It's no secret that I have been critical of Britton Colquitt's regular season performance and his contract. He did, however, perform amazingly well in the playoffs. The Broncos were rumored to have interest in Tom Hackett, the punter from Utah, who went undrafted. When the Broncos drafted Riley Dixon at 228 he was the second punter taken behind Drew Kaser from Texas A&M at 179. There were threw punters drafted this year (some years there are no punters drafted) and four more guys signed as college free agents.
|Drew Kaser||Texas A&M||179|
|Lac Edwards||Sam Houston St||235|
|Garrett Swanson||Fresno State||UDCFA|
So why did we draft Dixon? Well, it wasn't that he was the best punter in college football last season. Statistically that was Tom Hackett in terms of average punt distance
|2||Dalton Schomp||Florida Atlantic||CUSA||12||44||2101||47.8|
|3||Drew Kaser*||Texas A&M||SEC||12||60||2848||47.5|
|4||Michael Carrizosa*||San Jose State||MWC||13||48||2280||47.5|
|7||Joseph Davidson*||Bowling Green State||MAC||14||54||2483||46.0|
|8||Hayden Hunt*||Colorado State||MWC||11||52||2393||46.0|
|9||Taylor Symmank*||Texas Tech||Big 12||8||33||1518||46.0|
|10||Austin Rehkow||Idaho||Sun Belt||12||50||2296||45.9|
|13||Nick O'Toole*||West Virginia||Big 12||13||71||3223||45.4|
|15||Cason Beatty*||Florida State||ACC||13||61||2756||45.2|
|18||Tyler Newsome*||Notre Dame||Ind||13||55||2446||44.5|
|20||Alan Luna||Texas-El Paso||CUSA||12||65||2885||44.4|
Wait! We drafted a punter who wasn't in the top 20 in the FBS in net punting? Yes, we did. Note that one of the drafted punters, Lac Edwards, played at an FBS schoool. So where did Riley Dixon rank? 29th with an average punt of 43.7 yards last season for the 4-8 Syracuse Orange. So maybe he just had an off year. Nope. He finished 39th in the BCS in net punting in 2014 and 45th in 2012 (42.4 and 42.1 net yards per punt respectively). So then why did we draft this punter?Well, he's big and tough (6'5", 220 lbs) which can be seen in his youtube highlight video of his fake punts and fake FGs, but that's not why we drafted him.
We drafted him because he is a master of hangtime and forcing fair catches. Dixon forced the returner to fair catch the ball on 42.4% of his punts in 2015. He can boom kicks when he needs to according to many scouts at the Senior Bowl
First Senior Bowl tweet about a punter. Some bombs from Cuse punter Riley Dixon here at practice.
Dixon in the low 4s pretty consistently on hang time. Not bad for these conditions but low by NFL standards
There was a punter for the north squad, Syracuse's Riley Dixon who was booming his kicks. Very impressive leg.
Rare for Punters to steal the show, but Riley Dixon really turned some heads today. At 6'5"/220 you can see where he gets the power
His average punt may have only been 43.7, but his net was an amazing 41.9. That's right. The opposing team averaged 1.8 yards per punt return last season against Syracuse. Now that was according the this article which seems dubious since Dixon did have a punt returned 69 yards for a TD against LSU in 2015 (that's also the game where Dixon hurtled a defender on a fake punt to gain a first down - both are in the highlights). He also had a punt returned for 31 yards against him (and his bad coverage unit) against NCSU. Dixon punted 65 times in 12 games in 2015 and only 14 of those were returned. The fact that only 21.5% if his punts were returned in 2015 is impressive (unless he is hitting them all for touchbacks). He did have four punts go for touchbacks in 2015 (6.2%) but that was coupled with 27 punts that forced the other team to start their drive inside the 20 (41.5%) and seven of those were downed inside the 10 (10.7%). If Dixon had produced those two stats in the NFL last season he would have been in the top 10 in %in20 and in the bottom 10 in terms of %in10. He would have been middle-of-the-pack in touchback% but that's usually a function of poor coverage units more than a function of a kicker who is not very good at directional punting. Riley Dixon appears to be very good at directional punting, getting hangtime and punting the ball for distance.
You might laugh but this kid can be a weapon for us like Colquitt was a weapon for us in the playoffs.
Watch and listen for the hangtimes that Dixon was getting. He's consistently getting 5+ seconds of hangtime. That video was shot at a high school in Scottsdale, AZ - elevation 1247' above sea level. Project what Riley is going to be able to do at a significantly higher elevation.