After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc., in conjunction with ESPN.com's Matt Williamson, has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2012 season. Here's how the top punters stacked up.
Note: No rookies were included in this exercise. Age refers to player's age at start of 2012 season on Sept. 5.
Like with kickers, this is not a glamorous position and they are often only noticed when they screw something up. But having a great punter like Shane Lechler or Andy Lee can be a fantastic way to dominate field position with a booming punt or great directional punting to pin the opponent deep in their own end. A great punter can be a defense's best friend. And, for that matter, an offense's too.
Think about it. If you pin an opponent deep with a punt and hold them defensively, you gain field position while your offense sits on the sidelines. Combine a great punter with a big-legged kicker and it can add more than a few field goals to a team's point total by the end of the season.
Unlike with kickers though, punters need to be very good athletes. It can be a huge help with wayward snaps, trick plays and potentially making a game-saving tackle as the last layer of defense. All of those elements figure into the rankings below.
Lechler is a strong-legged punter who has learned how to be an accurate one as well, trying to hit the coffin corners or getting extra hang time on shorter punts.
He is a right-footed, three-step punter with excellent mechanics and a high follow through. He can speed up his motion when under pressure. He has solid hands and holds for field goals and PAT attempts.
Lee has seen steady improvement every year since coming into the league eight years ago. He led the league in gross average with 50.9 yards per punt and net average with 44.0 yards per punt.
He is a two-plus step punter who gets the ball out quickly and shows good rhythm and balance. He has developed into a solid directional or pooch punter who can kill the ball inside the 20. He is sure-handed when catching the snap and holds for field goals and PATs.
Colquitt is a good-sized punter with a strong leg and a nice punting motion. He is a left-footed, two-step punter who is athletic and can react to off-target snaps or hurry up his motion to get the ball off under pressure.
He gets good extension on his follow through and very good hang time on his punts. He has become an accurate punter when going to the coffin corners. He also holds for the field goals and PATs.