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Fantasy Impacts of New NFL Rules for 2009

Each year the NFL adjusts their rules slightly.

Oakland fans remember well the infamous “tuck rule” that was essentially established during their 2002 playoff loss to the Patriots. Sometimes the changes can have drastic impacts on the fantasy football landscape. Last year the big change was the removal of the “force out rule” which stated that receivers now had to land with both feet inbounds in order to complete a reception. The removal of this rule gave defenders the ability to knock a receiver out of bounds in mid-air and consequently eliminated the advantage a WR had over a defender during jump balls near the sideline. Before starting each fantasy football season you should make sure you understand the new rules that have been put in place. I’ve outlined the rules that could potentially influence fantasy football this year and assessed the level of impact they will have.

 

On kickoffs, no blocking wedge of more than two players will be allowed

 

The wedge was a common tool used by special teams during kickoffs and punt returns. It was like having an offensive line blocking for you in the open field. I expect special team TDs and return yards to go down slightly. I don’t think the preseason is the greatest predictor of the NFL season, but it’s all we’ve got to base our analysis on for now. Through August 17, we’ve seen punt and kickoff return averages

of 7.8 and 21.3, respectively. Both are down from last year’s averages of 9.2 and 27.4.

 

Fantasy Impact:

Small downgrade of return men such as Reggie Bush (three PR TDs in 2008), Devin Hester (11 return TDs between 2006 and 2007) and Leon Washington (four KR TDs between 2007 and 2008).

 

Small downgrade to defense/special teams (NFL teams combined for 29 return TDs in 2008)

 

The initial contact to a defenseless receiver cannot be delivered to the receiver’s head

 

This rule was basically created in response to a vicious hit put on Anquan Boldin by Eric Smith last year. Safeties like Brian Dawkins who have made a living off of punishing wide receivers may find themselves governed a little bit tighter this year. The impact really depends on how tight officials call this and whether or not defenders tone down their aggressiveness. I honestly don’t expect fantasy football to be impacted by this rule.

 

Fantasy Impact:

Very small upgrade to deep threat WRs

 

The initial force of a blindside block cannot be delivered by a helmet, forearm or shoulder to an opponent’s head or neck

 

This rule is the complement to the rule created to protect WRs. It’s a necessary rule to protect players on both sides of the ball.

 

Fantasy Impact:

Maybe a few long plays will be called back based on illegal blocks, but I don’t see a large impact here.

 

On kickoffs, the kicking team cannot have more than five players bunched together pursuing an onside kick

 

Recovering an onside kick is not a common occurrence in the NFL. Onside kicks only happen during close games. Furthermore only about 20 percent of the onside kicks over the past decade have been recovered by the kicking team. The inability to clump players together on kickoffs could diminish the frequency of this feat even further.

 

Fantasy Impact:

None, especially not to the Lions, who haven’t been in a game in the fourth quarter since the last time Michael Vick was in the NFL.

 

A defensive player on the ground may no longer lunge or dive at the quarterback’s lower legs

 

This rule was created based on the knee injury that Tom Brady sustained in the Patriots opening game last year. This will be known as the “Brady Rule,” but actually should be called “Brady Rule 1.2” since the “Tuck Rule” is already unofficially Brady’s. Pretty soon there will be a whole rule book developed by Brady, including how many points a team must be up by before they should stop throwing Hail Mary TD passes and when it is OK to leave your pregnant girlfriend to marry a super model.

 

Fantasy Impact:

Small upgrade to QBs who will have one less thing to worry about this year in the pocket.

 

Bonus: Brady might even make it to the second half of Game 1 this year.

 

Bottom Line:

In short, most of the rules created during the offseason were created with the goal of protecting players from injury. I believe the NFL met their objective without any major impacts to the play of the game, and indirectly the way fantasy football is played. Feel free to manage your team as if it were 2008.

 

Note: There were a few other rules added, such as when you can review a play, which I did not comment on because they will not have a direct impact on fantasy football.

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