Closer look at kickoff rule change

The NFL voted Tuesday to move kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line.

We’ve already said this could prompt the Carolina Panthers to consider going without kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, who has taken up a roster spot in recent years. But what else does it mean?

Well, Football Outsiders Aaron Schatz has an extensive analysis and you can also check out what our Canadian friend, Brad Gagnon, has to say about how the rule change is playing in Toronto.

But for the moment, let’s take a look at some stuff that was just passed to us from ESPN Stats and Information. In 2010, there were 2,448 kickoffs from the 30-yard line and 16 percent of those resulted in touchbacks. There also were 27 kickoffs from the 35-yard line (due to penalties) and 37 percent of those went for touchbacks.

Since 2001, 11.1 percent of kickoffs from the 30 have resulted in touchbacks. In that same time span, kickoffs from the 35 have had a 31.7 percent rate of touchbacks. Since 2007, four out of every 10 kickoffs from the 35 were not returned.

Here’s a quick look at touchback percentage since 2001 on kickoffs from the 30-yard line.

  • 2010, 16.0

  • 2009, 15.4

  • 2008, 14.2

  • 2007, 12.1

  • 2006, 12.5

  • 2005, 8.6

  • 2004, 8.0

  • 2003, 7.5

  • 2002, 7.6

  • 2001, 8.8

It’s easy to note the increase in percentage of touchbacks in recent years. Couple that with the new starting spot and it’s really not hard to imagine a 2011 touchback rate of well over 40 percent.