Week 1 Fantasy Football Return League Rankings

Packers KR Randall Cobb

Oct 14, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) returns a kick against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at Reliant Stadium. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Return leagues are the shady underworld of the fantasy football universe. So tricky, they can make the most seasoned fantasy player look like a novice. So unpredictable, they can make the most confident statistician throw his hands in the air.

There are only so many players that are helped by return league stats. Some become incredibly productive while others see their value increase ever so slightly. It’s a murky landscape to endure but we’ll try to make the most of it with the return league big board. All season, XN Sports will provide updated return league rankings to guide you through the precarious world of return leagues, adding players as they become relevant and subtracting as they stop contributing on special team. There’s just two things I’d like to note.

1. I don’t trust kick returners who become full-time players. You’ll notice that Randall Cobb, David Wilson, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders are highlighted in red. Although all four have fairly modest projections, most coaches aren’t comfortable putting full-time players in kick return jobs. These are the four I feel are most likely to disappoint in return leagues though I believe all four should have good seasons at their positions. I’m also not too certain about DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, and Jeremy Kerley but we’ll see how things go. At the same time, full-time players will keep themselves relevant with running and receiving stats so they don’t need a ton of return yards to get a nice boost.

2. We don’t have any 2013 stats so I’ve included projections until we have real stats to look at. Some leagues make returning a big part of the scoring at 10 yards per point while other leagues mitigate the impact somewhat but keep returners relevant with 25 yards per point. I’ve also separated the projections to account for the large differences in return league scoring. I’ve used the Yahoo scoring and projections because that’s what most people seem to play but the rankings aren’t based on them.

Rank Player

2012 RET
Yards

2012 RET
TD

2013
RET Yards*

2012 FPS
25**

2012
FPS
10**

Proj FPS
25*

Proj
FPS
10*

Notes

1 Randall Cobb

1256

1

1216

210

282

213

275

I’m concerned that Cobb’s full-time role will lead coaches to decrease his returns but if he continues to bring the ball back he should be a return league juggernaut.

2 Darren Sproles

666

0

1108

168

262

205

272

Yahoo projects a huge spike in return yards and while I’m not comfortable expecting that large an increase, Sproles remains a return league must-own.

3 David Wilson

1533

1

560

105

197

214

248

With Andre Brown out, Wilson is more or less a full-time back so I’m worried about the amount of returns. Still, his projected 560 yards isn’t that much but would give him a big value boost in return leagues.

4 Jacoby Jones

1508

3

1387

126

217

162

245

He’ll be a full-time number two receiver but if he can come close to the numbers he put up returning last season, he can be a return league monster.

5 Tavon Austin

-

-

1201

-

-

154

226

Yahoo is liberal with their Austin projections but if he can put up 1000+ return yards on top of a promising season he’ll be much more valuable in return leagues than standard leagues.

6 Dexter McCluster

452

1

1238

54

81

130

204

McCluster can make up for his lack of standard production as the full-time kick and punt returner for the Chiefs. But, if you’re not in a one point per 10 return yards league or a particularly deep one, he’s probably not worth owning.

7 Antonio Brown

183

0

340

112

132

160

180

With Mike Wallace gone, I doubt Brown will get many return yards but the projected 340 isn’t a huge amount and it could give him a nice boost in contrast to standard leagues.

8 Emmanuel Sanders

120

0

646

69

76

145

184

Like Brown, Sanders moves up a spot on the depth chart and with other experienced kick returners on the roster I worry Sanders won’t get enough touches to get 650 yards. Stay tuned.

9 DeSean Jackson

-3

0

231

81

81

152

166

I think DeSean should have a much better season in 2013 and if he can get 230 yards as a punt returner, he’ll look even better than in standard leagues.

10 Cordarelle Patterson

-

-

1010

-

-

111

172

It’s tough to project rookie receivers but a strong kick return game can make Patterson very relevant in return leagues. Wait and see how the Vikings return picture shapes out.

11 Jacquizz Rodgers

592

0

998

112

147

110

170

I like Rodgers to put up a better offensive game but if he can improve on his return game as well he’ll be a force to reckon with. I don’t trust Steven Jackson in Atlanta and I like Rodgers as a massive sleeper in return leagues.

12 Marcus Thigpen

1356

2

1521

92

174

72

168

He won’t do much on offense but if your league scores a point per 10 return yards, he’s hard to bet against.

13 Jeremy Kerley

208

1

307

106

119

137

156

I think Kerley is one of the more underrated receivers, regardless how ugly the QB picture may be. He’s an iffy pick in most leagues but could be propelled much higher in a part-time returning role in return leagues.

14 Trindon Holliday

1033

2

1513

53

115

79

159

Like Thigpen, he won’t do much on offense but is capable of producing enough return yards to stay very relevant.

15 T.Y. Hilton

418

1

354

153

178

129

143

I think Hilton has a big year as a receiver but if he can come close to last season’s return totals he will be considerably better in return leagues.

16 Ted Ginn Jr.

579

0

1362

22

58

97

163

If he can touch the numbers that Yahoo has him at, he’ll be a regular starter in return leagues. I think he may surprise some people in the passing game as well.

17 Eddie Royal

64

0

1024

34

38

110

163

A pure returner, I don’t trust Royal enough to have him on my team but I realize his potential as a returner. He’s one to watch.

18 Rueben Randle

108

0

229

59

66

121

135

Many are calling for a Randle breakout season and while I’m not sold, 230 return yards would add 23 points to his totals in 10 yard leagues.

19 Golden Tate

0

0

157

116

116

121

131

I don’t typically like punt returners in return leagues but Tate has the potential to shine in Pete Carroll’s offense and an extra 16 points can make a significant difference.

*- Based on Yahoo Projections

**- Based on Yahoo standard scoring plus points per return yards.

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Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and Manwall.com.
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