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Denver Broncos Positional Review: Britton Colquitt

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We've come to expect below average performances from Britton Colquitt. His performance during the regular was his normal below average performance, but he may have done enough during the post-season to be our punter in 2016.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

This is going to be the reprise on the end of the season punting review that I did in 2015. For background on the methodology and some of the new stats please read that previous piece and this one.

An elite punter coupled with and elite defense can be absolutely devastating to opposing offenses. We did not have anything close to an elite punter this year and we haven't for a long time.

Overview

Britton Colquitt's numbers have been average to below average for most of his career (see below)

YEAR GROSS AVE Rank NET Rank TB% Rank IN20% Rank FC% Rank Punt% Rank
2010 44.6 10 36.6 22 8.1% 18 22.1 32 19.8 20 61.5%
2011 47.4 9 40.2 6 6.9% 13 32.7 18 26.7 11 68.0%
2012 46.3 16 42.1 5 6.0% 12 40.3 10 25.4 16 72.7%
2013 44.5 21 38.8 24 4.6% 7 35.4 17 38.5 2 66.6%
2014 43.9 22 37.6 28 5.8% 7 36.0 14 27.5 18 63.7% 26
2015 43.6 27 39.5 21 5.9% 14 26.0 27 18.8 27 66.3% 21
Career 45.5 18 40.5 18 6.3 12 33.2 20 26.1 16 66.5%

(Punt% is % of possible "yards" the punter could have gained for his team in field position)

For his career, 2015 was Britton's worst punting year in terms of gross punting average while being his 3rd best in terms of net punting average. As you will note, much of the statistical analysis I'll be doing will involve the whole punting unit because lots of long punt returns allowed hurt punt% and poor coverage units will also lead to more touchbacks and fewer punts down inside the 20, 15, 10 or 5 yard line.

In depth look - four punts

With two minutes left in the game and the Broncos leading 16-7, Colquitt punted from the Raiders 44 yard line (on 4th and 1). Wanting to take as much time off the clock as possible, Britton boomed one that went into the end zone for a touchback. The net of on the punt was only 24 yards. The best possible outcome would have been downing the punt at the 1 (a 43 yard punt). So for that punt Britton's punt% was 24/43 = 55.8%. Meaning that he only "gained" 55.8% of the possible field position that he could have gained for us on the play. This would be a "short field punt" - from your own 35 or beyond.

On another punt the Broncos had 4th and 7 at the 6 down 14-7 to the P*ts in the 3rd quarter, Britton boomed one 59 yards, putting the P*ts all the way back at their own 35 (no return). I define the optimal outcome here as a 65 yard punt  with no return. So 59/65 = 90.7%. Colquitt "gained" 90.7% of the possible field position for us on this punt. This is what I deem a "long field punt" - from inside your own 34 punting  - from this area of the field there is basically no worry about kicking it into the endzone for a touchback.

On another punt we faced 4th and 25 from our own 40 up 7-0 at the start of the 2nd quarter against the Bears. Colquitt hit one 46 yards that was downed at the Bears 14 yard line. Similar to the first punt, the optimal outcome would have been a punt downed at the 1 (59 yard punt). So 46/59 =  78.0%. Colquitt gained 78% of the possible field position for us on this punt.

Leading 14-12 with 14:17 left to play in the 4th quarter the Broncos faced 4th and 1 at our own 33. Colquitt hit a 50 yard punt, but he outkicked the coverage and T.J. Jones was able to return the ball 28 yards. The net of the punt was 22 yards (50-28) and the best possible outcome was 65 yards; 22/65 = 33.8%. So because of the line-drive kick and the return, Colquitt only gained 33.8% of the possible field position for us on this punt.

Comparison to the rest of the NFL

I analyzed every punt in the 2015 regular season. Colquitt's average punt% this season was 66.3%, meaning that he got almost exactly two thirds of the possible yardage. The worst punter in the league from a punt% perspective was Drew Butler of the Cardinals who only gained 59.7% of the possible yardage for his team. The best in the league was Sam Hekker of the Rams at 71.9%. It is interesting to note that of the 2429 punts this regular season, only 19 scored a 100% or better in my punt% measure (>100% is attainable on a long field punt with a net of more than 65 yards).

2015 punt%

Looking at the standard deviation of punt% numbers for the individual punters give us an idea of how consistent they were (which might mean consistently bad). Not only was Drew Butler of the Cardinals the worst at getting "yardage" for his team, but he was also the most inconsistent of the punters in the league with a standard deviation of 26.3%. Jake Schum of the Buccaneers was worse then Britton Colquitt at gaining yardage for his team, but he was remarkably consistent with a league-low standard deviation on his punt% numbers of 12.5%. Britton Colquitt was quite consistent this year, but part of that is helped by our good punt coverage unit this season.

Team Punts Gross Avg Net Avg %in20 %in15 %in10 %in5 TB% FC% %NotRet avg ret PPP Punt% Punt% SD
Chiefs 75 44.4 40.8 49% 47% 36% 9.3% 6.7% 28.0% 78.0% 6.5 29% 69.8% 14.4%
Raiders 83 44.0 40.7 48% 42% 28% 10.8% 4.8% 22.9% 78.9% 6.7 23% 67.8% 21.8%
Colts 85 47.7 41.7 33% 33% 29% 11.8% 7.1% 27.1% 56.9% 10.7 22% 66.5% 24.7%
Steelers 59 42.6 39.1 47% 41% 25% 11.9% 3.4% 35.6% 70.3% 8.7 22% 67.6% 22.9%
Titans 88 47.4 40.3 39% 34% 23% 6.8% 1.1% 26.1% 53.8% 12.9 22% 66.8% 24.8%
Rams 96 47.9 43.7 43% 32% 24% 9.4% 6.3% 26.0% 58.8% 7.2 18% 70.7% 17.3%
Falcons 58 46.4 40.4 41% 41% 24% 8.6% 6.9% 32.8% 54.2% 9.7 17% 68.7% 18.4%
Cowboys 69 45.2 42.5 39% 32% 16% 7.2% 1.4% 31.9% 64.3% 6.8 14% 69.7% 15.3%
Giants 76 44.5 38.9 43% 38% 22% 11.8% 7.9% 27.6% 63.7% 10.0 14% 66.6% 23.0%
Jets 79 43.1 36.2 34% 28% 19% 3.8% 5.1% 17.7% 58.7% 12.7 14% 61.7% 24.6%
Patriots 73 45.4 39.9 42% 33% 18% 6.8% 4.1% 19.2% 56.7% 8.9 14% 67.0% 23.2%
Seahawks 68 45.7 37.9 35% 32% 24% 4.4% 10.3% 29.4% 50.5% 13.3 13% 66.3% 18.1%
Bengals 68 45.2 40.5 32% 28% 22% 11.8% 8.8% 22.1% 50.5% 6.3 13% 68.9% 16.3%
Browns 70 46.7 40.1 36% 34% 19% 4.3% 5.7% 21.4% 54.8% 10.3 13% 69.2% 14.1%
R***kins 70 45.4 39.8 30% 30% 21% 5.7% 10.0% 20.0% 57.6% 8.6 11% 71.3% 14.5%
Ravens 74 46.7 42.9 39% 38% 18% 10.8% 6.8% 16.2% 68.1% 5.0 11% 71.9% 15.6%
Vikings 66 41.6 37.8 35% 33% 18% 3.0% 7.6% 31.8% 50.5% 5.2 11% 63.6% 21.2%
Cardinals 60 42.2 35.4 37% 38% 20% 8.3% 10.0% 31.7% 55.6% 11.8 10% 59.2% 26.3%
Lions 80 46.0 42 31% 23% 14% 3.8% 3.8% 25.0% 40.4% 6.1 10% 67.4% 20.7%
Bills 82 46.3 41.3 27% 23% 13% 6.1% 3.7% 24.4% 46.7% 8.8 10% 67.7% 15.9%
Bears 73 43.7 39.6 40% 32% 15% 5.5% 5.5% 30.1% 55.3% 7.5 10% 66.2% 21.9%
Jaguars 80 46.3 39.5 33% 26% 14% 3.8% 5.0% 27.5% 37.9% 10.3 9% 64.8% 16.6%
Panthers 70 45.4 39.8 29% 27% 16% 5.7% 7.1% 27.1% 40.4% 7.8 9% 67.2% 17.6%
Chargers 72 44.7 38.2 21% 21% 11% 5.6% 2.8% 19.4% 37.8% 9.8 8% 62.6% 19.7%
Broncos 85 43.6 39.5 26% 22% 14% 3.5% 5.9% 18.8% 55.6% 6.9 8% 66.3% 14.1%
Saints 67 44.9 39.9 37% 25% 15% 6.0% 9.0% 23.9% 54.3% 8.3 6% 66.6% 14.6%
Dolphins 92 47.6 39.7 33% 26% 16% 5.4% 10.9% 16.3% 44.9% 10.5 5% 67.6% 15.1%
Buccaneers 56 41.9 38 27% 23% 13% 1.8% 7.1% 26.8% 41.5% 5.2 5% 65.0% 12.5%
Packers 81 43.9 40.2 22% 22% 12% 2.5% 7.4% 17.3% 47.2% 4.2 5% 65.4% 14.0%
Eagles 86 45.9 41.6 34% 28% 14% 3.5% 9.3% 26.7% 43.4% 5.1 5% 68.8% 17.8%
49ers 92 43.7 39.5 34% 25% 10% 2.2% 5.4% 23.9% 48.2% 6.4 4% 64.6% 17.1%
Texans 96 47.2 38.6 25% 19% 10% 4.2% 11.5% 15.6% 29.4% 10.2 -1% 63.6% 15.7%

In20% = % of punts downed inside the 20. TB% = % of punts resulting in a touchback. FC% = % of punts resulting in a fair catch. %NotRet = % of punts not returned (fair catch, out of bounds, downed by coverage team or touchback). PPP% = precision punt percentage, %in10 - TB%. Punt% SD = punt % standard deviation.

Looking specifically at  Precision Punt Percentage, Britton Colquitt was 25th this season at 8.2%. He was 17th last season at ppp. His brother led the league in this stat with a remarkable 29.3% mainly a result of him getting 36% of his punts downed inside the 10 - more than double what Britton did.

A Saving Grace?

During the playoffs, Britton Colquitt punted like his brother did during the regular season. As much as a punter can be dialed-in, Britton Colquitt was. His punt% for the three playoff games was 73.3% - meaning that he punted better than the best punter in the league during our playoff run. His gross punt average during the playoffs was 46.3 (43.6 during the regular season) and his net average was 43.3. Had he attained both of those numbers during the regular season he would have been tied for 11th in gross punt average and 2nd in net punt average. He certainly earned his paycheck during the playoff run, but he is scheduled to make $3.25MM next season. Given that he has been a below average punter for most of his NFL career (despite playing half of his games at mile high), I'm guessing that we could fund a punter to give us below average performance for much less money. If we cut Britton before June 1, we have 750k in dead money with $3.25MM cap savings for 2016.

During the Rose Bowl, John Elway was photographed sitting with Tom Hackett, the best punter in college football this past season. Hackett is projected to be a 4th or 5th round pick in this draft. Even a 4th round pick would be a big savings over what Colquitt is scheduled to make next season. The Broncos also signed a punter to a futures contract after the season this year (WIll Johnson who was signed by the Texans as a college free agent in 2015). So if nothing else we will have a legitimate competition for the punter spot next season. Karl Schmitz was a good story, but his chances of making an actual NFL roster were minuscule from the outset.