Here is a list of the top kick off returners (by average return) for the Packers since 1997:
Year Player Average Weight
2009 Jordy Nelson 25.4 217
2008 Will Blackmon 21 202
2007 Koren Robinson 23.8 205
2006 Robert Ferguson 22 219
2005 ReShard Lee 21.3 220
2004 Robert Ferguson 25 219
2003 Najeh Davenport 31.6 247
2002 Javon Walker 22 215
2001 Dorsey Levens 25.9 230
2000 Allen Rossum 25.8 178
1999 Basil Mitchell 22.1 207
1998 Roell Preston 26.3 187
1997 Roell Preston 30.1 187
Of the bunch, Roell Preston is easily the best return man. Nevertheless, Najeh Davenport posted the best seasonal average (in full disclosure, on fewer attempts). Dorsey Levens wasn't too shabby either.
Neither of these guys (Davenport or Levens) are your stereotypical kick-off returner. They are big dudes (Davenport was 6'1", 247lbs). But they were big dudes that were surprisingly fast for their size (Davenport ran a 4.57 40). This doesn't prove anything other than there is more than one way to skin a cat. A battering ram with a head of steam can be an effective kick off return man. He may not be a touchdown threat, but if he can consistently get the ball near and beyond the 30 yard line, I'd be happy.
Having return man like Roell Preston is a great luxury. If you don't have one, you may need to improvise. In recent years, the Packers have fallen in the trap of trying out every back-up wideout and defensive back for the kick-off returner gig with so-so results. I understand the thinking of seeking out players with "quickness" but, that is also a liability when these same players do things like come to a complete stop, or run backwards, and generally dance rather na move the ball forward. There is something to be said about a no-nonsense return man who has no pretenses that he is the next Deion Sanders, but rather dodges oncoming tacklers as best he can but runs forward at all times and uses his significant momentum to plunge forward several yards after first contact.
Here are a couple of guys I'd like to see get a chance to return kick-offs. What the hell, its preseason. Why not?
- Brad Jones: 6'3", 242lbs, 4.54/40.
- Andrew Quarless,6'4", 252lbs, 4.57/40.
- Alex Joseph: 6'2", 240lbs, 4.64/40.
- Spencer Havner, 6'3", 250lbs, 4.64/40.