The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised the public when the grabbed punter Bryan Anger in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Anger was considered the best punting prospect, so it wasn’t a shock that he was the first one taken, but the fact he was taken so early earned the scorn of the general public. Well, the pick isn’t a bad one, if he’s as good as he’s expected to be. In fact, it’s actually a very good one.
Very few punters are taken so early in the draft- the most recent being the successful Dustin Colquitt in the 2005 NFL Draft. He has drawn comparisons to Zoltan Mesko. Should Anger live up to those comparisons, he could develop into a top 10 punter in the league. That’s a considerable improvement when the Jaguars ranked in the bottom 5 of punting statistics last season (31st in average punting yards, 28th in net punting yards, 3rd in total punts).
Anger averaged 45 yards/punt in college and has great skill in placing the ball away from the returnman. He’s still growing and can continue to add strength to his leg. As he stands, he would add 3-4 yards/punt over the Jaguars’ last season average. If he continues to grow his benefit to the Jaguars should roughly be 5 yards/punt and should bring the Jaguars punting unit into the top 10 of the league. Should.
If Anger follows his trajectory, he could have tangible benefits for the Jaguars. According to Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats, when the ball is between the 20 yard lines, there is approximately an expected difference of 0.05 points for every additional yard. For example, a team starting with the ball on their own 40 yard line is expected to score one fewer point on average than a team starting on the opponent’s 40 yard line. When the ball is placed in the 20 yard line on the punt, teams aren’t expected to score points at all. This is Anger’s value.
Anger is an elite directional punter who can pin a team inside the 20, when given the chance. That ability alone changes everything since the Jaguars led the league in touchbacks. Drop to the league average and that’s 5 points over the course of the season. Not much, but that’s one expected point per punt and that’s considerable value. If Anger is too far away to get in the 20, he still adds value due to his leg strength. The Jaguars punted an average of more than 6 times a game due to the developing offense. If he can average 5 yards more per punt, that’s 30 yards over the course of the game and approximately 1.5 points. That’s a difference.
So think about the expected value. Just by improving their punter through the 2012 NFL Draft, the Jaguars can expect their opponents to score 1.5 fewer point per game. Adding in the improved directional punting and Anger’s expected value to the Jaguars in 30 fewer points allowed over the course of the season. That would improve the ranking of the underrated Jaguars defense and their points allowed to approximately 18.75 points/game- and that’s good enough for 5th in the league.
It’s definitely unconventional to take a punter so early in the NFL Draft. However, the Jaguars old punting unit was so bad and Anger’s expected performance is so great that his added value is tremendous. Sure, this is looking at his expected performance and is based upon expected opponent production. But if you could have drafted a defensive player in the 2012 NFL Draft who could reduce your opponents scoring by 30 points over the course of the season (9% improvement), would you spend a 3rd round pick on him? That’s what Anger adds to the Jaguars and that’s why it’s a completely justifiable selection.