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Most Dangerous Options For The New NFL Kickoff Rules


Last week, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel brought up the possibility that No. 1 running backs and wide receivers could be “raising their hands” to return kicks based on the new rules. I already had a star running back in mind that could be a weapon on returns based on the changes, and he leads the top potential options for the updated kickoff.

 

Kenneth Walker III

Walker almost turns runs into kick returns at times with the way he can reverse field and make something out of nothing, so his willingness to hunt for a chunk gain makes him a natural fit to return kicks. It’s easy to imagine Walker consistently ripping off huge returns if just one player loses lane integrity, and he and others in this article being used on kickoffs could quickly result in teams deciding to simply go for touchbacks all the time.

 

Tyreek Hill

If you polled the league or fans, Hill would probably be the choice as the most dangerous option on returns—and it’s certainly tough to argue against with four punt return touchdowns and a kick return touchdown across his first three seasons as a returner. Miami has no shortage of candidates to be used with Hill, De’Von Achane, Raheem Mostert, Jaylen Waddle, and Jaylen Wright.

 

Saquon Barkley

The risk of injury kept Barkley from any return opportunities with the Giants, but he showed he do it at a high level in college—scoring twice on just 15 kick returns in his final season with the Nittany Lions. Philadelphia has other strong options in Parris Campbell and rookie Ainias Smith, but Barkley is a rare weapon that could get used as a returner in key spots.

 

Marvin Mims Jr.

Mims already proved himself as a top kick returner by being named a Second-Team All-Pro as a rookie, and an increased offensive role in Year 2 shouldn’t prevent him from opportunities to flip the field on special teams. The combination of speed, acceleration, and stop-start ability for Mims gives Denver a big advantage in the return game.

 

Tony Pollard

Israel Abanikanda with the Jets is another running back to mention as someone we compared to former Giants standout David Wilson (a deadly returner before a neck injury ended his career), but for a household name, Pollard showed he’s extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands—most notably in 2021 when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 28.8 yards per kick return. Tennessee having a split backfield with Pollard and Tyjae Spears could make them more likely to use the former Cowboy as a returner to get the ball in his hands.