Fantasy University: Return Yardage Guide

FullTime Fantasy Sports provides a basic guide on the considerations necessary when playing in a league that includes scoring for punt and kick return yardage.


The majority of fantasy leagues do not include return yardage points in their scoring system, whether it be for a team or individual player. If you are in a league that does reward points for return yardage, you need to understand how to use the system. In this article, we will be going over a few tips to help you exploit your league’s scoring system and take full advantage of its point system. Return yardage does not usually play a major role in winning fantasy matchups. Nevertheless, it can make a difference. You always want every point and every advantage you can get. Just one seemingly insignificant point can be the difference between a win and a loss.

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Rule 1: Kick Returns are More Valuable than Punt Returns

Despite the new kick return rules, which lead to a bevy of touchbacks, even the worst kick returners gain more yards than the best punt returners. In 2013, the worst teams at returning kicks, the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals, averaged 20 yards per return. Meanwhile, the best team at returning punts, the Minnesota Vikings, averaged only 15.2 yards per return. If you are receiving points for a player’s return yards, make sure you target someone who returns kicks. If you are in a team return yardage league, target teams you believe will have a high total of kick returns.

Rule 2: Target Players that Do More than Just Return Kicks and Punts

Do not target players who only return kicks and punts. Use return yardage as a bonus for individual players who are involved in the passing or rushing attack as well. Return points alone do not have enough value to justify starting a return man or even wasting a roster spot on one. There are usually a handful of star or at least solid WRs and RBs who handle return duties.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Rule 3: Bad Defenses Lead to More Kick Return Opportunities

If a team has a terrible defense, chances are they will do pretty well when it comes to total kick return yardage. The more scores a team gives up, the more chances it gets to return kicks. Because of this, it is best if you target returners on teams that will be giving up a lot of points. This can get tricky if your league combines special teams scoring with defensive scoring. In cases like these, you will have to closely study your scoring system and weigh your options. In some but not all scoring systems, the return yards may be worth the risk of starting a shaky defense.

Rule 4: Good Defenses Lead to More Punt Return Opportunities

This is the counter to the previous rule. If a team has an excellent defense, the opposing offense will be punting quite often. This is a good thing only if you have an individual player who returns punts. If you have a team getting return yardage points, you would prefer fewer punt returns and more kick returns. If you do happen to target one of those stars who moonlights as a punt returner, this rule could be invaluable to remember if you’re torn between two players. This could drastically improve a player’s overall value depending on the scoring system.

Rule 5: Keep Track of Your Return Men

It is important to keep track of who is returning kicks for each team when targeting a special teams unit or return man. Often times when a returner becomes a major contributor on offense, they are pulled off returns to preserve their health. If they become too valuable, teams will not risk losing them on special teams. Returners also quietly switch teams in the offseason. While it doesn’t garner all that much media attention, it can have a major fantasy impact in leagues that award receive return yardage points.

Rule 6: Do Not Overvalue Return Yardage

Do not try to be too clever and outthink yourself when targeting a player who gets return yards. In all probability, you will not be receiving enough points from return yards for it to make a major impact. Do not pass on a much better offensive player because you want to be slick and pick up a guy who will score a few extra points by returning punts. Take return yardage into consideration only if you are torn between two equal fantasy commodities. The last thing you want to do is pass up on a great skill-position player for a mediocre offensive player who does the bulk of his work as a returner. Such a move could prove to be disastrous.

Rule 7: Understand Your Scoring System

If you are customizing your league’s scoring system to incorporate return yardage, it can be a very tricky task. Since very few leagues reward points for return yardage, coming up with a feasible points system can prove to be surprisingly difficult. On one hand, adding return yardage may be an interesting wrinkle, but you do not want the return yardage to have too big of an effect on the value of a player or team.

On the other hand, you don’t want the points to be so low that the return yardage is all but irrelevant. If you want your return yardage to have more relevancy, set your system to one point for every 25 yards. This is similar to the setting for quarterback passing yardage, but it is very rare for a return man to put up yards like a QB. If you want return yardage to play a very minor role in your scoring system, you can set it to one point for every 50 yards. You can also meet anywhere in the middle or even incorporate fractional points if you want to be increasingly meticulous.

Be advised not to get too cute with your return yards. You could really be playing with fire, especially since it is already a questionable statistic. The last thing you want is for your league’s owners to become frustrated by the scoring system and for your league to lose credibility. Keep it simple and enjoy an interesting scoring twist responsibly.

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