The Seattle Seahawks drafted a punter over the weekend, the first of his position that they’ve drafted since Ryan Plackemeier in the seventh round in 2006. Plackemeier had a short career in Seattle (33 games), which isn’t all that concerning for the 239th overall pick, but still not what you’re hoping for when you spend any selection on a position that is considered to be easy to find on the free agent market.
So in 2008, they turned to 27-year-old Jon Ryan, a punter who himself had been released by the Green Bay Packers after only 32 games (33, if you count playoffs). Ryan is still the Seahawks’ punter, but that is likely to change because of his rising salary and the selection of Michael Dickson in the fifth round.
What does it mean when you draft a punter vs when you sign one? Is there more security that he’ll be good compared to a position that is drafted far more often? Actually, yes.
Since 2012, nine punters have been drafted and all nine of them were still in the NFL as of 2017. That’s a pretty good ratio and it includes about 25% of all pro punters. Even Bryan Anger, considered a disappointment after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft (yes, ahead of Russell Wilson), is still around and doing quite well; Anger signed a five-year extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December of 2016.
Since 2000, 17 punters have been selected in the fifth round or earlier and it includes perhaps the greatest punter of all-time, Shane Lechler (5th round, 2000), plus Dustin Colquitt (3rd, 2005), Thomas Morstead (5th, 2009), and Kevin Huber (5th, 2009). There are still busts like B.J. Sander (3rd round, 2005), Travis Dorsch (4th, 2002), and David Leaverton (5th, 2001), but the ratio heavily leans towards a team finding a viable punter for the foreseeable future. Out of 13 who qualify, those are the only three who weren’t in the league for at least three years. The most recent four (Bradley Pinion, Drew Kaser, Lac Edwards, Riley Dixon) certainly seem headed down that path as well.
With Dickson, Seattle likely has their punter through at least 2020. That’s not a guarantee, but it will be the far more surprising outcome if Dickson doesn’t make it to the end of his rookie contract (which should save the Seahawks at least a couple million dollars per year) than if he does. It may not be the most exciting pick, or even one that I’m ready to agree with, but it should be a safe one for the position.