B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 32 Punters
One of the most important and underrated positions on an NFL roster is the punter. No, seriously.
When you start breaking down and analyzing all that goes into a successful punt, it’s quite amazing to see all the moving parts. From a scouting perspective, it’s tough to grade only the punter, as his gunners are just as important to the success of his kick.
This is the second edition of the B/R NFL 1,000, in which we rank players at every position. Punter is one of two positions in the series where production is an integral part of players' scores. Our team of scouts looked at punt power (hang time, longest punt, average distance) and accuracy (where the punt landed, directional kicks, punts inside the 20) to determine who the best punter was from the 2012 season.
The punters are scored out of 100 points, equally divided between their scores for power and accuracy. In the case of ties, I have asked myself, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly. Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
All stats are from Pro Football Focus.
32. Reggie Hodges, Cleveland Browns
Reggie Hodges punted 90 times, the third-most in the NFL. That resulted in only 28 punts inside the 20-yard line—a terrible ratio. Hodges’ placement and accuracy were a weak spot in the Browns’ special teams play.
Hodges’ power was better than his accuracy, but not much. His 41.8 yards per punt simply won’t get it done.
The lowest-ranked punter in the NFL from 2012, Hodges had a rough season. It all boils down to his power and accuracy being less than ideal for a starter.
Hodges was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
31. Nick Harris, Detroit Lions
Nick Harris did a good job limiting punt returns, but his individual accuracy wasn’t great. We did love that only one punt was a touchback, but that points to poor power and solid gunner play more than great accuracy.
One of the lowest averages in the NFL, Harris only pulled out 41.5 yards per punt. That was ranked No. 34 overall in the NFL. Add in that Harris kicks in a dome, and you see where the problem is.
Harris has to be better, especially on an offense that struggled to score points in 2012.
Harris was ranked No. 32 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
30. Adam Podlesh, Chicago Bears
Adam Podlesh did a good job keeping the ball out of the end zone in 2012—just six of his 81 punts were touchbacks. He only dropped 34 of them inside the 20-yard line, though.
Podlesh’s average per punt (42 yards), longest punt (64 yards) and maximum hang time (5.1 seconds) combine to put him down near the bottom of the NFL’s power punters.
Average accuracy and below-average power result in Podlesh being one of the lowest-ranked punters we saw in 2012.
Podlesh was tied at No. 24 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
29. Brad Nortman, Carolina Panthers
A low-tier punter in the 2012 season, Brad Nortman had seven touchbacks on the season—a good number—but just eight were downed by Panthers gunners.
Nortman’s power matched his accuracy in 2012. His average of 43 yards per punt ranked No. 31 overall. Nortman wasn’t able to knock the ball deep on a consistent basis.
Nortman is one of the starting punters you have to imagine will be challenged in the offseason for his starting gig. His 2012 season makes that viable.
Nortman was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
28. Zoltan Mesko, New England Patriots
Zoltan Mesko showed balance in 2012, but overall we saw an average punter. His punts resulted in a touchback 10 percent of the time—a high percentage.
You might have expected a higher score for Mesko, but his numbers and film study don’t back it up. An average of 43.1 yards per punt was No. 30 in the NFL. His long of 62 ranked No. 25. Mesko’s power was an issue in 2012.
Mesko's gross and net averages each went down more than three yards from 2011. He was only average before and now has slipped toward the bottom of the rankings.
Mesko was tied at No. 21 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
27. Brian Moorman, Dallas Cowboys
Punting in a dome should help with accuracy, but Brian Moorman’s season didn’t get better in Dallas. He struggled to put punts down inside the 10-yard line, but oddly enough, he did well to limit touchbacks. Moorman can thank his gunners for that one.
Moorman doesn’t have great power—which helps limit touchbacks. His average of just 44.6 yards per punt in Dallas ranked him at No. 26 overall on the year. Kicking in a dome should afford better stats.
Released by the Buffalo Bills, Moorman found a home in Dallas but wasn’t able to find his old success. He could be a player tagged for an upgrade.
Moorman was ranked No. 23 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
26. Tim Masthay, Green Bay Packers
Kicking in cold, unpredictable weather is tough, and Tim Masthay struggled with it in 2012. Of his 70 punts, five were touchbacks, and only eight were downed by his teammates.
Masthay finished the season ranked No. 30 overall in terms of punt average (43.5 yards). That, coupled with his maximum hang time of 5.2 seconds, was reason enough to put the Packers punter low on the list.
The Packers were one of the lowest-ranked punting teams in the NFL in 2012. Masthay will have to make major improvements to feel comfortable with his job long-term.
Masthay was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
25. Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams
Johnny Hekker’s placement and control in 2012 weren’t ideal. He punted 82 times and saw 19 go out of bounds, compared to just 22 dropped inside the 20-yard line. Only six were downed by his teammates.
Hekker has a good leg, and it showed in 2012. His average of 45.8 put him at No. 19 overall. With a long of 68 yards, it was clear that Hekker can make an impact on the game with his leg strength.
Hekker is a young player with big upside, but he has to get better in terms of placement and control, especially when looking to pin offenses back deep.
Hekker was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
24. Sav Rocca, Washington Redskins
Sav Rocca was a balanced punter in 2012, but only four of his 68 punts were downed by his gunners. Rocca has to do a better job keeping the ball alive and in play for his teammates.
With an average of 43.9 yards per punt, Rocca ranked as the No. 28 punter in the NFL last season. He didn’t show the strength to affect the game with his leg or hang time.
Rocca had a poor season for the Redskins, as his accuracy and power were below average. He’s better than his season showed, but improvements need to be made before 2013.
Rocca was tied at No. 27 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
23. Michael Koenen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Michael Koenen was asked to punt the ball 76 times in 2012. Of those punts, six were touchbacks, eight went out of bounds and only 25 were downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Koenen showed better accuracy than power in 2012. His long of 64 yards was on the low end, as was his average of 45.3 yards per punt. That average puts him at No. 23 overall, which is where we have him ranked too.
Koenen struggled with power and delivery in 2012, as his kicks didn’t have the same take-off that we became used to in 2011.
Koenen was ranked No. 18 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
22. Shawn Powell, Buffalo Bills
On 65 punts during the 2012 season, Shawn Powell had just two touchbacks. That’s an impressive number, but consider he had 15 punts go out of bounds and only 25 downed inside the 20-yard line.
Ranked No. 27 overall when it comes to per-punt average, Powell isn’t a power punter. His long of 62 yards was one of the shortest in the league last season. He has better placement than power.
Powell’s lack of power in 2012 was a concern. Matched with his average accuracy and placement, there wasn’t a way to rank this promising punter further up the list.
Powell was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
21. Mat McBriar, Philadelphia Eagles
With seven touchbacks on 55 punts, Mat McBriar gave the opposition too many free starts from its own 20-yard line. We’d like to see a better ratio from a veteran with his experience.
McBriar isn’t known for his strength, and his 46.5 yards per punt average was good for No. 16 overall—right in the middle of the league. His best punt of the year came to 66 yards.
McBriar is more of a stopgap player than a long-term solution. His lack of power is highlighted more in a year with poor placement and control, like 2012.
McBriar was ranked No. 13 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
20. Robert Malone, New York Jets
Robert Malone struggled with accuracy and range in 2012. Of his 84 punts, eight were touchbacks, 11 went out of bounds and only 27 were downed inside the 20-yard line. He was helped by very good gunners who limited return yardage.
Malone was good for 45.8 yards per punt last season, placing him in a tie for No. 19 overall. With a long of 61 yards, he doesn’t have the leg to really drill the ball deep down the field.
Malone had a solid season, and there’s upside here, but he must work on better placement heading into 2013.
Malone was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
19. Britton Colquitt, Denver Broncos
Britton Colquitt is like a golfer with a good chipping game. He shows good placement when asked to punt from the safety of his own 40-yard line, but when backed up or pushed forward, he struggles.
Punting in the thin air of Denver should allow for bigger punts, but Colquitt only averaged 46.3 yards per punt—good for No. 18 overall. We also expected his maximum hang time to be much better than 5.1 seconds.
Colquitt didn’t have the season his brother Dustin did, but he’s a good punter in his own right. While punting distance isn’t his thing, his accuracy improves each season.
Colquitt was ranked No. 5 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
18. Steve Weatherford, New York Giants
Inconsistent placement keeps Steve Weatherford’s score low on our list. With six touchbacks on just 58 punts, Weatherford’s ratio of touchbacks to punts was too high in 2012.
An average of 47.5 yards per punt put Weatherford at No. 9 overall on the year. His long of 68 yards isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either. Overall, Weatherford’s power is above average.
Weatherford can be up and down, but overall he’s solid. You won’t get a huge leg from him, but he can dig you out of a hole in your own red zone.
Weatherford was ranked No. 10 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
17. Dave Zastudil, Arizona Cardinals
The most active punter in the NFL last season, Dave Zastudil had a ton of production, but not always the best accuracy or placement. His eight touchbacks were high. Our team noted a lack of placement on corner kicks as well.
With a long of 70 yards, Zastudil has shown that he can boom the ball. The key for his success is becoming more consistent. An average of 46.5 is good but could be higher for an indoor punter.
Zastudil could be ranked much higher if it weren’t for poor consistency on kick distance. With just a little more accuracy and placement, he could be top-10.
Zastudil was ranked No. 7 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
16. Matt Bosher, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Bosher had only four touchbacks on the year, but he didn’t impress with his ability to pin offenses back inside the 10- or 20-yard line. Only 25 of his punts were downed by the Atlanta punt team inside the red zone.
Bosher has a good leg, as shown by his 47-yard average and 60-yard long. He’s not a power punter, though, and isn’t a guy who can dig you out of bad field positioning in one kick.
Dome punters like Bosher are tough to evaluate at home, but we got a good feel for the Falcons punter throughout the year. He’s a solid all-around punter who lacks the top-end leg power but has good accuracy to make up for it.
Bosher was tied at No. 11 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
15. Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens
Sam Koch had a good year, but his accuracy could be better. With seven touchbacks on the year and almost 60 percent of his punts returned, Koch didn’t have the placement needed to pin the offense back inside the 20.
Ranked No. 12 overall in punting average, Koch was good for 47.1 yards per punt. His long of 60 yards shows that, while he lacks top-end power, his consistency and accuracy are good.
A middle-tier punter who isn’t that far behind the top guys, Koch must work on accuracy to become one of the best.
Koch was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
14. Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans
Brett Kern’s accuracy could have been better in 2012. Overall, his directional punting lacked placement, and his punts were often returnable due to keeping the ball in play and/or out-kicking his coverage.
Kern is a powerful punter with the numbers to back it up. He nailed a 71-yard punt this year, his longest, and averaged a solid 47.6 yards per punt.
The Titans have a good punter with the potential to be better. Kern can quickly get into our top 10 next season with better accuracy.
Kern was No. 14 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
13. Drew Butler, Pittsburgh Steelers
Drew Butler’s first season in the NFL showed that he has some work to do in terms of accuracy and placement. Butler had six of his 77 kicks downed in the end zone—not a bad number, but not great either. He’ll have to improve his placement inside the 10.
Butler led all NFL punters with a long of 79 yards. That’s amazing. His average wasn’t as good, though, at only 43.8 yards per punt. Finding a happy medium between the two will be key for Butler in his second season.
The son of former NFL kicker Kevin Butler, Drew acclimated quickly in his first season. He proved that his leg strength is superb, but now he has to learn accuracy and placement.
Butler was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
12. Shane Lechler, Oakland Raiders
You might be surprised if you charted Shane Lechler’s games to find that he’s not overly accurate. Lechler’s game is power. He over-kicks often and had over 10 percent of his punts go into the end zone last year.
One of the strongest punters in the game, Lechler has a high average (47.2 yards per) and a long of 68 yards. Perhaps the most impressive number is his maximum hang time of 5.5 seconds. With world-class speed at gunner, Lechler can bang the ball and watch it go.
Lechler is praised for his leg, and he should be, but there’s not much science to his punting. He simply kicks the ball as far as he can. Thankfully, the Raiders are blessed with 4.2-40 athletes to play gunner.
Lechler was ranked No. 3 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
11. Kevin Huber, Cincinnati Bengals
Kevin Huber graded out slightly above average when it came to accuracy. Of his 76 punts, seven were touchbacks—a solid average. Huber did a good job with straight-line punting, but he didn’t do as well sticking the ball in the corner.
When it comes to leg power, Huber graded out above average, but only slightly. His long of 69 yards was good for No. 8 overall. His average punt of 46.6 yards was good for No. 15. Huber doesn’t have awe-inspiring power, but he is good enough to pin back an offense.
Balanced punting is the key to Huber’s game. He shows good placement and accuracy, as well as good power. He’s not elite in any one category, but he's very good in both.
Huber was ranked No. 31 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
10. Brandon Fields, Miami Dolphins
Brandon Fields struggled in 2012 to find his placement. He had nine touchbacks on 74 punts and saw 42 of his punts returned. As with any punter, some of that is on the gunners, but Fields’ strength may have cost the Dolphins in field position.
The most powerful punter we graded, Fields was one of only two punters to average more than 50 yards per punt. His long wasn’t amazing—at 66 yards, it was around average—but his per-punt marks and maximum hang time (5.3) show a punter with a serious leg.
Fields is a case study in power versus accuracy. When you need someone to boom the ball down the field, he’s your guy. But when accuracy and touch are needed, he struggles.
Fields was ranked No. 6 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
9. Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs
When it comes to accuracy, Dustin Colquitt does a great job preventing returnable punts. His seven touchbacks on the year are all that keep him from being higher.
Colquitt shows good hang time (maximum of 5.3 seconds) and a solid overall punting average (46.8 yards per). He’s able to pin the opposing offense back.
One of the more balanced punters in the NFL, Colquitt shows good range, power and accuracy. There’s not much he can’t do.
Colquitt was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
8. Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings
A deadly punter when it comes to drilling the opposing offense back inside its own 20, Chris Kluwe is a good directional punter who limits touchbacks (two on the year) and keeps the ball from being returnable when at all possible.
Kluwe had a low average on the year—just 45 yards per punt—but did well when it came to maximum hang time (5.40 seconds). Kluwe is much more about hang time and ball placement than sheer power on his punts.
Kluwe's net average of 39.7 in 2012 was the best of his eight-year career as he made a big leap up our rankings.
Kluwe was ranked No. 19 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
7. Jon Ryan, Seattle Seahawks
Jon Ryan showed good ball placement inside the 10- and 20-yard lines. On the year, he only had three touchbacks.
Ryan finished the season tied with the second-longest punt of the year at 73 yards. He didn’t have a great average, though—just 45.6 yards per punt, which points to consistency problems. We’d rather see a mid-60-yard long and a higher average when it comes to pure power.
Ryan is one of the better punters in the NFL when it comes to accuracy, but he doesn’t always match that up with great power. He can come up short often, but overall he is a very good punter.
Ryan ranked No. 4 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
6. Bryan Anger, Jacksonville Jaguars
In his first season, Bryan Anger struggled at times to keep the ball in play and not out-kick his coverage. Of his 91 punts, 40 were returned and only 11 were downed by his gunners.
The Jaguars drafted Anger for his power, and they got it. His long punt of 73 yards was good for a tie at No. 2 overall on the year. Add in Anger’s average of 47.8 yards, and you see why the Jaguars coveted him so much in the 2012 draft.
A rookie third-round pick, Anger played very well in his first season. Improving his accuracy heading into year two will be the key to his long-term success.
Anger was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
5. Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers
Mike Scifres’ 2012 season lacked the ball control of previous years. His seven touchbacks were high for him, even with 33 punts downed inside the 20. When it came to directional punting accuracy, Scifres wasn’t at the top of his game.
One of the stronger legs in the game, Scifres averaged 48.3 yards per punt and boomed a long of 66 yards. Hang time was an issue at times this year, but his maximum of 5.3 seconds was good.
The Chargers have one of the league’s top punters, and Scifres routinely ranks near the top among players at the position.
Scifres was ranked No. 2 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
4. Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints
Thomas Morstead didn’t have his most accurate year, even kicking in a dome. His six touchbacks weren’t bad, but his placement inside the 20 was. Some of that can go on his gunners, but in our charting, Morstead didn’t perform as well with control or placement.
Morstead was one of the most powerful punters in the NFL during the 2012 season. His 70-yard long puts him near the top of the league, as does his 50.1-yard average. Morstead was one of only two punters to average more than 50 yards per punt.
Kicking in a dome no doubt helps Morstead’s accuracy, but his placement, control and awareness kept him from our top ranking overall.
Morstead was tied at No. 8 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
3. Donnie Jones, Houston Texans
Donnie Jones was a master at putting the ball inside the 20-yard line, with 29 of his 88 punts being downed inside the opposing team's red zone.
Jones finished No. 10 in the NFL with a punting average of 47.2 yards per kick. His maximum hang time of 5.3 was good for a tie at No. 7 overall. The two combine to show off the leg strength of the Texans punter. His long of 66 yards was in the top 10 as well.
Jones benefited from some big kicks all year, but his accuracy set him apart. He did a great job controlling kicks and giving his teammates a chance to make a play.
Jones was ranked No. 20 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
2. Andy Lee, San Francisco 49ers
Andy Lee didn’t have the same level of success in 2012 that he did in 2011, but we’re talking about an accurate punter with good directional ability. He’s handcuffed by the wind and rain in San Francisco some, but overall his placement and control are very good.
Lee was more powerful than accurate in 2012, showing off good distance with a long of 66 yards and a per-punt average of 48.1 yards. His hang time of 5.1 was lower than the top-ranked guys.
Our top-rated punter last year, Lee saw his accuracy drop off slightly in 2012. But he’s still one of the best in the business when you factor in weather conditions and his leg strength.
Lee was ranked No. 1 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.
1. Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts
Pat McAfee doesn’t benefit from world-class speed at the gunner position, which puts more pressure on him to deliver. He did, to the tune of 30 punts downed inside the 20 and eight touchbacks on the season.
With a long of 64, McAfee didn’t have the biggest kick of the year, but he was consistently powerful with an average of 48.2 yards per punt.
Kicking in a dome may help McAfee, but no punter in the NFL did a better job managing the position. His control was top-notch all season, as was his power. Our top punter award goes to the Colts’ franchise player.
McAfee was tied at No. 21 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.