Now that we have a week’s worth of games under our belt, let’s take a look at the data to see the new kickoff rule’s impact so far.
The 2007 data is for games through 09/01/2007. The first two rows of data are from the combined 2005 and 2006 seasons, repeated from a previous post.
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||# Kickoffs||Kickoff Land Avg.||TB||TB %|
The number of touchbacks is down from 29.9% on kickoffs from the 35 yard line in 2005-2006 to 12.39% on kickoffs from the 30 in 2007. The percentage of touchbacks from the 30 in 2007 is up from 8.8% in 2005-6.
I’m not sure why more touchbacks have occurred from the 30 in 2007 than in 2005-6, but the sample sizes are relatively small. It’s possible that because more focus was put on kickoffs in the off-season, kickers may have worked harder to gain distance on their kicks.
On a side note, I discovered that roughly 50 kickoffs in the first week were scored as starting from the 35 yard line rather than the 30, even though there was no penalty that moved the kickoff starting line. It appears some official scorers simply forgot to change the starting line of the kickoffs to the 30 instead of the 35 as they entered the plays. Therefore, those kickoffs are not part of the totals for 2007.
Now the kickoff returns based on the kickoff starting spot:
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||# Returns||Return Avg.||Return End Avg.||TD||TD%|
The average length of returns on kickoffs from the 30 in 2007 is 21.16, up 0.81 yard from returns on kickoffs from the 35 in 2005-6. The average change in field position at the end of the return is 2.79 yards, from the 26.99 yard line in 2005-6 to the 29.78 yard line in 2007. The percentage of touchdowns on returns is up slightly, from 0.77% in 2005-6 to 0.82% in 2007, a 6.5% increase.
So far, the new kickoff rule has not had a significant effect on the average length of returns and the percentage of returns for touchdown. The 58.6% reduction in touchbacks (from 29.9% to 12.39%) does result in better field position to start the ensuing drive. Drives that were starting on the 20 yard line after a touchback are now starting at the 29.78 yard line on average because the kickoff is returned. Starting a drive 10 yards closer to the opponent’s goal line should increase a team’s chances of scoring.
Finally, I want to list the kickers from the first week of the season that had the highest percentage of touchbacks on their kickoffs. To qualify for this list, a kicker must have had at least three kickoffs from the 30 yard line. Onside kicks are not included.
|Player||Team||# Kickoffs||TB||TB %|
|Ryan Succop||South Carolina||5||4||80.00%|
|Jared Develli||Virginia Tech||4||3||75.00%|