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B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 32 Punters from 2015

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 25, 2016

B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 32 Punters from 2015

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    At the end of the 2015 NFL season, who was the best punter in the game? We're not talking about who made the Pro Bowl or even who got the All-Pro votes. Who was really, truly the best? Forget reputation and how much money each player makes. We want cold, hard analysis that comes from watching the games and grading the players. 

    That's what the B/R NFL 1000 is for, and it's back for another year. 

    The B/R 1000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100.

    Potential and career accomplishments are not taken into consideration.

    We judged punters on power (45 points), accuracy (45) and the overall value of the position relative to the other spots on the field (four points). The maximum score for this position is 94.

    In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.

    Subjective? Yes, but ties are no fun.

    A team of experienced evaluators (Dan Bazal, Luke Easterling, Cian Fahey, Adam Heisler, Duke Manyweather, Matt Miller and Marshal Miller) scouted each player with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team. 

     

    Players' heights, weights and seasons played from NFL.comAll other statistics from Pro Football Focus. All stats reflect regular-season performance unless otherwise noted.

32. Shane Lechler, Houston Texans

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    37/45

    Shane Lechler’s days of being the perennial best punter in the NFL are far behind him. While he still has a powerful leg to kick the ball deep, he lacks the ability to get outstanding height, which leads to big returns for opposing return men. Sixty of his 95 punts were returned this past season, which was the most in the league.

    Punt Accuracy

    34/45

    Time after time, Lechler booted the ball into the end zone when having a chance to pin an opponent deep in its own territory. His lack of touch and accuracy hinders his team’s ability to play with a short field. His league-most 10 touchbacks and net punt average of only 38.3 show why he is at the bottom of our rankings.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    75/94

31. Jeff Locke, Minnesota Vikings

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    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    37/45

    One of the weakest legs in the game, Jeff Locke lacks the ability to launch the ball deep. He continually comes up short on punts in pressure situations and is one of the worst in the league at getting height on his punts. His 41.6 yards per punt barely beat out Jacob Schum for the shortest average among starters, but Schum at least has the ability to sky his punts.

    Punt Accuracy

    34/45

    Locke hasn’t improved since entering the league three years ago, and this past season was by far the worst of his career. Although he still needs to improve quite a bit, he has enough accuracy to force returners toward the sideline or angle the ball just enough to make it hard for them to get a running start. With Locke ranking near the bottom in pretty much every category, it is easy to see why he finished so low on this list.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    75/94

30. Brandon Fields, New Orleans Saints

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    34/45

    After being signed by the New Orleans Saints for just two games, Brandon Fields punted 10 times. That's a small sample size, but there’s enough tape to know what he’s capable of and what he was able to do. It’s also telling that he only punted for Weeks 5 and 6 as a replacement punter. With an average of 41.2 yards, he just doesn't have the leg to punt for power consistently.

    Punt Accuracy

    37/45

    When asked to drop the ball into tight spaces, Fields struggles. Because he doesn’t kick for power or height, he struggles to let his coverage unit get under the ball. That lack of placement and time on his punts is a dagger, given his lack of length.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    75/94

29. Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    36/45

    Mike Scifres' short and low punts pretty much tell the whole story on why he is near the bottom of our list this season. His inadequacies as a deep-ball punter make it difficult to not only win the field-position game but to get out of tight jams when backed up against his own end zone. Scifres ranked dead last overall by Pro Football Focus among all punters.

    Punt Accuracy

    35/45

    Not only does Scifres not have a strong leg, but his inability to kick away from return men also led to 43 of his 72 kicks getting returned. Scifres excels at keeping the ball out of the end zone, but that is partially due to his inability to get force behind his kicks. His net average of 38.4 ranked 28th and shows that he might be on the downside of his career.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    75/94

28. Brad Wing, New York Giants

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    38/45

    Brad Wing lacks the ability to drive the ball deep consistently and struggles in situations where he is asked to try to flip field position. His average per punt and net yardage rank near the bottom of the league. What Wing lacks in distance, he makes up for in height, as his 5.48 max hang time placed him third.

    Punt Accuracy

    34/45

    Usually when punters lack the ability to boom the ball deep, they are consistent and precise with their punts. That was not the case for Wing this past season. His inability to kick away from dangerous return men led to multiple big gains for opposing teams.

    While his 17 downed punts placed him second overall in that category, his total of 300 return yards allowed was far too many for someone with his short average distance and ability to get height.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    76/94

27. Donnie Jones, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    34/45

    When it comes to just knocking the heck out of the football, Donnie Jones came in with a long of 64 yards. He can kick well for averagehe finished at 47 yards per punt in 2015but his game is mediocre when he's asked to really rip the ball.

    Punt Accuracy

    38/45

    There are too many touchbacks when Jones is punting. This shows a lack of control, as touchbacks signal a struggle to drop the ball inside the 10-yard line. With eight touchbacks on the year—and almost all of those coming in situations when he could have pinned the offense deep—Jones’ accuracy rating took a hit.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    76/94

26. Kevin Huber, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    37/45

    Kevin Huber came in at No. 20 overall on the year with an average of 45.1 yards per punt. When we scouted five of his games and charted punts, Huber was consistent with the league average while drilling for right at 48 yards per punt when not in a situation to try to drop the ball deep in the opponent’s territory.

    Punt Accuracy

    36/45

    On 68 punts, Huber had six touchbacks, which places him right around the league average of about 10 percent. What we looked for was accuracy when attempting to pin teams inside the 10- and 20-yard lines, and Huber had every one of his touchbacks in our scouting profile during those situations—which knocks his accuracy score down.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    77/94

25. Bradley Pinion, San Francisco 49ers

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    39/45

    More likely to kick for height instead of distance, Bradley Pinion’s first year in the league started out well but ended with him struggling to find his way. His inability to drive the ball deep consistently made it difficult for the 49ers punt team to flip field position. Pinion will need to improve upon his 43.4-yard average if he wants to stick around in this league.

    Punt Accuracy

    35/45

    Accuracy is usually the hardest skill for punters to master, but that wasn’t really the case for Pinion. His 33 punts inside of the 20 are impressive, especially for a rookie, and his 22 forced fair catches ranked near the top of the league. He needs to improve his consistency and directional punting to become one of the more accurate punters in the league.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    78/94

24. Britton Colquitt, Denver Broncos

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    36/45

    Britton Colquitt’s average of 43.4 yards per punt was one of the lowest in the NFL in 2015, and the tape backs this up. He doesn’t have a booming leg—even in that thin Denver air—and struggles to achieve the hang time to get his gunners under the ball. Even in those situations that allowed for him to open up the throttle and crush the ball, he topped out in the mid-40-yard range.

    Punt Accuracy

    38/45

    Dustin may be the better punter in the Colquitt family, but brother Britton is the one with a Super Bowl ring. Colquitt was good at times, but he was right around average when asked to pin the opposition deep in its own territory.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    78/94

23. Drew Butler, Arizona Cardinals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    33/45

    The son of Butthead—no, really, that was his father's nickname—Drew Butler is carving out his own career with the Arizona Cardinals. Butler’s 43.1 average was second-best of his three-year career, as was his max hang time of 5.14 seconds. He has the leg to drive the ball up or far, but his season long of 58 yards fell short of his career best of 79 yards.

    Punt Accuracy

    41/45

    Butler’s accuracy is on point. He had just 28 punts returned last year on 67 kicks and held 32 of those punts inside the 20-yard line. And with only six touchbacks, Butler showed he can keep the ball in play and give his team a chance to make a stop with great field position.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    78/94

22. Pat O'Donnell, Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    35/45

    Pat O’Donnell came in rated as a below-average power punter with an average of 43.7 yards. His hang time was good at 5.3 seconds, but the lack of open-field punting distance definitely put the Bears in tough spots defensively.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    For all his struggles with distance, O’Donnell impressed with accuracy. He had just four touchbacks on 70 punts and was effective at keeping the ball inside the 10- and 20-yard line on pressure punts. O’Donnell had just 27 punts returned on the year.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    79/94

21. Matt Darr, Miami Dolphins

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    42/45

    Matt Darr’s 47.6 yards per punt was good for the No. 4 overall average in the NFL last season. While his maximum hang time was sub-five seconds (4.96), he tried to kick with enough length to overcome the lack of height. It affected his overall score, though, as coverage teams need height and distance. But if you wanted a punter who could just knock the crap out of the ball, Darr was your man.

    Punt Accuracy

    33/45

    Placement was a major issue for Darr, and that stems from poor hang time. He had 92 punts in 2015, and nine of them went for touchbacks. What’s even worse is that Miami badly needed field-position help last season, as the secondary and defense struggled and too often Darr handed the opponent an easy start at the 20-yard line.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    79/94

20. Colton Schmidt, Buffalo Bills

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    39/45

    On 82 punts for the Buffalo Bills, Colton Schmidt had a solid average of 46 yards per punt and a long of 65 yards. The lack of power compared to his peers came in his hang time (max 5.15 seconds). Schmidt had 50 percent of his punts returned, which isn’t a good sign for the guy doing the punting.

    Punt Accuracy

    37/45

    Having half your punts returned speaks to accuracy as well as power, and Schmidt’s placement on directional punts was average compared to the rest of the league. When looking at things like controlling the ball and hang time and allowing coverage units to get in position, he was good but not great.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    80/94

19. Jacob Schum, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    37/45

    With an average of 41.5 yards per punt, Jacob Schum was near the bottom of the league, coming in at fifth-worst. That average isn’t skewed by situational punting. When it came time to open up and punt deep, he simply didn’t show the power to exceed the mid-40-yard range.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    When it came time for money kicks to pin the opposing offense deep, Schum was better. On the year, he had only four touchbacks on 56 punts and was poised and controlled when tasked with punts that dictated deep starting positions for the other offense.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    81/94

18. Jordan Berry, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    35/45

    Jordan Berry’s average of 42.3 yards per punt was the third-lowest among 16-game starters in the NFL. He similarly failed to impress during game evaluations, kicking poorly in what we called “big kick” opportunities (those times when he didn’t have to pin the other offense deep). Berry has good hang time, but his distance is average.

    Punt Accuracy

    42/45

    While Berry wasn’t great at kicking deep, he did impress with his placement and control—especially when he was asked to pin teams deep. He had just two touchbacks on 59 punts, which is a huge testament to his control and understanding of his coverage team.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    81/94

17. Brad Nortman, Carolina Panthers

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    38/45

    Brad Nortman’s long punt of 65 yards—a distance he reached twice in the year—was impressive, but he lacked consistency when it came to deep punting. With an average of just 44.4 yards per punt, Nortman ranked near the middle of the NFL. It’s worth noting that in the playoffs, he averaged less than 40 yards per punt at home.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    On 85 punts (including the postseason), Nortman saw 41 of them returned, a solid percentage. He also dropped 24 punts inside the 20-yard line and had 27 fair catches to his credit. He isn’t the best at dropping it in the corner or pinning a returner deep, but he has a handle on hang time and setting up his return defense.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    82/94

16. Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    37/45

    A 44.4-yard average was solid, but it keeps Dustin Colquitt in the middle of the pack in terms of pure power as a punter. He showed solid ability to create hang time, with a maximum time of 5.14 seconds, and was at his best kicking in pressure situations backed up against his own goal line.

    Punt Accuracy

    41/45

    Colquitt’s game was all about pinning offenses back and letting the dominant Kansas City defense go to work. He did his job well, scoring 38 punts inside the 20-yard line and limiting returners to just 170 yards on his 26 returned kicks.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    82/94

15. Jon Ryan, Seattle Seahawks

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    37/45

    Jon Ryan—the punter, not the brother from Wedding Crashers—was valuable for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. With an average of 42.6 yards per punt and a max hang time of 5.23 seconds in that cool, crisp Seattle air, Ryan was able to set the Seahawks defense up with great field position while netting 37.6 yards per kick.

    Punt Accuracy

    41/45

    On 68 punts, Ryan kicked just four out of bounds and kept the ball out of the end zone on all but seven. Those numbers, plus his ability to lead returners to the corner and funnel his coverage units to them, make him a top-five punter in terms of accuracy.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    82/94

14. Andy Lee, Cleveland Browns

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    Andrew Weber/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    42/45

    Age isn’t affecting the leg strength of 33-year-old Andy Lee. In 2015 he was once again among the best power punters in the game while averaging 46.7 yards per punt with a long of 67 yards. Lee was also consistent, routinely averaging more than 50 yards per punt when we charted his games.

    Punt Accuracy

    38/45

    When asked to pin the offense back deep inside the 20-yard line, Lee is still above the line as an NFL punter. On 70 punts, he had just four touchbacks and was able to score 15 fair catches while pinning offenses inside the 20-yard line on 27 punts.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    84/94

13. Matt Bosher, Atlanta Falcons

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    40/45

    With a thunderous boom, the ball explodes off Matt Bosher’s foot. His powerful leg not only ranked him fifth overall in average with 47.2 yards per punt (minimum of two punts), but his max hang time of 5.6 also ranked second at the position. Bosher is a master at flipping field position.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    Not known for his angular punting, Bosher relies heavily on height and distance, not so much on accuracy. He struggles downing the ball inside of the 10, and due to his inability to angle the ball out of bounds, almost half of his punts were returned.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    84/94

12. Ryan Quigley, New York Jets

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    41/45

    In his third NFL season, Ryan Quigley continues to move up the NFL 1000 charts after ranking at No. 21 overall a season ago. His leg is what you want from an AFC East punter, given the adverse kicking conditions. He averaged 43.6 yards per punt last year and tacked on a long of 68 yards just to have something to brag about back home.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    Quigley tied for the most punts kicked out of bounds (15) all season, but he also dropped 28 inside the 20-yard line on 75 attempts. The numbers, and the tape, show that Quigley (26) is on his way to being one of the better young punters in the game.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    85/94

11. Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    38/45

    When you punt for the Tennessee Titans, you’re going to see a lot of reps, and Brett Kern made the most of his time on the field with an average of 47.4 yards per punt. He has the leg to drive the ball down the field—as seen by his long of 61 yards on the year—but doesn’t have the amazing distance or hang time of the upper-tier power punters.

    Punt Accuracy

    43/45

    Kern’s real value comes in his accuracy as a punter. He does a great job of keeping the ball in play and had just one touchback in 2015. His ability to pin the ball in the corner or drop it into the bucket inside the 20-yard line makes him one of the best punters in the league.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    85/94

10. Ryan Allen, New England Patriots

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    40/45

    Leave it to Bill Belichick and the Patriots to find a field-position specialist like Ryan Allen. When he had space to operate—meaning no threat of a touchback—Allen was above average of all the punters we evaluated and went for almost 50 yards on average on those punts. That’s a great addition to his yearly average of 46 yards on all punts.

    Punt Accuracy

    42/45

    Allen was among the most accurate punters in the league when it came time to pin the other team back and keep the ball out of the end zone on potential touchbacks. Those things don’t show up in stats, but looking at the numbers, Allen only had three touchbacks on 73 punts in 15 games.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    86/94

9. Bryan Anger, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Larry French/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    43/45

    A former third-round selection in the 2012 NFL draft, Bryan Anger was drafted on his punting power, and in that category, he’s good. With an average of 46.3 yards per punt, he ranked in the upper third of punters and impressed with a max hang time of 5.45 seconds. Anger hit the 60-yard-punt mark three times in the year with a long of 63.

    Punt Accuracy

    39/45

    Perhaps a reason why the Jaguars chose not to re-sign Anger, his directional punting leaves something to be desired. He had 45 of his 80 punts returned, which speaks to his timing and placement. He was solid, though, at keeping the ball inside the 20, with 27 such punts.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    86/94

8. Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints

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    Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    42/45

    From the comforts of the dome in New Orleans and warm-weathered NFC South, Thomas Morstead is able to kick in controlled or decent weather throughout much of the season. Morstead, on average, is right around 46 yards per punt over the last three seasons, and that held true in 2015 (45.6 yards). He’s a powerful punter who is playing in the ideal conditions to succeed.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    With 12 punts kicked out of bounds on 56 attempts, Morstead was on the high side even compared to his peers with 70, 80 or 90 punts. That was a concern, despite his ability to pin offenses deep (21 punts inside the 20) and limit returns to just 24 all season.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    86/94

7. Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens

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    Larry French/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    39/45

    Sam Koch’s average of 46.6 yards per punt is above the line but not great. He is more of a directional punter and less of a power player.

    Punt Accuracy

    43/45

    This is where Koch shines. He was top-notch at keeping the ball out of the hands of return men, finishing with a 43.1 average of net yards per kick. The lack of power in his game actually helps here, as he’s able to put height on the ball and not too much distance, so his gunners are in place to prevent touchbacks and make tackles at the catch.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    86/94

6. Marquette King, Oakland Raiders

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    42/45

    Marquette King’s average of 44.4 yards per punt is respectable, but it doesn’t quite live up to the reputation he has as a monster leg. You see that more in the 70-yard bomb he booted against Baltimore at home on the A’s baseball diamond. He also nailed a 65-yarder at home against San Diego.

    Punt Accuracy

    41/45

    In his third NFL season, King continued to improve. He kicked just four touchbacks all season and dropped a career-best 41 punts inside the 20-yard line. He also helped limit returners to just 201 yards on 30 returns.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    87/94

5. Chris Jones, Dallas Cowboys

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    41/45

    With an average punt of 44.9 yards and a max hang time of 5.19 seconds, Chris Jones was impressive at pounding the ball for the Dallas Cowboys. But no, he did not hit the huge screen hanging in the middle of the field, unfortunately. But what he was able to do was pin the opposing offense deep at a consistent rate.

    Punt Accuracy

    42/45

    Punt placement is underrated and harder to put a number grade on, but Jones impressed with directional kicking and by keeping the ball in play. He had zero touchbacks on the year, and his punts were returned just 24 of 69 times. That’s the mark of an accurate punter.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    87/94

4. Tress Way, Washington

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    45/45

    Tress Way’s 46.1 yards per punt was good for No. 11 overall in the NFL in 2015 (minimum two punts) and helped establish his power score as one of the best in the game. Way not only boomed a good average but also had a long punt of 64 yards and a maximum hang time of 5.12 seconds. Given that punting stats especially don't tell the full story in many cases, Way's powerful leg is most evident when watching film of some really impressive kicks.

    Punt Accuracy

    39/45

    When it came to putting the ball in a spot, Way wasn’t quite as effective. He did limit teams to just 30 returns on 70 punts, but he struggled to keep the ball in play and out of the end zone with seven touchbacks and five punts out of bounds.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    88/94

3. Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams

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    Michael Thomas/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    45/45

    There is no questioning the sheer power in Johnny Hekker’s leg. He averaged a fantastic 47.8 yards per punt (a career best). On top of that, his career low of 5.25 seconds on max hang time was still one of the best in the NFL. On 96 punts, Hekker had 25 as fair catches and just 40 returned, showing off how difficult he makes a return with his power and hang time.

    Punt Accuracy

    40/45

    Nailing 45 of 96 punts inside the 20-yard line is worth a notice, and Hekker did that while adding 17 downed punts on the year. His eight punts knocked out of bounds did keep his score down lower than where we've ranked him in the past.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    89/94

2. Sam Martin, Detroit Lions

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    44/45

    Sam Martin’s long of 66 yards and maximum hang time of 5.29 seconds helps keep him in the top tier of the strongest punters in the NFL. While his average of 46 yards per kick was just above average, his ability to drill the ball when not asked to pin the other team deep impressed our scouts.

    Punt Accuracy

    42/45

    When asked to drop the ball in a bucket inside the 10- or 20-yard line, Martin did well to keep the ball in play. He only logged three touchbacks all season and was effective at helping his coverage units by short-kicking or using hang time to maximize their role.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    90/94

1. Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Punt Power

    45/45

    After falling out of the top five last season, Pat McAfee makes his return to the top of the NFL 1000 punters list. With an average of 47.7 yards per punt, he was second-best in the NFL in terms of distance (minimum of two punts). Add in his 5.28-second max hang time, and you get an idea as to why he’s consistently ranked as one of the strongest punters in the NFL.

    Punt Accuracy

    45/45

    McAfee is deadly when asked to drop the ball inside the 20-yard line, but he also does a great job with directional punting that can reduce or eliminate returns. He understands his coverage unit and doesn’t put it at risk by overkicking.

    Position Value

    4/4

    Overall

    94/94

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