Yesterday, I looked at a new way to measure punting statistics. Let’s review by using the top single performance from 2014, which surprisingly came from Jets second-year punter Ryan Quigley in a 31-0 loss to San Diego. Yes, the Jets were terrible, but that doesn’t mean it was Quigley’s fault! He had 8 punts, and all but 1 was an above-average punt. Let’s review:
- Punt 1: Quigley punts from the Jets 39-yard line. On average, when a team punts at the 39, the opposing team takes over at the “78.9” yard line, which means just a hair in front of that team’s 21-yard line. Instead, Quigley pinned San Diego back to their 11; that 51-yard punt therefore provided 11.1 more yards of field position than we would expect.
- Punt 2 was a 44-yard punt from the Jets 29. On average, punts from the 29 pin the other team back at their 29.7 yard line. The 44-yarder had no return, giving San Diego the ball at their 27, so Quigley added 2.3 yards of field position over average.
- Punt 3 was from the Jets 20, so San Diego would have been expected to take over at their 38.4-yard line. Instead, following a whopping 64 yard punt, a 2-yard return, and 9-yard lost by San Diego due to an illegal block, and the Chargers were back at their own 9-yard line. That goes down as +20.4 for Quigley. Is it fair to give the punter credit when the return team loses yards on a penalty? I don’t know, although I’m not sure if that’s more or less fair than return yards that team gains (or yards the punting team loses due to a penalty). Think of these more as punt unit ratings than punter ratings, I guess.
- Okay, even I don’t have the energy to go through all 8 punts. But on the other 5, Quigley gained 16.8 yards over expectation, 11.9, 10.4, 10.2, and on one bad punt, -6.0.
Add it all up, and on those 8 punts, Quigley provided about 77 extra yards of field position relative to the average punt. Do this calculation for every punter in every game, and we can generate season ratings. And in 2014, two punters stood out: Sam Koch and Pat McAfee. Here’s how to read Koch’s line. He had 60 punts, with a gross punting average of 47.3 yards, and a net of 44.1 yards. On average, Koch was punting from his own team’s 33.4-yard line, and the next play took place at the 76.2, or the opponent’s 23.8-yard line. Based on the average numbers crunched yesterday, we would expect the average Koch punt to start about 3.9 yards closer to the Baltimore end zone, so Koch is credited with an average of 3.9 yards above expectation per punt.
|Rk||Punter||Tm||Punt||Gross||Net||Avg YdL||Fut FP||Exp FP||Diff|
Note that my numbers may differ slightly from NFL averages, either because of glitches in play-by-play data or because I am including the result of penalty yards (and the NFL does not). Also, and this is something I just learned, blocked punts don’t count against a punter’s average, although they do in my formula. That said, some thoughts:
- You might wonder whether this was worth the effort, given that Koch also topped this table in both gross and net punting average. But to that I say, no Tress Way! Washington’s punter had an absurdly high gross average,1 but ranks below-average in this formula. One reason: Way had 17 more punts than Koch, yet had 3 more touchbacks and four fewer punts inside the 20. Score a win for this formula!
- Do punters get due? I have no clue, but it seems like Johnny Hekker, Thomas Morstead, and Kevin Huber deserve some props. Koch and McAfee are relatively well-known, by punter standards, but who knew those three had such strong seasons in 2014? Actually, Huber made the Pro Bowl, but who knew that, anyway?
- McAfee is well-regarded, but here’s a good stat for you: he had 30 punts land inside the 20 and just 3 go for touchbacks. A 10:1 ratio in that metric is very, very good.
- Carolina’s Brad Nortman was the worst regular punter in the NFL last year. The Panthers actually punted in pretty good field position for a bad offense: their average punt was at the 36, but Nortman had a miserable 36.4-net average. And he had two punts blocked (both against the Vikings)! And given that promising field position, his “inside 20” ratio was not particularly impressive, either. But the Panthers seem to like him, so what do I know.
Okay, that’s all I got today. As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.
- He actually tied for the league-lead in gross punting average by the NFL’s calculations, but his one blocked punt drops him below Koch in mine. [↩]