but this should be mostly Moore.
Update: I'm expecting Moore to still get some work, but indications are Greg Dortch may be the guy. Adjust your approach to Moore accordingly.
Devin Duvernay, WR, Ravens
Duvernay had a nice season on special teams in 2021, getting the bulk of both kick and punt return work and being fairly efficient at both. He was tied for fifth in kick returns and averaged an impressive 24.1 yards per return. He was tied for seventh in punt returns and led the league with a 13.8 yards per return average among qualified players. He also saw a significant increase in targets over his rookie year, going from 26 to 47, and with Marquise Brown now in Arizona, there’s opportunity for an increased role on offense. Expect Duvernay to be challenged by James Proche for both return and wide receiver work, but even if he wins out as just the primary returner, repeating last year’s 1,358 all-purpose yards should make him a value in return yardage leagues.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Giants
This is far from a sure thing, but if Toney does win one or both return jobs he instantly becomes a phenomenal fantasy option in return yardage formats. There is a lot of murk around the Giants’ passing game, especially regarding the health of at least three of their top five receivers. Toney has an opportunity to win this job and also contend for a high target share. This job could easily go to Darnay Holmes and/or Adoree Jackson and Toney only returned one punt all last season, but the potential impact he could have in this role make him worth noting and monitoring here. He was a part-time returner in college and had a touchdown on a punt return his final year at Florida.
Update: I'm concerned about Toney being nicked up. It's looking like Darius Slayton here instead. Proceed with caution.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs
For now, I’m including Hardman on this list. It’s dicey because he was the punt returner last season while Byron Pringle handled kicks. Pringle is gone, and in comes a slew of new wide receiver options in Kansas City, leaving Hardman as a huge question mark. If he wins a stronger role on offense, look for rookies Skyy Moore and Isaiah Pacheco to vie for return work. However, if Hardman winds up fourth on the receiver depth chart, he could resume both roles. He’s been productive in the past and is always a threat to catch a long touchdown to supplement his return yardage. Hardman is sketchy here, so watch the training camp battle. But for now, he’s still worth keeping on your radar.
Update: Pacheco has the early edge at KR, but Hardman should still be in play on punts. Continue to monitor this battle throughout the preseason.
Other names to consider: Isaiah McKenzie, Bills; Kalif Raymond, Lions; Amari Rodgers, Packers; Braxton Berrios, Jets; Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles; Quez Watkins, Eagles; Jahan Dotson, Commanders; K.J. Osborn, Vikings; Antonio Gibson, Commanders; Darius Slayton, Giants
Just for Kicks: Return-Only Specialists
Some players carve out a niche as a return-specialist and make a roster on that skill alone. 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, but they can be valuable in leagues that allow you to start a separate returner, or in leagues with big-time return yardage points. Beware the roster changes in this category, however. Even some of the best return specialists will find themselves off the final roster when cuts happen. Things change fast on special teams.
Deonte Harty, WR, Saints
Deonte Harty changes his last name from Harris over the offseason, but what shouldn’t change is his role as the primary return specialist in New Orleans. Despite being limited to 13 games last season, he still finished with 889 return yards and even caught 36 passes and scored three touchdowns on offense. The offensive depth chart should be a little tougher to crack with the additions of a healthy? Michael Thomas, first-round draft pick Chris Olave, and veteran slot receiver Jarvis Landry, but Harty should have no trouble keeping his role on special teams. If he’s healthy – has missed 13 games since entering the league in 2019 – he’ll be one of the better returners in the league.
Andre Roberts, WR, Panthers
Roberts led the league for the second time in the last four years with 1,010 kick return yards last season. Shi Smith earned the job in Carolina out of camp last year, and if Roberts doesn’t make the roster he may get another chance. But the Panthers weren’t thrilled with Smith early in the season and ended up making additions – Alex Erickson and Ameer Abdullah – who took work away from him. As such, they made bringing in veteran return-man Roberts a priority to upgrade that spot. Expect Roberts to once again be among the league leaders in return yardage.
Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, 49ers
McCloud has been one of the league’s more prolific returners over the past two seasons in Pittsburgh, totaling 944 return yards in 2020, and 1,143 yards in 2021. He also led the league in punt return yards last season. I wouldn’t call him one of the best kick returners with a career average of 22.4 but he’s steady enough and was brought in by San Francisco expressly for this role. The 49ers had injuries to their returners last season and are hoping McCloud can provide some much-needed stability.
Jamal Agnew, WR/CB, Jaguars
Agnew was nicked up last season and was limited to just 10 games. He still managed 599 return yards, including a 102-yard touchdown on a kick return against the Broncos. The Jaguars brought Agnew over from Detroit last season specifically for this purpose and he’s been one of the most consistent options in the league for the past five years. He’s returned four punts and two kicks for touchdowns in his career and should be the primary return specialist once again this year.
Montrell Washington, WR, Broncos
The Broncos need to replace Diontae Spencer and they’re hoping the rookie Washington will be able to take both return jobs. This is an open competition, but Washington seems to have the early edge. Watch the final cuts closely. Washington will be fending off Tyrie Cleveland for this role and I doubt both make the roster. I’m going with Washington because he’s a fresher face. The Broncos have traditionally gone with one primary returner and if Washington – who returned 28 kicks and 14 punts in his final season at Samford – can win the job, he should be among the league leaders in return yards.
Gunner Olszewski, WR, Steelers
Pittsburgh stole Olszewski from the Patriots to fill this role specifically, and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to find room on a crowded offensive depth chart. Olszewski averaged 11.9 yards per punt return and 23.1 yards per kick return last season, a notable improvement over what Ray-Ray McCloud did for Pittsburgh last year (9.7/22.2) and he led the league in punt return yards in 2020. With a name like Gunner, he has to be one of the top special teams' options in the league and it will be a shock if he winds up with fewer than 700 total return yards.
Other returners unlikely to play a significant role on offense: Trent Taylor, Bengals; DeAndre Carter, Chargers; Kene Nwangwu, Vikings; DeeJay Dallas, Seahawks; Jaelon Darden, Buccaneers
NFL Teams with Open Kickoff or Punt Return Jobs
There is always a lot of turnover at both return spots from year to year, and below are a few of the teams that have open jobs where a young playmaker might be able to earn a spot on the roster.
With Jakeem Grant gone, the Bears have an opening for the primary punt returner. Additionally, any increase in role on offense may limit Khalil Herbert’s kick returns, so we may have a wide-open competition at both returner slots. Watch Herbert, but also keep an eye on rookies Velus Jones Jr. and Trestan Ebner. Both have explosiveness and talent in the return game and could win out. Dazz Newsome is still currently on the roster as well, but I’d consider him a long-shot for the job considering the fresher faces available. If Jones were to win out, that wide receiver depth chart is thin enough in Chicago to give him some interesting potential as a double-dip candidate.
8/31/22 Update: This looks like it's probably going to be Velus Jones (PR) and Khalil Herbert (KR).
The Browns mostly had Anthony Schwartz (KR) and Demetric Felton (PR) do the returning last year, although there was a bit of a committee approach on kicks. They added Jakeem Grant, and the experienced Donovan Peoples-Jones is still around as well. Look for an open competition between all four of the aforementioned names. If Felton or Peoples-Jones end up winning the job, they could also have roles on offense – especially Peoples-Jones. If Schwartz wins the job, he’s more likely to be a return specialist only. Grant is the roster-bubble guy to keep an eye on. If he makes the final cut, it’s likely for this capacity, whereas Schwartz is young and explosive enough to make the roster as a wide receiver, albeit low on the depth chart.
8/31/22 Update: This looks like it's probably going to be Demetric Felton for both spots.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders brought in two veteran returners in Darius Phillips and Ameer Abdullah this offseason, and anything is possible with these two. I could see them splitting the return work or I could see neither making the final roster. Hunter Renfrow and Kenyan Drake are still around and present fallback options if the Raiders get in a bind for roster spots, but I think at least one of Phillips and Abdullah will end up being the primary returner here. Abdullah has the potential to fill a pass-catching role on offense with Jalen Richard unsigned and Phillips has some IDP potential, though likely as a dime back at best. This is overall an unappealing returner situation, but if Abdullah and Phillips both get cut, Renfrow gets a small boast for his potential punt return work.
8/31/22 Update: This looks like it's probably going to be Hunter Renfrow again on PR and Ameer Abdullah on KR. I think Abdullah is a bargain, with some upside in the passing game as well.
New England Patriots
Now that Gunner Olszewski is in Pittsburgh, this is a wide-open job. Ball security is the premium trait Bill Belichick looks at in a return specialist, so whoever has the stickiest hands and makes the most conservative decisions in camp will likely stick around. My bet is on rookie cornerback Marcus Jones to win the job – see the IDP section below – but this one will probably come down to the wire. The Patriots are notorious for waiting until the last minute to publish final depth charts and fantasy managers will want to monitor them right up until opening kickoff.
8/31/22 Update: This looks like it's probably going to be the rookie Marcus Jones at PR, while Pierre Strong will likely return kicks, at least until Ty Montgomery is healthy.
New York Giants
The best-case scenario for fantasy managers is that Kadarius Toney wins this job, but there’s a lot to sort out on the Giants’ roster before we can say who will be the primary return specialist in New York this year. The Giants have been looking for a steady return option for years now. Defensive backs Adoree Jackson and Darnay Holmes both have experience and will be in play, but neither is a lock for the final roster. If C.J. Board makes the final roster it will likely be for this capacity, so keep an eye on his roster status as the offseason progresses.
8/31/22 Update: This looks like it's probably going to be Darius Slayton at both spots, but wouldn't surprise me if this changes.
Other teams with an open competition for return jobs: Vikings; Dolphins; Eagles; Commanders, Titans, Chiefs, Broncos
IDP Options: Defensive Players Who Return Kicks
If you play in an IDP league, there are always a few corners or safeties who bolster their stats with returns. While teams have sometimes suffered consequences of injuries using their top defenders in the return game, a few teams inevitably continue to expose significant starters to brutal hits on special teams. These players are especially worth noting in leagues that require a cornerback slot, as cornerbacks are often low fantasy producers, and return stats can help bolster their value.
Isaiah Rodgers, CB, Colts
Rodgers has been the primary kick returner for the Colts for two years in a row now, and he averaged an impressive 26.4 yards on 19 returns last season. He also had 49 combined tackles and three interceptions on defense, so he’s one of the few IDP options with a legit opportunity to thrive in both facets. The third-year cornerback out of Massachusetts had 501 return yards last season, and 704 the year before. Expect him to continue in his role under special teams coach Bubba Ventrone, who has run the Colts’ unit for the past four years.
Marcus Jones, CB, Patriots
Jones is a third-round rookie out of Houston, by way of Troy, who projects as an undersized nickel. But he mirrors well out of the slot when he’s not bullied by bigger receivers and he was an effective returner in college, scoring a total of nine touchdowns – six kicks and three punts – through four years in college. As I mentioned, the return job is wide open in New England, but if it’s Jones there’s some significant upside. The Patriots historically draft and coach up cornerbacks effectively, so taking a flyer on Jones in leagues with a designated cornerback slot might be worth the late-round or waiver-wire gamble.
Update 9/6/22: Jones is a good returner, but he's also looking awfully good on defense. He might get saved for defensive snaps. New England will likey try a few out before settling on whoever Belichick trusts not to fumble as the season progresses.
Other defensive backs to watch for: Brandon Wilson, Bengals; Darius Phillips, Raiders; Adoree Jackson, Giants; Desmond King, Texans; Derek Stingley, Texans