Earlier this offseason, I suggested the Bears could release Cordarrelle Patterson to free up just under $5M in cap room. A number of people responded that Patterson was the best kick returner in the NFL in 2019 and thus was worth the money. I wasn’t sold that any kick returner was worth that much, but set out to figure out just how much value they add.
Here’s the general setup:
- I used the Pro Football Reference Drive Finder to look at every drive over the last 5 years that started with a kickoff and didn’t include any kneeldowns.
- I split the field into 10 yard ranges.
- I tallied up touchdowns and field goals from drives that started in each field position range to figure out average points/drive. Note: this assumes all touchdowns net 7 points, which is not technically true, and fails to factor in anything about offensive quality.
Based on that approach, here’s what I found the average points expected for drives off of kickoffs that started in a variety of field positions.
This generally matches expectation, as teams are expected to score more points the closer to the opposing end zone they start. By the time they’re inside the opponent 40 yard line, the expected points are higher than a field goal.
Using this data, I then looked at the Bears’ starting field position off of kickoffs in 2018, when they did not have Cordarrelle Patterson vs. 2019, when they did.