Preparing for the 2011 NFL draft: The Top 5 Punters in the NFL Draft

In a new series, we will look at the top 5 players at each position ahead of April's upcoming NFL Draft. This is definitely an inexact science, but it should provide an idea of who is out there, their brief history and a few key stats from the NFL combine etc... Please feel free to disagree and offer your own opinions. The readers here at Stampede Blue have never been shy before so I am excited to hear your take.

Starting with the often overlooked punters, the series will highlight the best players at each of football's 20 different positions.

Before we get to covering football though, a big congratulations to Indianapolis' own Bulter Bulldogs!!!! For any program, let alone a mid major, to make back-to-back Championship Games is quite impressive.

Go Bulldogs on Monday Night!!! Hopefully this year they will win the game that eluded then last season.

The Top 5 Punters in the NFL Draft:

1. Chas Henry - Senior Punter University of Florida

A member of the 2008 Florida Gators national championship team, Chas Henry followed up his team's success with individual triumph by winning the 2010 Ray Guy Ward, which recognized Henry as the best punter in college football.

During the 2010 season, Henry was brought in to punt 43 times for an average of 46.4 yards per punt (certainly NFL worthy).14 of Henry's 43 punts were 50 yards or more and 15 of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line.

Strengths:

Playing in the SEC Henry has plenty of experience in pressure packed situations including kicking a game winning field goal to beat rival University of Georgia after Florida's usual kicker Caleb Sturgis suffered an injury. According to NFL analysts Henry also gets good hang time on his punts and his effective with his directional punting, which can pin opponent offenses deep inside their own territory.

Weaknesses:

Henry only displayed average leg strength during his college career and had trouble consistently stringing booming punts together. Henry also is said to take an extra step than most punters in his pre-punt set up.

Combine:

Henry ran a 4.85 at the combine and is considered the number 1 punter in the draft of 52 punters according to nfldraftscout.com. He is a projected 6th round pick.

 

2. Ryan Donahue - Punter University of Iowa

One of three finalists for the 2010 Ray Guy Award, Donahue ended a success 4 year career with numerous awards and achievements. Donahue was named to the honorable mention all-Big Ten team by league coaches and the media as well as selected to compete in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game.

Donahue ranked third in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation with a 44.6 average during his senior season. He helped hold Iowa opponents to just a 3.9 yard average on 21 returns. Donahue also has five of the longest 14 punts in Iowa school history, the longest being an 82 yard blast.

Strengthens:

Donahue is said to possess better-than-average leg strengthen and good hang time on his punts. Analysts said he has good touch and spin and also displays adequacy with directional punting towards the corner. Donahue also gets his kicks off quickly meaning he rarely has punts blocked.

Weaknesses:

Donahue kicked in 51 games but he never had any experience with kicking field goals, kicking off or holding for field goals. While he possesses better than average leg strengthen he does not have booming power nor did he show good athletic abilities and measurable stats at the combine.

Combine:

Donahue ran a 4.90  40 yard dash and is considered the number 2 punter according to nfldraftscout.com. His draft stock is said to be anywhere between the 6th round and undrafted.

 

3. Derek Epperson, Baylor

Epperson was a three time consensus All-Big 12 honoree and a 2009 honorable mention All-American. In 2008 the Baylor punter was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist for the nations best kicker and was a three-time watch list member.

This past year Epperson ranked 19th in the nation with a 44.2 yards per punt average. He also had 15 kicks downed inside the 20 and 7 punts that went for touchbacks. 

Strengthens:

Epperson's size (6'3, 235 lbs)  and his leg strengthen are major pluses. He is also said to turn the ball over more than other punters which allow him to regularly punt the ball in the 60-65 yard range. Epperson is also considered to be athletic enough to compensate for bad snaps and has proven to be an adept last line of defense registering six special teams tackles in his career.

Weaknesses:

A major concern according to analysts is his hesitation and slow delivery speed. Epperson's hang time needs to be improved as well in order to keep his punts from being blocked and to give his special teams' gunners more time to get down the field.

Combine:

Epperson ran a rather slow 5.05 at the combine. He is said to be a 7th round pick but will probably be signed as an undrafted free agent. Nfldraftscout.com ranks Epperson as the 5th best punter in the draft.

4. Anthony Santella - Senior Punter from The University of Illinois

Santella was one of the Illini's best and most consistent players. Illinois enjoyed a banner season from the senior punter who averaged 45.7 yards per punt and won first-team all-Big Ten honors awarded by the league's coaches. A strong argument can be made that Santella ought to be ranked ahead of his fellow Big Ten punter Donahue. However Iowa's Donahue and a longer track record of proven success while Santella was a break out player this past seaon.

The rise can been measured by his punting stats. In 2007 Santella was ranked 100th in punting yards average. Last year, he led the Big Ten ranking sixth in the country improving 94 spots overall. He had 45.6 yards per punt average during his senior year and booted a career-high 18 punts over 50 yards. His career best 62 yard blast came last season against Southern Illinois.

Strengthens:

Santella has enjoyed a meteoric rise as mentioned above. He also gets good hang time and has a booming leg.

Weaknesses:

Many scouts and analysts question his consistency. Can he continually keep putting up the numbers he did during his senior season? His directional punting also needs improvement as does his release time.

Combine:

Santella ran a disappointing 5.04. He is ranked the 7th best punter in his class according to nfldraftscout.com and is projected to go undrafted.

 

5. Matt Bosher - Senior Kicker/Punter The University of Miami

A four year kicker/punter Bosher tied for third most all time in most games played in university history with 50 career appearances. A better pure kicker than punter, Bosher averaged 41.7 yards per punt over his career averaging over 40 yards per punt in all four years. Bosher also landed 70 of his 234 punts inside opponent's 20-yard line (30 percent).

Bosher was awarded a place on the 2010 All-ACC Second Team and 2009 All-ACC Second Team as a punter. He also made the first team in 2009 as a kicker. In 2008, Bosner was awarded his team's MVP honors.

 

Strengths:

Bosher is obviously capable of handling both place-kicking and punting as well as kickoffs as a pro which makes him particularly desirable. He gets good hang time and has a strong leg. He also does a good job pinning opponents and is a capable directional punter.

Weaknesses: Bosher has consistency troubles with the occasional low line drive which hinders good coverage. While he is extremely versatile, he is not exceptional at any one position. He is competent at all three but is a master of none so it hurts his value as a pure punter.

Combine:

Ran a quick 4.78 and is rated the 4th best punter in the draft according to nfldraftscout.com. Probably will be drafted in the later rounds because of his overall jack-of-all-trades value, but as a punter would probably be overlooked.

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