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How Do You Grade A Punter?

The Jacksonville Jaguars made one of the most bizarre and nonsensical draft picks I can remember a team making in the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft. I first want to say that this is nothing against Bryan Anger, I hope he's Shane Lechler reincarnate, but even if he is... was he worth it? How do you gauge the worth and value of a punter, especially in the NFL Draft?

I think Paul Kuharsky of ESPN summed up the point I was trying to make through caps lock on Twitter last night.

It's important that you don't punt terribly. But it's not so important that you punt fantastically, certainly not important enough that you sacrifice the chance to improve at a position that could be on the field for three downs a game.

This is where you have to ask yourself: How does a punter grade out to be a third-round pick, or even a second-round pick as Jaguars general manager Gene Smith stated he was by some scouts.

As I posed before, how do you even grade a punter as a third round player? How much really can a punter harm you? As Kuharsky mentioned, bad punting is noticeable and can have an effect on the game. Typically however, if you're losing games because of punting there are other outlying factors as well, such as why is the game close enough to where a bad/botched punt costs you the game?

"I'd rather take a starter over a backup," Jaguars general manager Gene Smith said at his press conference last night about the pick. "He's the player in that round at your pick that you feel can upgrade your football team. I think that's an easy decision for me, to get a starter in the third round."

Now, call me crazy but is a punter really considered a starter? They're on the field for 4-6 plays a game and you want them on the field as little as possible. For instance, the Jaguars punted 99 times last season. That's an average of six punts a game. Not counting holds, which Mularky hilariously added as a "bonus" with Anger, that means the "starting" punter plays six snaps and ideally less than that.

Last season the Jaguars averaged 41.9 yards per punt, which was 31st in the league. A big part of those numbers were from Matt Turk who was genuinely awful for the Jaguars. Turk showed how much a bad punter can hurt you, but then the Jaguars made the switch to Nick Harris who became an afterthought because his punting was not terrible.

And that's the whole thing.

As long as your punter is just not terrible, you're fine. Look at Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler for instance. He's been arguably the best punter in the NFL for a decade and was drafted in the fifth-round. In the past 10 seasons, the Raiders haven't won more than 8 games in more than just a single season in 2003. So, how much of a "weapon" is Lechler for the Raiders? Is he that much of a difference maker? He's really, really good at punting... but how much does it matter?

How are we going to know if Anger is ever worth a third round grade? If he makes 10 Pro Bowls is he worth it? What does a punter do that makes him a third round pick?

I mean... the Jaguars used a third round pick on a player you ideally do not want on the football field. I just don't get it. I hope Anger is a great punter for a decade... but I just don't get it. This team has needs in so many other areas, even at depth considering the defensive tackle concerns, that it's such a wasteful luxury pick.