Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson had a brilliant season returning kickoffs. Patterson led the league with 1,342 kickoff return yards (only Devin Hester was even within 400 yards of Patterson’s total). Patterson led the league with 33.5 yards per return. Patterson was the only kickoff returner with multiple touchdown returns this season, and one of those touchdowns was an NFL-record 109 yards. Patterson had 10 returns of 40 or more yards (no one else in the NFL had more than five). Patterson was the best kickoff returner in the NFL by a huge margin.
So surely, he must be a Pro Bowl return man, right?
Wrong. This year the NFL has eliminated kickoffs in the Pro Bowl. As a result, the NFL has also eliminated the position of kickoff returner from Pro Bowl consideration.
There are still Pro Bowl punt returners (Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster), but Patterson doesn’t return punts, so he wasn’t eligible for Pro Bowl consideration.
The elimination of the kickoff in the Pro Bowl was a bad deal for Patterson, who would have been the only rookie to make the Pro Bowl this season if kickoff returners were chosen. But it may be the wave of the future: The NFL wants to de-emphasize kickoffs in an effort to make the game safer, and there’s been talk that some day, kickoffs may go away all together. By de-emphasizing the kickoff, the NFL is also de-emphasizing the impact of players like Patterson. And that’s a shame, because he’s one of the most exciting players to enter the NFL in years.