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Full NFL punting review for 2023

How did the prodigal punter do in his return to Denver?

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

As I do after every season I look at every punt in the NFL and grade them based on how many yards the punter “gained” relative to how many he could have gained. Punting is about field position and the job of the punter is to maximize field position - to make the opposing team start their drive with the worst possible field position.

To do this I break up punts into to groups - long field and short field punts. Long field punts are punts where the team is punting from inside their own 35. On long field punts the optimal result is 65 net yard punt. So if the team is punting from the 20, that means the opponent starts their ensuing drive from the 15 yard line. In other words, elite punters can flip the field on long field punts.

All punts are graded on net yards divided by potential yards. Long field punts are set at a potential of 65 yards and short field punts are set with the optimal result being a punt downed at the 1. Neither optimal result happens all that often, but they are what all punters hope to do when they punt.

Riley Dixon had nine punts downed inside the ten and three punts downed inside the five despite having a relatively large number of punts. His inside the 20, 10 and 5% numbers were not very good. He was 21st, 28th and 19th in those three numbers. There were some rate stats where he was good though.

He was 6th in NET/GROSS mainly because he had a decent touchback rate (18th) and the coverage team was elite (second best in the league). He also was quite good at forcing fair catches (10th). You have to think that he had good hangtime if the coverage was that good and the fair catch rate was that high. So it would appear that he focused on minimizing returns by using hangtime even if he sacrificed distance to do so.

Team Net Avg Net Yds LF PUNT% SF Punt% NET/GROSS PP% Punts Avg Lng Yds IN 20 IN 20% IN 10 IN 10% IN 5 IN 5% OOB OOB% Dn TB TB% FC FC% Ret RET% RetY Not RET% AVG RET TD P Blk
Raiders 45.1 3380 83.8% 78.8% 89.3% 13.3% 75 50.4 83 3783 34 45% 16 21% 2 3% 15 20% 3 6 8% 20 27% 31 41% 283 59% 9.1 0 0
Buccaneers 41.8 3219 83.2% 74.7% 83.5% 3.9% 77 50.0 74 3854 26 34% 12 16% 4 5% 11 14% 9 9 12% 9 12% 38 49% 455 51% 12.0 0 0
Cowboys 44.9 1975 83.0% 84.7% 87.3% 11.4% 44 51.4 63 2262 17 39% 7 16% 2 5% 2 5% 3 2 5% 13 30% 24 55% 247 45% 10.3 0 0
Browns 42.4 3819 83.0% 75.4% 85.8% 2.2% 90 49.4 73 4449 31 34% 11 12% 7 8% 13 14% 7 9 10% 16 18% 45 50% 450 50% 10.0 0 0
Ravens 39.8 2625 81.8% 78.2% 83.1% 13.6% 66 47.8 67 3158 28 42% 14 21% 3 5% 8 12% 4 5 8% 17 26% 32 48% 433 52% 13.5 1 1
49ers 42.7 2220 81.8% 83.8% 89.5% 26.9% 52 47.7 67 2480 26 50% 16 31% 9 17% 4 8% 11 2 4% 13 25% 22 42% 220 58% 10.0 0 0
Seahawks 44.1 2911 81.7% 76.9% 88.1% -1.5% 66 50.0 73 3303 25 38% 7 11% 4 6% 3 5% 9 8 12% 12 18% 34 52% 232 48% 6.8 0 0
Titans 43.5 3440 81.7% 78.1% 85.8% 5.1% 79 50.7 74 4008 36 46% 16 20% 3 4% 10 13% 9 12 15% 19 24% 29 37% 328 63% 11.3 0 1
Rams 39.1 2466 79.5% 76.4% 79.5% 6.3% 63 49.2 72 3101 20 32% 11 17% 2 3% 7 11% 5 7 11% 12 19% 32 51% 495 49% 15.5 2 1
Jets 41.8 4136 79.5% 78.2% 85.6% 12.1% 99 48.8 62 4831 36 36% 20 20% 9 9% 8 8% 7 8 8% 28 28% 48 48% 535 52% 11.1 1 0
Vikings 41.2 2470 79.2% 72.3% 85.6% -1.7% 60 48.1 68 2887 16 27% 6 10% 0 0% 7 12% 2 7 12% 16 27% 28 47% 277 53% 9.9 0 0
Cardinals 42.9 2746 79.1% 77.2% 86.6% 7.8% 64 49.6 77 3172 13 20% 8 13% 3 5% 3 5% 10 3 5% 12 19% 36 56% 366 44% 10.2 0 0
Eagles 43.1 2240 79.0% 79.1% 88.3% 13.5% 52 48.8 63 2537 17 33% 8 15% 2 4% 2 4% 10 1 2% 7 13% 32 62% 277 38% 8.7 0 0
Lions 41.7 2378 78.3% 74.0% 89.9% 17.5% 57 46.4 70 2646 26 46% 15 26% 2 4% 3 5% 8 5 9% 20 35% 21 37% 168 63% 8.0 0 0
Jaguars 43.8 2670 78.1% 80.3% 92.3% 21.3% 61 47.4 65 2893 29 48% 17 28% 2 3% 8 13% 5 4 7% 22 36% 22 36% 143 64% 6.5 0 0
Colts 43.0 2921 78.0% 80.4% 89.0% 14.7% 68 48.2 69 3281 21 31% 10 15% 2 3% 7 10% 10 0 0% 13 19% 38 56% 360 44% 9.5 0 1
Chargers 42.3 3174 77.7% 73.7% 91.3% 8.0% 75 46.3 83 3475 30 40% 10 13% 3 4% 4 5% 8 4 5% 31 41% 28 37% 221 63% 7.9 0 0
Packers 39.7 2264 77.7% 76.1% 86.0% 10.5% 57 46.2 68 2634 18 32% 11 19% 2 4% 2 4% 5 5 9% 22 39% 23 40% 270 60% 11.7 1 0
Bills 39.9 2037 76.9% 79.0% 87.3% 19.6% 51 45.8 70 2334 24 47% 13 25% 5 10% 5 10% 7 3 6% 17 33% 19 37% 237 63% 12.5 1 0
Patriots 40.8 3999 76.1% 76.0% 87.0% 3.1% 98 46.9 79 4598 38 39% 11 11% 4 4% 14 14% 8 8 8% 24 24% 44 45% 439 55% 10.0 0 0
Falcons 41.5 3110 75.8% 80.2% 88.3% 13.3% 75 47.0 66 3523 27 36% 13 17% 3 4% 12 16% 5 3 4% 24 32% 31 41% 353 59% 11.4 0 0
Giants 42.3 4022 75.7% 74.2% 92.0% 10.5% 95 46.0 74 4372 35 37% 14 15% 1 1% 7 7% 9 4 4% 36 38% 39 41% 270 59% 6.9 0 0
Texans 43.0 3443 75.2% 77.0% 92.2% 7.5% 80 46.7 74 3735 32 40% 11 14% 1 1% 6 8% 10 5 6% 30 38% 29 36% 192 64% 6.6 0 0
Chiefs 41.8 2469 75.1% 78.8% 88.9% 10.2% 59 47.0 68 2776 20 34% 11 19% 4 7% 4 7% 10 5 8% 20 34% 20 34% 207 66% 10.4 0 0
Broncos 42.3 3344 75.0% 76.3% 91.4% 3.8% 79 46.3 68 3659 27 34% 9 11% 3 4% 7 9% 8 6 8% 27 34% 31 39% 195 61% 6.3 0 0
Commanders 41.8 3050 74.4% 76.5% 90.7% 8.2% 73 46.0 66 3361 30 41% 8 11% 1 1% 1 1% 11 2 3% 25 34% 34 47% 271 53% 8.0 0 2
Bears 38.0 2547 74.1% 75.2% 82.5% 4.5% 67 46.1 76 3088 18 27% 11 16% 1 1% 6 9% 10 8 12% 13 19% 30 45% 381 55% 12.7 1 0
Panthers 43.0 3528 73.1% 77.0% 91.9% 7.3% 82 46.8 69 3838 25 30% 11 13% 5 6% 6 7% 14 5 6% 26 32% 31 38% 210 62% 6.8 0 0
Dolphins 40.7 2157 71.8% 79.4% 89.0% 11.3% 53 45.7 66 2424 20 38% 9 17% 3 6% 6 11% 8 3 6% 19 36% 17 32% 207 68% 12.2 1 0
Steelers 39.2 3485 71.4% 72.9% 89.0% 3.4% 89 44.0 63 3914 33 37% 11 12% 2 2% 11 12% 11 8 9% 30 34% 29 33% 269 67% 9.3 0 0
Bengals 40.3 3066 70.4% 73.5% 91.0% 5.3% 76 44.3 62 3369 20 26% 9 12% 1 1% 8 11% 8 5 7% 26 34% 29 38% 203 62% 7.0 0 0
Saints 39.8 2981 69.7% 75.9% 92.5% 12.0% 75 43.0 62 3224 31 41% 13 17% 4 5% 10 13% 8 4 5% 24 32% 29 39% 163 61% 5.6 0 0

Use the slider at the bottom to scroll to the right and see the whole table

Dixon was 25th in punt% on long field punts and 20th on short field punts, but again this might have been done on purpose to minimize returns.

Dixon was also poorly graded for his precision punt percentage (PP%) which is percentage of punts downed inside the ten minus touchback percentage. He was 28th in PP with a value of 3.8% partly because his percentage inside the ten was quote low. His 11.4% inside the 10 was one of the lower values in the league. He was 28th in that as well.

All in all Dixon did not have a great year punting for the Denver Broncos. I thought he was better in 2022 when he was punting for the Rams, but he was not very good in 2022 either.

Sam Martin, who was the Bronco punter in 2020 and 2021, had a decent year punting for the Bills. He was one of the better punters in the league on short field punts. The Bronco punter from 2022, Corliss Waitman, was so bad that he did not play in 2023. He spent the season on the Patriots practice squad and then was signed to reserve/futures contract with the Bears last month. Waitman was one of the few punters who was worse than Dixon in 2022, but it’s been ages since the Broncos had an elite punter on the team.

If you go back and look at my end of the season punting review, the Broncos have rarely had a punter since 2015 (when I started writing these) who has finished in the top 10 in the league in any punting statistic. The Broncos haven’t had a Pro Bowl punter since the 80s (Mike Horan in 1988 made All-Pro and Pro Bowl).

It may seem trivial, but having a great punter can do a lot to help your defense.