The punter is one of the most forgotten positions on an NFL roster. With only a few brave individuals fighting "for the brand" of the big-legged, kick-booming, coffin-cornering 53rd roster spot, punters often get pushed to the side.
Kickers put points on the board, so they are at least known to fantasy football owners. Kickers also get put in the spotlight when they can win (or lose) a game in the final seconds with a field goal or extra point.
Punters don't score, but their contribution is just as important because they play a crucial role in the game-within-a-game known as field position. A good punter can actually make a defense look better than it truly is, and bail out a bad offense.
Like every other position, there is an elite tier of punters who are better than their peers; the best of the best.
To break down the five best punters in the league it is important to first understand what goes into the evaluation. This is not simply the five most powerful kickers. Below is a brief explanation of two advanced metrics used in this ranking, alongside traditional stats like average punt distance, fair catches, touch backs, and longest punt.
For a more in-depth explanation of all punting stats, see this summary by The Koffin Korner.
Net average: While AVG is simply the average distance of a punters punts, Net AVG accounts for touchbacks and return yards, giving a more accurate metric of a punters averaged gain yards per punt.
In 20: The total number of punts that fall inside an opponent's 20-yard line (the 20-yard line is important because a touchback would bring the receiving team out to the 20-yard line). In 20 percentage, or In20%, is the percent of punts that fall within the 20-yard line, and is seen as one of the most important statistics to measure a punter's accuracy and skill.
5. Bryan Anger (Houston Texans)
When the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Bryan Anger with the 70th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, they made him the highest-drafted punter since 1995. Now on his third NFL team, Anger has over 600 career punts, All-Pro recognition, and the ninth-highest yards-per-punt in NFL history.
In 2020, Anger has the forth-highest Net AVG in the league among punters with at least 30 punts, and is second in the NFL in fair-caught punts. In 2019, Anger placed one of the best punts of the year, a 67-yard bomb that dropped at the opponent's one-yard line with just enough back spin to stay out of the end zone, but enough power to roll just inches from the goal line.
4. Jack Fox (Detroit Lions)
Lions rookie Jack Fox is PFF's top-ranked punter in 2020, with a grade of 92.2 (five higher than any other punter). Despite ranking 12th in the NFL in punts with 29, Fox has collected the sixth most punting yards (1530). His 47.7 Net AVG leads the NFL by 2.7 yards, and his 67-yard Week 2 punt is the fourth-longest punt of the season.
With many of the league's top punters performing for over a decade, Fox will have to produce at this clip for more than just nine games to solidify himself in the top tier. But on pace to break the NFL's record for Net AVG in season, the 24-year-old Fox is drawing attention — something punters rarely do.
"We’re not worried about records right now," Fox told the Detroit Free Press. "We’re just worried about winning games.”