Today I wanted to look at and give some love to a position that is often underappreciated, punters. A great idea was emailed to the Terrible Podcast this offseason, making the point that most public punting data excludes important context at times, and I agree wholeheartedly. Today’s goal is to look at some important existing metrics and pair in some new data to add situational context.
Pressley Harvin III is a prime example, and seemed like a great time coming off a stellar week three game. He is often asked to pin the opposition close to the goal line, which skews yards per attempt, NET, etc., and shouldn’t penalize the punter for playing great situational football.
Here’s an outline of the data I’ve summarized in the tables below:
- Punts (Att).
- Average Yardline (AYL) = ex. punt from Pittsburgh’s 20 = 80 yard-line, Opponents 45 = 45 yard-line).
- “Punt yards achieved” (PYA) = the new idea/metric, which is punt yards/yard line.
- Yards per attempt (YPA).
- Average NET yards (NET) = yards punted – return yards – (touchbacks x 20) / punts.
- 50+ rate (50+).
- Inside the 20 rate (in20).
- Inside the 10 rate (in 10).
- Returned rate (Ret).
- Yards Per Return (YPR).
- Fair Catch rate (FC).
- Touchback rate (TB).
- Average hangtime (HT).
Here are the full 2023 league results (for the die-hards) through Week Three, followed by a summarized table for Harvin including his ranks:
Right away, we see that Harvin has the most attempts in the NFL with 19. On one side of the coin, it’s a sad point on the issues we’ve seen on offense, and the flip side is impressive context to what he has provided overall.
Harvin’s 63.3 AYL is fifth in the NFL, meaning his attempts have come from the fifth-lowest yard line. This highlights the missing context, and his lower marks in the publicly available punting metrics, such as YPA (18th) and NET (21st).
Currently, Harvin ranks eighth in PYA at 74.6. Out of the four punters with less AYL, three of them have a stronger PYA: SF’s Mitch Wishnowsky, GB’s Daniel Whelan, and JAX’s Logan Cooke. Their attempts range from 10-13 thus far, so Harvin’s quantity and quality has been impressive in these terms among his peers. Considering this, it is also impressive that Harvin ranks fourth in 50+ punts with eight, with Cooke the only one with a stronger 50+ rate.
Pinning back the opposition has been great for Harvin, with nine punts inside the 20 (second) on a 47.4 rate that ranks eighth. Nailing this down further, I charted inside the ten punts across the NFL. Harvin has been fantastic in that regard, tying for first with seven of them, equating to 36.8 of his punts (T-sixth). NE’s Bryce Baringer has seven as well, coming from the second lowest 59.5 AYL, emphasizing coach Bill Belichick playing the field position game even more. Only one other player with comparable attempts (>10) to best Harvin’s in10 rate was Cooke. Very impressive.
Another area in which Harvin has excelled is fair catches, tying for seventh least and a 10.5 rate (sixth). The way I rank this is with the mindset for the returner to not touch the football. Weighing this with his 42.1 Ret rate (15th), Harvin has been slightly above average in returnable punts across the league.
This is an area I’m hoping will improve, especially when seeing the lowest rank on the table, 23rd in yards per return (10.6) which I hope the coverage unit can build upon as well. His touchback rate of 10.5 ranks 22nd currently, but not concerning with only two of them. In terms of hangtime, Harvin sits at 4.43 through week three, which ranks 15th.
So, out 32 qualifying punters, Harvin has been particularly impressive with top ten ranks in: attempts (first), punts inside the ten (T-first), punts inside the 20 (second), 50+ punts (fourth), AYL (fifth-least), in10 (sixth), fair catches/rate (sixth/T-seventh), PYA (eighth), and in20 (eighth). Average ranks for Harvin have been returnable punts (15th), HT (15th), and YPA (18th). While none bottom the league, his lowest marks are NET (21st), TB (22nd), and YPR (23rd), with the coverage units interestingly factoring into each of those metrics.
Harvin has had a lack of consistency in the past, and here’s to hoping he takes that huge step in year three. Tip of the cap for a great start to 2023.
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments.