Punters are particularly hard to grade. There's placement, random bounces, hangtime, and returns. How much credit can go to the punter? How much can go to the randomness involved?
Football Perspective's Chase Stuart has tried to quantify a punter's value by looking at expected punt distance.
"On average, when a team punts at the 39, the opposing team takes over at the "78.9" yard line, which means just a hair in front of that team's 21-yard line," Stuart explains. So if a punter sticks the ball inside the opposing team's 10-yard line, that means the punter provided an above-average punt. If the ball is downed on the 25-yard line, then it's a below-average punt.
Stuart looking at every punt from the 2014 season to see which punters provided the most value.
The Patriots Ryan Allen finished 8th in the rankings, with 0.7 yards per punt above the average.
Of course, other ranking systems disagree with these results because the calculations consider positive bounces as credit to the punter, even though punters admit the bounces are mostly out of their control. It also considers the return as a negative against the punter. Stuart admits that these rankings should be viewed as a "punt coverage unit ranking" instead of just a punter rating.
The Patriots have one of the best coverage unites in the league, led by 3x All Pro gunner Matthew Slater, so Allen certainly benefits from the great coverage. Football Outsiders ranks the Patriots punt coverage unit 5th in the NFL. Pro Football Focus, who created their punter rankings after discussion with coaches and punters, have Allen as the 27th rated punter in 2014.
To that, Ryan Allen says:
So let's hear it. Do you consider Ryan Allen a top ten punter?