18 Jan 2010
As part of our ongoing Stat of the Day series, we're digging deep into our spreadsheets to run a new stat every weekday until Super Bowl XLIV.
Today, we look at the best and worst punters according to the FO special teams ratings. While our special teams page gives only team stats, we also do individual special teams ratings. For punters, we measure gross punt value by analyzing the what the net value of every punt would be if the other team had a league-average return on that punt. A "league-average" return is based on the length of the punt and the yard line where it is caught. We don't have measures of hang time, and of course the net value of an unreturnable punt doesn't need to be adjusted for a "league-average" return. But this allows us to separate the value of punters from coverage teams without over-valuing punters who get high gross punting averages by kicking touchbacks that don't improve field position as much as shorter kicks downed inside the 20. We also adjust for weather and altitude... which, as you will see, ends up being particularly important in 2009.
Here's our list of the top punters of the year.
|Punter||Team||Punt Pts+||Net Pts+|
How did Andy Lee end up higher than Shane Lechler? There are two reasons. First, while Lechler had a much higher gross punt average and even a better net punt average, Lee was better at specifically keeping punts away from return men. 66 percent of Lechler's punts were returnable, 13 percent were touchbacks, and the other 21 percent were fair caught, downed, or landed out of bounds. By comparison, 58 percent of Lee's punts were returnable, 8 percent were touchbacks, and 34 percent were fair caught, downed, or landed out of bounds.
Second, we have a special weather adjustment in our special teams ratings for punts in San Francisco, because of the wind currents associated with that stadium. It's fully possible that this adjustment is a little too strong, and Lee didn't actually have a better season than Lechler. But he's still closer than people realize. Lee and Lechler both were elected to the Pro Bowl, a rare example of the Pro Bowl getting a position completely and totally correct.
Jon Ryan wins the "punter screwed by his coverage" award, as Seattle allowed ten different returns of 20 or more yards including two touchdowns.
By the way, if this table went to 11 (which is one higher) the next punter listed would have been Brett Kern, who inexplicably was scapegoated for Denver's terrible punt coverage unit, got cut, and signed with Tennessee to replace Reggie Hodges. Since Kern was cut when the Broncos were 6-0, he ended up with a 14-2 record this year, better than any team except Indianapolis.
Now, we'll flip things around and look at the worst punters of the year. If you read the wild card game previews, you know who is at number one.
|Punter||Team||Punt Pts+||Net Pts+|
Jeff Feagles? Yes, Jeff Feagles. Sure, Feagles is good at the coffin corner punt when it is needed, but he's bad at changing field position when the Giants are on their own half of the field. His average punt this year went just 40.6 yards, worse than all regular punters except for Reggie Hodges and Chris Hanson.
24 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2010, 3:48pm by jimmyhoffasbody
Auburn is the most unlikely contender ever to reach the BCS title game, but the Tigers are also hitting top speed at the right time to defend the SEC banner in Pasadena. Plus a new top 25, the Lowsman Trophy watch and the rest from the final regular-season weekend on campus.