Leon Washington, Post-Kickoff Rule Change

Now that kickoffs have been officially moved from the 30 to the 35, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at Leon Washington’s value.  According to John Clayton, this change “could increase the number of touchbacks from 416 to around 800, roughly 31 percent of kickoffs,” which would be up from 16 percent of all kickoffs.

Last year, Leon Washington was still recovering from a brutal broken leg, so the Seahawks used him primarily on special teams.  As such, he only had 27 carries and 9 receptions for the entire 2010 season.  Since his kickoff returns could be reduced by half, I figured that he might be used more in the running and passing game, so I mostly ignored his 2010 season.  I also disregarded his 2006 season, as it is unlikely that he will start 8 games like he did that year for the Jets. 

This left 2007 and 2008 as a baseline for his production, and I also took his 2009 stats and prorated them for the entire year.  To finish my projection for Washington in 2011, I halved his kickoff returns average — if we assume there will be twice as many touchbacks on kickoffs next year, then he will have half as many chances to return kicks.  This is what I came with:

Rushing Receiving Punt Returns Kickoff Returns Total Production
536 yds, 3 TDs 289 yds, 1 TD 164 yds 564 yds, 1 TD 1,554 yds, 5 TDs

Considering that Leon gained 1,461 yards on kickoff returns alone last year, this rule change really hurts his value.