The NFL voted to change the kickoff rules on Tuesday. Kickoffs will be moved up to the 35-yard line from the 30. The starting point on touchbacks will remain at the 20.
Let’s look at the AFC West winners and losers as a result of the rule change:
Kickers: This will help San Diego’s Nate Kaeding and Kansas City’s Ryan Succop. Kaeding had touchbacks on just four of 72 kickoffs last year. Succop had touchbacks on just 10.3 percent of his kickoffs in 2010. Thus, the extra five yards should help these two.
Denver’s Matt Prater and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski should be unaffected. They were among the NFL leaders in touchback percentage last year.
Returners: This is bummer for Oakland second-year return man Jacoby Ford. He had three kickoff returns for scores last year. This will limit his chances. Oakland has talked about using Ford on punt returns in 2011. This should make Oakland want to try it even more. Ford needs the ball in his hands as much as possible. Each AFC West team has good return teams, so this change will hurt every team.
Coaches: Combine the lockout and this new rule and it has to make special teams coaches nervous. They have a lot of work to do and the delay created by the lockout doesn’t help.
Good luck to any receiving team that is flagged for a 15-yard personal foul call prior to the kickoff. Balls will sail into the stands from the 50.