By: Scott “AKA Cockroach” Pineau
Football, as we all know, is a battle for territory – territory that once gained rewards players, franchises and fantasy owners all at the same time. Most standard leagues award 1 point for every 20-25 passing yards, and 1 point for every 10 yards rushing and receiving (sometimes with bonuses for accumulated yards or big yardage plays). So far so good. But why are there so few leagues that recognize the return game? Occasionally leagues will award 6 points per touchdown in the return game, but rarely ever yards. Why not? Yards gained by returners are every bit as important in real football as those gained in the passing and running game. Not to mention the fact that they require payers with some unique skills.
Perhaps the reluctance to include the entirety of the return game in fantasy leagues is owing
to its unpredictable nature. So many NFL teams do not have a single dedicated return man for
either punt or kick-off returns, but instead plug in ‘this or that capable guy’ according to situation (more so on punt returns). And let’s face it, Joshua Cribbs is without a doubt the only NFL player to be considered worth drafting purely for his value in the return game in leagues that award points for return yards. So what’s the big deal? What are leagues that stiff-arm the return game really missing out on?
For starters they’re missing out on 3.5 points per game from DeSean Jackson. Counting only his points as a receiver in 2009 Jackson picked up 72.25 yards from 3.87 receptions with just over a half a touchdown per game, all of which translates into 11.65 points per game (not counting bonuses) in standard PPR leagues. Not bad at all. But he also returned 29 punts for 441 yards and broke 2 to the house in the same season. That’s 3.5 points per game, instantly upgrading his performance to 15.15 points per game! Why aren’t Jackson owners cashing in on that?
The second thing they’re missing is the enjoyment of a more complete game. Fantasy football
is ever evolving, and this year’s evidence is the explosion of IDP, which I believe will only
grow. The only statistics that can naturally flow out of the special teams phase of reality football into the fantasy realm are found in the return game. What better way to play than with all three phases of the game present on the fantasy field?
Finally, in addition to the intriguing effects on player value (as in the case of DeSean Jackson),
consider the complexities return points would add to drafting strategies, and the serviceability
of the waiver wire. Be certain that wherever the return game has a heavy presence fantasy geeks will be kept up late at night, chasing down the pool of undrafted players that can get them some steady points on Sunday. Like this one guy who averaged123 return yards per game in ’09, to bolster his meager 20.37 yards from 2.68 receptions and .0625 touchdowns per contest. Add it all up and what do you get? 17.642 points per game. Yeah, ever think of starting Danny Amendola in the Flex?