Offense and defense dominate NFL headlines these days. The guys who don’t get much recognition are the special teamers. Return men are some of the fastest and best visioned athletes on the field. With the NFL perpetually changing around new special teams rules, players continue to work around these rules to provide some huge value to their respective teams as returners.
Top 10 NFL Punt Returners
10. Dwayne Harris
Dwayne Harris was given a decent-sized contract by the Giants solely as a special teamer. He has not only served as an outstanding return man, but he has also made a phenomenal gunner. Over his six-year career, he averages 10 yards per return, and has taken three punts to the house.
9. Andre Roberts
Roberts is an excellent return man for the Detroit Lions. He had a total of 246 return yards, and averaged 11.7 yards per return. Roberts has some great top-end speed, possesses excellent quickness and burst, making him a viable threat in the return game.
8. Devin Hester
Hester spent most of the season with the Baltimore Ravens before being cut. He was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks to add a threat to their return game this postseason. Hester averages an 11.7 yards per return over his 11-year career. He has returned an outstanding 14 punts for a touchdown over those 11 years. Hester is just a pure speed athlete, since he has come into the league he has been one of the best returners in the game.
7. Brandon Tate
Tate signed with Buffalo after being cut by the Bengals and has been an outstanding addition to the return game. He had a total of 301 return yards, and averaged 11.6 yards per return. Tate is elusive in the open field and has some serious acceleration.
6. Marcus Sherels
This past season, Sherels set the record for most punt return touchdowns in a career with five. He returned two punts to the house this past season, breaking his own record for most in a single season. He averaged an outstanding 13.9 yards per return. Sherels has shown the ability to squeak through defenders and fight for the extra yards on punt returns.
5. Jamison Crowder
Crowder is fourth in the league with 328 return yards. He has an outstanding average of 12.1 yards per return. Despite his diminutive size, Crowder shows some serious toughness. He has great instant acceleration.
4. Tavon Austin
Austin had the most punt returns (44) in the league this past season, as well as the third most punt return yards (336). He has some excellent acceleration which leads to pure breakaway speed. He is one of the tougher small guys in the league.
3. Tyler Lockett
Lockett was one of the best returners in the league his rookie season. In 2016, he continued to give the Seahawks an explosive threat in the return game. Although his number of fair catches has gone up–22 this year—his outstanding speed makes him a threat.
2. Jalen Richard
The undrafted rookie has been a huge part of why Oakland’s special teams unit was the fourth best in the league. Averaging 12.1 yards per punt return, he has excellent vision as a runner.
1. Tyreek Hill
Hill, a fifth round pick this year, has been an outstanding pick-up for the Chiefs. His pure speed is an outstanding asset for Kansas City. He has flipped the field a number of times, with an average of 16 yards per return. His longest return was a 95-yard return for a touchdown. Hill’s speed should make him one of the top special teamers in the league for a long time.
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