During his first two seasons in the NFL, Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu has emerged as one of the top kick returners in the entire league. In fact, Nwangwu's 32.2 yards per kick return average is the best in the NFL since 2021 among players with at least 10 total kick returns.
Now, Nwangwu and other kick returners around the league could end up seeing their jobs become obsolete if a new rule is passed before the start of the 2023 season.
Before the end of the month, NFL owners will vote on a rule change that would allow any fair catch on a kick return inside a team's own 25-yard line to be ruled a touchback and be automatically placed on the team's own 25-yard line.
If not kick returns, how could the Minnesota Vikings use RB Kene Nwangwu?
The purpose of the rule change would be to help reduce the number of concussions that occur during kickoffs. In order for the rule change to become official, 75 percent of the NFL's 32 ownership groups will have to approve of it when a vote is conducted during the league's Spring League Meeting, which begins on Monday, May 22nd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
If this rule change ends up getting approved, it could be bad news for Nwangwu. Despite the excitement that comes from watching a player take a kickoff from inside his own end zone and return it for a touchdown the other way, it might end up being smarter for the Vikings to just attempt to turn every kick return into a touchback if possible next season. Starting field position would just become one less thing for Minnesota to worry about.
As for Nwangwu, one would like to think the Vikings could figure out a way to better utilize his skills in their offense. But neither of Minnesota's offensive staffs in the last two seasons were able to do that, so it could be something that is actually more difficult than it might seem to people outside of the locker room.
Nwangwu is extremely fast (4.29 speed), so one might think he would be great for the Vikings to use on screens and jet sweeps. Perhaps a bigger role for him could be part of Minnesota's plan for 2023, especially if Dalvin Cook goes elsewhere this summer, but his chances of making the team's final roster for next season will likely go down if the new kick return rule is passed this year.