SFB14: Return Yardage Scoring Impact

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SFB14: Return Yardage Scoring Impact

Two big rule changes this year — one from the NFL, one from Scott Fish — are going to make for a wild Scott Fish Bowl.

On June 7, Scott Fish announced the scoring for the 14th annual Scott Fish Bowl (SFB14), a contest that brings together thousands of people, including many in the fantasy football industry, to compete under unusual league rules while raising money for charity. After juicing kicker scoring last year to make them viable flex options, this year, he included generous scoring for returners to bring more special teamers into fantasy relevance.

Very generous scoring.

If you look at how the new SFB14 scoring would’ve applied to last year’s season, it shakes things up in interesting ways. Saints WR Rashid Shaheed would’ve been a low-end WR1, thanks to his production on punt returns and kickoff returns. Xavier Gipson and Marvin Mims would have been WR3s.

But kick returns in 2024 won’t be the same as in 2023. In a rule change of much wider interest, the NFL adopted a variant of the XFL kickoff format, which should drastically increase how often kickoffs are returned rather than ending in touchbacks.

SFB14 scoring, applied to the 2023 NFL special teams environment, shakes things up. SFB14 scoring, applied to a league full of kickoff returns, makes things totally wild.

Let’s go back to 2010, the end of an era for NFL kick returns. In 2011, the NFL moved the kickoff to the 35-yard line, beginning a series of rule changes that cut the number of kickoff returns per team per game from 4.0 (2010) to 2.7 (2011) and eventually down to 1.1 (2023).

NFL 2010 Fantasy Leaderboard, SFB14 Scoring

Who were the top 20 players in fantasy points in 2010, using SFB14 scoring?

I calculated fantasy points from PFR data, while leaving out 2-point conversions, field goals, and extra points. Numbers might not exactly match the official SFB14 scoring. ST% reflects the proportion of fantasy points that particular player earned from special teams.

RankPlayerPosFptsST%
1Danny AmendolaWR518.5561%
2Arian FosterRB497.750%
3Darren SprolesRB433.866%
4Percy HarvinWR426.146%
5Jacoby FordWR41170%
6Leon WashingtonRB410.6591%
7Jason WittenTE395.70%
8Marc MarianiWR391.8100%
9Stefan LoganRB387.7596%
10LaRod Stephens-HowlingRB378.2587%
11Peyton HillisRB376.660%
12Brad SmithWR372.8282%
13Adrian PetersonRB368.150%
14Jamaal CharlesRB363.50%
15Mike GoodsonRB362.7557%
16Chris JohnsonRB360.90%
17Ray RiceRB356.850%
18Devin HesterWR355.4564%
19Michael VickQB346.460%
20Roddy WhiteWR345.950%

Danny Amendola was the highest-scoring player.

Arian Foster, in his career year, managed to finish second without any special teams production.

Then, more kick returners.

Eleven of the top 20 players, and 8 of the top 10, were their team’s primary returners. All but 1 of those 11 returners (Percy Harvin) got more than half their fantasy points on returns, and all but 1 (Devin Hester) had more kickoff return points than punt return points. The top pure wide receiver, Roddy White, finished as WR6 and 20th overall. The top pure return man, Marc Mariani, finished 8th overall.

Here’s another fun one, though not from 2010: Steve Smith’s highest scoring season, by SFB14 points per game, was his rookie 2001 season when he was an All-Pro returner. In 15 games that year, he had 56 kick returns for 1431 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 364 punt return yards and 197 yards from scrimmage.

The NFL’s 2024 kickoff rules are different than the pre-2011 kickoff rules, so this isn’t a perfect guide to what we’ll see in this year’s Scott Fish Bowl, but it is a much closer guide than the touchback-filled 2023 season.

XFL 2023 Fantasy Leaderboard, SFB14 Scoring

So let’s look at, potentially, a closer analog. The 2023 XFL season, which used kickoff rules that are more similar to the NFL’s 2024 rules, had a fantasy leaderboard similar to the 2010 NFL season under SFB14 scoring (though with more high-scoring quarterbacks).

Calculated from The Football Database, leaving out field goals and post-touchdown conversions.

RankPlayerPosFptsST%
1Darrius ShepherdWR32955%
2Ben DiNucciQB2430%
3A.J. McCarronQB2130%
4Kelvin McKnightWR20695%
5Fred BrownWR20274%
6Jordan Ta'amuQB1950%
7Abram SmithRB1950%
8Cinque SweetingWR18157%
9Dejoun LeeRB17081%
10Jahcour PearsonWR1692%

Kick returners took 5 of the top 10 spots in fantasy scoring. Four of the eight XFL teams had a workhorse KR who accounted for over 70% of their team’s kickoff returns, and all four made the top 10 list: Darrius Shepherd, Kelvin McKnight, Fred Brown, and Dejoun Lee. The other four XFL teams had kick return committees with no single player reaching 50% of their team’s returns, but still managed to place 1 KR/WR (Cinque Sweeting) in the overall fantasy top 10.

Applying the New Rules to SFB 14

What will drafts look like in a league where Kene Nwangwu and Velus Jones could easily outscore Bijan Robinson and Ja’Marr Chase? If most of the managers in a league aren’t wise to the format, an ideal draft could involve taking a few top quarterbacks and tight ends early, and then filling your roster with guys like Xavier Gipson, Nyheim Hines, and Devin Duvernay. With the flex-heavy lineup requirements, you could start 1 quarterback, 1 tight end, and 9 kick returners each week.

If most SFB14 drafters are prepared to face this scoring system, then we could see Rashid Shaheed or Marvin Mims in contention for the 1.01… presuming those guys will continue to return kicks, of course.

In the Wild West, which was created by the NFL’s new rule, fantasy experts will turn their attention to kick returner depth charts. Who will be this year’s Danny Amendola or Marc Mariani? Which teams will rely on just one kickoff returner, and which will use a committee? How likely are rookies like Dylan Laube and Anthony Gould to earn a starting job as kick returner? Is Mike McDaniel right to think that we’ll increasingly see teams put their top RB or WR back there on kickoffs in big spots, and which ones will they be?

The SFB14 community should realize that this is the year of the kick returner. And battles that were so often ignored in training camp and the preseason should become a priority for fantasy drafters in leagues in which return yards are premium.

Daniel got into football analytics when Football Outsiders launched in 2003, and has played and analyzed a variety of dynasty, DFS, best ball, and redraft formats. He likes to understand the gaps between what we can measure and what we care about and to create things that ought to exist.

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