There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the return game in the NFL, and those almost always translate over to fantasy football, where some owners are just crazy enough to incorporate return yardage into their fantasy scoring. If you happen to be one of those nuts, we will be here all season long updating the return rankings on a weekly basis.
Here is our first sneak peek at the projected return men of 2013 for all 32 NFL teams. In the case of guys like Randall and Percy, there is a chance that their teams decide to have other options return kicks, so they can work on their return game.
If you have any information to contribute to this article, please post your comments below, AND leave a link to the info. This must come from a credible source before we will make any changes to our rankings. The majority of our information comes from NFL.com team depth charts, ourlads.com, and sbnation blogs.
Notes about the rankings:
If you see ???? next to a player’s name, that means their position is up in the air.
KR/PR column = Is the player returning kickoffs, punts, or both
Team role = What position the player occupies on the roster, and how far down they are on the depth chart
2013 Kick Return/ Punt Return Rankings
|1||Percy Harvin????||SEA||KR/PR||WR (1)|
|2||Randall Cobb????||GB||KR/PR||WR (1/2)|
|3||Darren Sproles||NO||PR||RB (2)|
|4||T.Y. Hilton||IND||PR||WR (3)|
|5||Jacoby Jones||BAL||KR/PR||WR (2)|
|6||Jacquizz Rodgers||ATL||KR||RB (2)|
|7||Rueben Randle????||NYG||KR/PR||WR (3)|
|8||Chris Givens||STL||KR||WR (3)|
|9||Leodis McKelvin||BUF||KR/PR||CB (DEF)|
|10||Marcus Thigpen||MIA||KR/PR||RB (4)|
|11||Marcus Sherels||MIN||KR/PR||CB (DEF)|
|12||Trindon Holliday||DEN||KR/PR||WR (5/6)|
|13||Josh Cribbs||OAK||KR/PR||WR (5/6)|
|14||Jeremy Kerley||NYJ||PR||WR (3)|
|15||Devin Hester||CHI||KR/PR||ST ONLY|
|16||LaRod Stephens-Howling????||PIT||KR/PR||RB (3)|
|17||Kevin Ogletree????||TB||KR/PR||WR (3/4)|
|18||Johnson Bademosi????||CLE||KR/PR||FS (DEF)|
|19||Marc Mariani||TEN||KR/PR||WR (8/9)|
|20||Shaun Draughn????||KC||KR/PR||RB (3)|
|21||Keshawn Martin||HOU||KR/PR||WR (5/6)|
|22||Mike Thomas????||DET||KR/PR||WR (4)|
|23||Niles Paul????||WAS||KR/PR||TE (4)|
|24||Devin McCourty||NE||KR||FS (DEF)|
|25||Denard Robinson||JAC||KR||RB (3)|
|26||LaMichael James||SF||KR||RB (3)|
|27||Brandon Boykin||PHI||KR||CB (DEF)|
|28||Cassius Vaughn||IND||KR||CB (DEF)|
|29||Ted Ginn Jr.||CAR||KR||WR (4)|
|30||Richard Goodman||SD||KR||WR (10)|
|31||Joe McKnight||NYJ||KR||RB (4)|
|32||Brandon Tate||CIN||KR||WR (5/6)|
|33||Lance Dunbar||DAL||KR||RB (4)|
|34||Travaris Cadet||NO||KR||RB (4)|
|35||William Powell||ARI||KR||RB (5)|
|36||Patrick Peterson||ARI||PR||CB (DEF)|
|37||Adam Jones||CIN||PR||CB (DEF)|
|38||Dominique Franks||ATL||PR||CB (DEF)|
|39||Eddie Royal||SD||PR||WR (6)|
|40||Ace Sanders||JAC||PR||WR (5/6)|
|41||Dwayne Harris||DAL||PR||WR (3/4)|
|42||Damaris Johnson||PHI||PR||WR (7/8)|
|43||Joe Adams||CAR||PR||WR (8)|
|44||Austin Pettis||STL||PR||WR (4)|
|45||Kyle Williams||SF||PR||WR (5/6)|
|46||Leon Washington||NE||PR||RB (5)|
Return Men Team by Team Breakdown
The Bills figure to stick with Leodis McKelvin who handled return duties in 2012. As one of the few defensive position players handling both kicks and punts he has added value.
Marcus Thigpen is another player expected to return to his role from 2012. One of the few players who scored a TD both on kickoff and return
New England Patriots
Projections suggest the Patriots will split their returns between Devin McCourty on kickoffs and Leon Washington on punts. This is an important note, as Leon Washington had quite a bit of value in years past as the KR/PR for the Seahawks, but seeing only punts lowers his value significantly.
New York Jets
WR Jeremy Kerley has a little bit of additional value in return yardage leagues thanks to his PR duty, but when your QB is named Mark Sanchez you aren’t highly targeted on draft day.
Jacoby Jones was one of the more electric return men in 2012, and with the current state of affairs for the Ravens wide receivers it looks like Jones should be a fixture atop the return yardage rankings this season.
Lots of question marks in Pittsburgh over the return game. Current speculation is LSH was brought in from Arizona to handle return duties, but this one likely won’t sort itself out until the preseason games begin.
Pacman “Adam” Jones is a defensive player of note in the return game (If your league uses IDP), Brandon Tate is strictly a kick returner as he is buried on the depth chart at WR.
The Browns lost Joshua Cribbs to the Raiders, and no one has been announced yet as the replacement. Several notable publications have mentioned Johnson Bademosi (Free Safety) as the potential KR/PR, so he is the guy we have listed, but it is no better than an educated guess.
Keshawn Martin may or may not handle both KR and PR duties this season, but with Trindon Holliday leaving last year for Denver, it looks like Martin should be the guy.
Many readers may wonder why we have T.Y. Hilton ranked higher than Jones, and that will mostly be due to his contributions on the offensive side of the ball. We have Hilton as a top 25 WR this season, and if he produces as expected, the punt return yardage will be a nice added bonus.
Marc Mariani is a dual threat, as in he returns both kickoffs and punts. Other than that, don’t expect contributions on the offensive side.
Much like everything else in Jacksonville, the special teams are a mess. Speculation has Denard Robinson handling kicks and Ace Sanders from South Carolina handling punts. Denard is an intriguing pickup in deep leagues, as he could see time in wildcat formations.
Trindon Holliday is the man here for the Broncos. While he won’t see much (if any) time on offense, the return yardage is enough to make him a top 12 option in these rankings.
The Raiders won the Joshua Cribbs lottery this offseason, and if his concussion issues don’t creep up he should be a solid top 15 return man. He is unlikely to feature at WR, thus his ranking outside the top 10.
San Diego Chargers
Not much to see in the Chargers ranks. Richard Goodman is a solid kick returner, but currently ranks 10th on the depth chart at WR. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Goodman is cut before the team gets down to 53 players with the change in management.. stay tuned.
Kansas City Chiefs
No announcements out of the Cheifs organization. Top 2 men competing for return duties appear to be Dexter McCluster and Shaun Draughn, but Knile Davis is also in the running. When we learn more the ranks will be updated.
The one thing everyone wants to know about the Cowboys revolves around Dez Bryant, and he is currently listed as 2nd in punt return duties. If Dwayne Harris goes down, that will obviously excite the Bryant owners, but he will be taken on draft day regardless of his involvement in the return game.
Boykin sees enough action on kicks to be valuable in IDP(Defensive) leagues. Be sure to note the difference between the IDP players who takes kickoffs and punts.
This is one of the more interesting rumors on the list, as backup TE (who may be transitioning to fullback) Niles Paul is a speculative return man. Nothing is decided yet in our nation’s capital, so check back.
New York Giants
Rueben Randle is already one of our favorite sleepers, and if he does end up winning return duties over David Wilson (RB) it will only increase his value in ST leagues.
Devin Hester is hanging onto his job by his fingernails. He has been effectively eliminated from the new Bears offense, and at 31 years old his declining skills make him one of the most eligible players to be cut. Don’t jump too early on Hester if you are drafting this summer.
Green Bay Packers
Not entirely sure that Randall Cobb will handle the return game, as the Packers look for him to become an elite receiver in the NFL. The Packers have said someone would have to step up to unseat Cobb, so keep an eye turned towards Green Bay as Cobb is obviously one of the must haves in return yardage leagues this fall if he is returning kicks.
If you want one of the top defensive returners in 2013, you will want to grab either Leodis McKelvin (BUF) or Marcus Sherels (MIN). Sherels should once again handle both kickoffs and punts this year for the Vikes.
Lots of options and few answers in 2013 for the Lions in the return game. Mike Thomas is one of the top options, so we have him listed as the de facto return man until more information is available.
Rodgers should obviously see his share of carries/receptions in the Falcons offense behind Steven Jackson. Thus his high ranking as one of the top return men to own in 2013.
New Orleans Saints
Sproles will probably be happy to have his coach back as he had a terrific 2011, followed by an average 2012. Hopefully he gets back to those 2011 numbers with Payton and co.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yet another team with no clear return man. Kevin Ogletree (formerly of the Cowboys) looks like one of the better options, so we have him listed here.
Ted Ginn Jr. wants to prove he is more than just a kick returner, but it doesn’t look like he will get the opportunity in Carolina. Joe Adams may not win the PR job thanks to his fumbling tendencies, and he should be considered a non-factor even for those owners who decided to read this far.
Patrick Peterson is one of the best punt returners in the game, but he should only be targeted in IDP leagues. William Powell will have a chance to carry the ball this year if the O-line allows as many injuries in 2013 as they did in 2012.
San Francisco 49ers
Yes, that is THE LaMichael James listed on kick return duties for the 49ers. He should see a few carries per game for San Fran, and has an outside chance at cracking the top 15 in return leagues.
With no Leon Washington in town, it looks like Percy Harvin may be called on to fill the same role that he saw with the Vikings. The Seahawks have yet to announce the return man, but owners should be salivating over the thought that Harvin will be the return man in the great northwest.
St. Louis Rams
Chris Givens will see quite a bit of action on the offensive side of the ball, meaning he should be one of the best sleeper picks on draft day this season.