We're beginning our look at the 14 most important players to the Colts success in 2014 with a punter. Yes, that's right, a punter. As Rich Eisen would say, "punters are people too!" For the second straight year, Colts punter Pat McAfee appears on this list, though I'll say that this year's version was much tougher to put together, and here's why: there were several more options to choose from. At this number 14 spot I went back and forth between a few different players, but I ended up listing McAfee here.
The Colts re-signed McAfee this offseason to a 5-year, $14.5 million contract, and in doing so they showed how important their punter really is. We've seen that importance first hand over the past few seasons, however, as McAfee's play on the field has proven his worth. He averaged 46 yards per punt last year and set a franchise record with 27 punts downed inside the opponent's 20 yard line. Two years ago, McAfee was just as spectacular, averaging 48.2 yards per punt with 26 downed inside the 20. Without trying to take the credit away from excellent gunners like Sergio Brown, McAfee has time and time again been a great weapon for the Colts. Ideally, the punter wouldn't even see the field, but we know that's not a realistic hope, and so when the Colts do need to punt, McAfee is a great one to have. He has the ability to pin opponents deep and put the Colts defense in a great position and that can serve to be invaluable in the course of a close game. I mean, just ask Colts fans how much of an impact a punter can have and many will remember that playoff game in 2008 against the Chargers where Mike Scifres had one heck of a game.
More than just being the Colts's punter, however, McAfee also serves as the kickoff specialist, the holder on field goals, a team captain and leader, and to top it all off, he can hit. His hit-stick highlight against Broncos return man Trindon Holliday sent Lucas Oil Stadium into a frenzy last season and it still makes Colts fans happy thinking about it today. As far as the other areas go, I cannot remember him mishandling a hold on a field goal or extra point, and he also does a tremendous job at getting the kickoff into the endzone to limit the opponent's return chances. Lastly, his leadership and attitude can't be dismissed either, as he's a great presence in the locker room, on the sideline, on the field, and off the field.
Clearly, Pat McAfee excels at what he does. But why include him on this list of the most important Colts for the 2014 season? While some will certainly disagree with me, I think that McAfee plays a big role because if a team has to constantly drive 80 yards or more down the field for a score, they won't score a touchdown a whole lot of the time. It helps out the defense and it gives the offense a bit more room, as they know that even if they fail to get a first down they have McAfee coming out on the field. McAfee has a hand in every special teams part of the game other than the return game, as he is the team's punter, kickoff man, and holder on field goals. Everything that has to do with kicking, McAfee has a hand (or leg) in. Pat McAfee doesn't get in for too many plays (which is a good thing for the Colts offense), but when he does get in he makes it count and the importance of those plays merit McAfee's inclusion on this list.
Check out our list counting down the 14 most important players to the Colts' success in 2014:
14. Pat McAfee, punter