Indianapolis Colts rookie punter Rigoberto Sanchez has been named to the PFWA’s All-Rookie Team.
Here is the 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team, as selected by the PFWA: pic.twitter.com/rsrTfopIsu— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 16, 2018
Sanchez had huge shoes to fill as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2017. Former Colts punter Pat McAfee retired suddenly following the 2016 season after proving to be one of the best punters in the league. While nobody could replace McAfee’s personality, Sanchez did his best to replace McAfee on the field.
With an offense missing Andrew Luck, Sanchez saw plenty of action this year. He had the sixth most punts in the league (84) and had the fourth highest net average yards per punt (42.6). Sanchez also forced the second most fair catches (27), which led to the fourth fewest returned punts (19). His punt return yards allowed (80) also was the second fewest, and his 4.2 opponent yards per return was tied for the least.
Basically, while Sanchez wasn’t always bombing punts, he was getting plenty of hang time and making it so that returners could not return his punts.
Sanchez also was the Colts’ kickoff specialist, booting 70 kickoffs for 46 touchbacks.
The Colts’ original plan to replace McAfee during the 2017 offseason was signing free agent punter Jeff Locke, who punted for the Minnesota Vikings the prior four seasons. While Locke was a proven, albeit unspectacular veteran, the Colts gave Sanchez the chance to compete for a huge special teams role. Sanchez won the competition against Locke and was able to lead the Colts in special teams snaps while contributing as the punter, kickoff specialist and placekicking holder.