July 23, 2024

Kickoffs Matter — Players To Draft in SFB14

10 min read
SFB14 scoring is official now. The biggest news is that Kickoffs matter. With the high scoring for those players, who should we be targeting in our draft a littel ahead of their current redraft ADP

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With the scoring for Scott Fish Bowl 14 finally being announced, we can dig into the numbers and start projecting who should be targets in your drafts. One of the biggest changes this year is that kickoffs matter! Scott Fish has made it one point for every five yards (.02 per yard) and ten, yes TEN points for a kickoff return touchdown.

Maybe you haven’t heard, but the NFL has changed how kickoffs will work this year. The kicker will still kick from the 35-yard line, but the rest of the kicking team will line up at the opposite 40-yard line.

The receiving team will lineup at least nine players at the 35-yard line, only five yards from the kicking team. Neither team can move until the ball either touches the ground or a player.

What this creates is a play that lacks the levels of defenders that we have seen before. The XFL has had this style of kickoff and it has produced a 97% percent return rate compared to the NFL’s 22%.

With more kickoffs being returned SFB14 has made it matter for its scoring. So which players might have an added boon to them with this added wrinkle? Let’s highlight eight players who might be worth getting ahead of ADP this season.

Let’s first talk about what to expect with kickoffs. The average last season was five per game. If the NFL has anywhere close to the XFL numbers, we can expect a team to return four of them per game.

With two possible returners back to field the kick, on average we could see two kick returns per player per game. If they get the ball on the five-yard line, they would have 30 yards of space until they meet contact.

Even if we lower it to 20 yards, that would be four points per kickoff, eight points per game for the returners. That’s equal to four receptions for 40 yards.

 

Kickoffs Matter — Players To Draft in SFB14

Rashid Shaheed, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints

 

The New Orleans Saints have struggled the past few years, but one of the bright spots on the team has been the receiver room. Star Chris Olave on board to replace Michael Thomas has allowed Rashid Shaheed to step into the number two role.

Shaheed finished with 46 receptions last year compiling 719 yards and 4 touchdowns. He finished the season as WR44, but is currently being drafted as wide receiver 57. Considering the Saints didn’t add a receiver until the selected Bub Means in the fifth round, there are plenty of reasons to believe Shaheed can take a step forward in his progression in his third season.

When you look at his kickoff return numbers, Shaheed returned 18 kicks for 384 yards. He didn’t have a touchdown, but not many people did. Shaheed can be electric with the ball. He had 151 yards after the catch and a juke rating (according to PlayerProfiler.com) of 5.7%, averaging 3.2 yards after the catch per reception.

It’s a worrisome stat for Shaheed’s potential kickoff return value. He is probably the highest-drafted player who gets a bump in SFB14 scoring. Currently going in the 13th round of standard redraft leagues, I expect to see Shaheed go closer to the 10th in your SFB14 draft.

The question will be if he continues to see work in the kickoff game. With it allowing for more returns ,that means a higher possibility of more injuries so the Saints could elect to put another player back there.

 

Greg Dortch, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals

 

When looking at the total number of returns last year, Greg Dortch ranks towards the top with 17. It’s not a massive number, but the league leader only had 30, and only one other player topped 20.

While I feel iffy about Shaheed’s role as the kick returner this year, I’m pretty confident that Dortch keeps his. The Cardinals spent the offseason adding Marvin Harrison Jr and Zay Jones.

While it might cap Dortch’s upside in terms of offensive snaps, it means he should maintain the kick return role. His yards after the catch are similar to Shaheed’s at 152, which averages 6.3 per catch, but Shaheed’s juke rating jumps up to 24%.

There is hope that we see end-of-season Greg Dortch vs early season. Meaning, the last 10 games, with Kyler Murray where Dortch saw a big increase in snaps and targets once Hollywood Brown got injured.

Dortch might lack the stand-alone value of Shaheed, but his kickoff return numbers make him interesting. Currently going undrafted in standard redraft leagues as the WR101, Shaheed should be a popular late-round pick in SFB14 mocks and drafts.

 

Louis Rees-Zammit, Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs

 

You might not know the name, but you should. Louis Rees-Zammit is a 23-year-old rugby player who signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs after going through the International Player Program (IPP) this offseason.

Rees-Zammit is making the switch to football after a successful rugby career. Despite never playing the game, he has two things that make him interesting, two things you can’t teach — speed and vision.

The Chiefs have even discussed having him actually kick off because it would keep kicker Harrison Butker off the field and out of harm’s way. The new kickoff rule, with the teams lining up five yards apart, turns it into a rugby-style play.

Getting past the wall of defenders will require two things — vision to see the holes and speed to hit them quickly. Two things that Rees-Zammit excels at. If you watch his highlight reel, you will see what he can do, making quick cuts and getting through a line of defenders.

I expect Rees-Zammit to be one of the primary return men for the Chiefs this season, and his skills can also be used on offense. With Jerick McKinnon no longer on the team, we could see Rees-Zammit get all, if not more, of the 53 opportunities McKinnon saw last year.

While still raw in his football experience, I’m expecting big things for the former Welsh rugby player in 2024, especially in SFB14.

 

Marvin Mims, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos

 

Listen, I have never been fond of Marvin Mims. I think he is a below-average NFL wide receiver, but one who excelled in kickoff returns. Mims brought back 15 kicks last season for 397 yards and was one of four players to have a return touchdown last year.

Will Mims keep that role heading into 2024? I believe he should. Even with Jerry Jeudy being traded to the Cleveland Browns, there are questions about who has the main roles in the Mile High City.

Courtland Sutton will be the main guy. Can Mims beat out rookie Troy Franklin, who has a connection with rookie QB Bo Nix and veteran Tim Patrick? I’m not sure Mims can.

Mims has more return yards than receiving yards (397 compared to 377) and wasn’t overly involved in the offense as a whole. Greg Dulcich is coming back after injury, which means even fewer targets for Mims to possibly get.

Dulcich is a speedster who ran a 4.38 40 at last year’s combine but only averaged seven yards after the catch. That’s better than both Shaheed and Dortch.

Mims’ ability to make defenders miss and gain extra yards will play a big part in his racking up those extra points in SFB14. Currently going undrafted as the WR108, he should end up being a last-two-round player for the savvy SFB14 player.

 

Antonio Gibson, Running Back, New England Patriots

 

Remember last offseason when people were laughing about Antonio Gibson not only being put on kickoff returns but seemingly asking for it? Well, that produced 14 returns for 340 yards. It was the most amazing stats, but it still showed he has the ability to be a solid return man.

Gibson will now suit up for the Patriots and possibly take over their return duties. With last year’s return man Ty Montgomery no longer on the team, it should be Gibson’s role to lose. The new kickoff could set up more like a running play where the returner has to spot the holes and make quick decisions. It’s a skill Gibson possesses.

Gibson ranked 12th in juke rate last season at 23%. He was also 17th in yards after contact last season among running backs. Gibson had 26 evaded tackles last year, which ranked him only 42, but given that he only had 124 total touches, it’s a good rate.

Gibson is currently being drafted in the 15th round as the RB48. I expect him to move up in SFB14 drafts. Gibson should inherit the role Ezekiel Elliot had last season. A role that saw him get 249 total touches. Look for him to be a weekly player with the SFB14 scoring

 

Devin Duvernay, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars

 

One of the more exciting players in kickoff returns over the past two seasons has been Devin Duverany. The question across most of these players is role. Will they or won’t they be the return man for their team? We have seen Duvernay hold that role for the Ravens over the past four seasons, and now he gets the opportunity for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Duvernay was an under-reported signing for the Jags, who also brought in Gabe Davis and then drafted Brian Thomas Jr. With both of those players now in Duval, Duverany looks locked into the returner role. Having over 70 kickoff returns in his four years of NFL experience, he is the perfect combination of experience, speed, and youth.

Duvernay only managed to return nine kicks last year for 174 yards, but he also missed a handful of games later in the season. Despite the low average yards per return last year, his previous season was all above 20 yards per return. Those sorts of numbers mean an extra four points per return.

If Duvernay returns just two kicks per game, that would make him an easy flex play every week. Currently not even listing an ADP he could be a steal. His role on the offense is very much in question. He is buried on the depth chart, but his kickoff returns alone make him valuable.

 

Tyjae Spears, Running Back, Tennessee Titans

 

There was little talk last season or this off-season about the fact that Tyjae Spears returned 13 kicks for 270 yards, averaging 20 yards per return. The Titans used him in that role while he was Derrick Henry’s backup.

This year, Henry is gone, but the Titans brought in Tony Pollard. It’s a hit to Spears’ offensive production probability, but it should keep him in the mix as one of the return men on kickoffs. The offense added more pieces in Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd, which could push someone like Kyle Phillips or Treylon Burks into the return man role, but Spears also projects to be in the mix.

Spears had a juke rate of 26.3% last year, fourth best among running backs. He also had 124 yards after contact last year, which is only 1.2 yards per carry, less the inspiring numbers from yards perspective. Spears was a rookie last season, so there is hope he continues to develop and can become better and more efficient.

Spears finished the season with 100 carries and 70 targets, finishing the season as RB34. Splitting time with Pollard should afford him more opportunities than splitting time with Henry.

Spears is currently sitting at RB32 in redraft ADP and being taken as the 100th player off the board. He should jump up a few rounds if he continues to get kickoff work. Spears might end up being the zero RB darling in SFB14 drafts.

 

Isaac Guerendo, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers

 

The 49ers are a team built with a ton of talent, and we’ve seen them utilize players in different roles. How could you not with guys like Christian McCaffery and Deebo Samuel? San Francisco now has another piece in rookie Issac Guerendo.

Guerendo is a good mix of size and speed. At the Combine, he ran a 4.33 forty-yard dash, which is remarkable, considering he is 6’0” and 220 lbs. Guerendo averaged 23.9 and 19.2 yards per return in his last two college years. He can now step into the role that Ray-Ray McCloud had last season.

Guerendo was a talented player in college, playing three years at Wisconsin and then transferring to Louisville. In his final college season, he averaged 4.24 yards after contact. It’s a number that bodes well for him, as he can shed would-be tacklers.

Once Guerendo gets past the initial wave, he can use his straight-line speed to take it to the house. Currently going undrafted due to his limited role in the offense, he looks to impress the coaches on special teams and could see an increased role later in the season.

 

Honorable Mention

Xavier Legette, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers

A rookie who could start on special teams.

Xavier Gipson, Wide Receiver, New York Jets

It’s hard to not want the guy who had the most returns last season and is looking to take it to the house each time.


Thank you for reading my Players to Draft in SFB14 article! You can fin more of my work here.

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