It isn't often that a punter selected in the seventh round receives much acclaim, but second-year player Riley Dixon put together an impressive rookie campaign deserving of praise and demonstrated that he has the ability to become one of the league's best punters.
In regard to punting distance, Dixon wasn't even close to being the best punter eligible in the 2016 Draft. However, the former Syracuse standout may have been the most exciting — making his name well-known in college football for his athletic ability and penchant for converting on trick plays. It wasn't just those miraculous conversions that made Dixon worth of draft day consideration, but his impressive hang-time numbers that forced almost half of his punts in college to be fair caught, and if they were returned, for little yardage.
Name: Riley Dixon
Height: 6'4" Weight: 221
Age: 23 Experience: 2
Though the Broncos used a selection on Dixon, it wasn't a given that he would even make the team's 2016 final roster. First, he had to beat out savvy veteran Britton Colquitt, who had manned the Broncos' punting duties for the past six seasons. After a long battle that endured through training camp and the preseason, Dixon showed the coaching staff enough to win the job, and Colquitt was subsequently released and later signed on with the Cleveland Browns.
The decision to opt for Dixon over Colquitt was a good one. His 41.3 net average was the best for a rookie punter in NFL history, and his punting prowess earned him a selection to the Pro Football Writer Association's 2016 All-Rookie Team. That is quite impressive for a former collegiate walk-on and seventh round selection, and there is no reason not to expect Dixon to take big strides this season and cement himself as one of the best punters in all of football.
As mentioned before, Dixon had the best net average for a rookie punter in NFL history. He also ranked eighth among all punters with opposing players only averaging 6.78 yards per return on his punts. Dixon also converted on a trick play in a game against the Tennessee Titans, which was the first time a Broncos' punter had completed a pass in thirty years. Dixon also showed he can boom it deep when need be, reeling off several punts that went for more than sixty yards in his rookie season.
WATCH: Brandon McManus feeds Riley Dixon who punts the football a long way. pic.twitter.com/A5TGgBmhm6— Altitude Sports 950 (@Altitude950) May 23, 2017
Dixon had a very impressive season, but there are still several areas in which he could improve. According to advanced statistics, Dixon ranked average or below average in several key categories: punts returned (19th) touchback percentage (16th) and punts inside the 20-yard line (25th). With more experience, he should undoubtedly become better with his placement and technique to improve those numbers in 2017.
"It's an honor to be on the team with y'all. This is for the whole punt coverage squad. Y'all killed it."— Dixon after being awarded the game ball in Denver's win against San Diego in October
Dixon is the only punter currently on the Broncos' roster, as the team declined to add anyone at the position after the draft as an undrafted college free agent. Out of any player on the roster, Dixon's job is the most secure. They sky is the limit for Dixon, and if he continues to improve upon his historic rookie season, he could very well be one of the league's best punters and a strategic weapon on a Broncos' special teams unit that is looking to take big strides under new coordinator Brock Olivio in 2017.