NFL because field position matters in the league. When that rookie comes in and shows off a booming leg Jarran Reed Color Rush Jersey
, people take notice.Michael Dickson bypassed his final year of eligibility at Texas to enter the draft early, and the Seattle Seahawks traded up in the fifth round to take the Australian native and 2017 Ray Guy Award winner. Dickson has made both decisions pay off very nicely in his debut season.Dickson edged out Johnny Hekker of the Los Angeles Rams as the NFL’s top punter in 2018 in voting released Friday by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press. Dickson received four first-place votes and was the only punter listed on every ballot.“When’s the last time a rookie topped any of the position rankings? Who knows?” Dallas-based Schuyler Dixon said. “When’s the last time a punter skipped his final season of eligibility for the draft? This former Texas Longhorn is a generational talent.”Dickson, who has had a long punt of 69 yards this season, is second in gross punting averaging at 48.7 yards. But the rookie easily leads the NFL with a net average of 44.2 yards. He’s also placed 20 punts inside an opponent’s 20. Dickson was voted the NFC’s special teams player for November thanks to his leg.“Spending a fifth-round draft pick on the Aussie from the Texas Longhorns has turned into a key move in Seattle’s unexpectedly solid season,” New York-based lead NFL writer Barry Wilner said.Hekker, who finished fourth in these rankings in 2017, received two first-place votes. His biggest challenge comes from playing for a team with a high-powered offense that just doesn’t need him much. Luckily, Hekker keeps finding ways to make himself valuable.“He’s a four-tool punter,” said Philadelphia-based Rob Maaddi. “Hekker can run or throw for a first down on fake punts, and he has also made an extra point and field goal this season. His net average being fifth is just an added bonus.”In all, 17 punters received at least one vote, with only five receiving at least one first-place vote.Brett Kern of the Tennessee Titans, who earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2017 when he also the top punter in these rankings , joined Hekker receiving two first-place votes and finished third. Kern is fourth with a gross average of 40.5 yards with his net taking a hit from a struggling punt coverage unit. But the 11-year veteran still has a strong leg, with a long of 62 yards this season.“Forget drafting Tim Tebow or trading Jay Cutler, Josh McDaniels’ head coaching legacy in Denver was inexplicably waiving Kern, who landed on Tennessee’s roster and has been nothing but sensational for the last decade Nick Vannett Color Rush Jersey
,” said Denver-based Arnie Stapleton.No punter has had as many chances this season as Andy Lee of Arizona, not that usage is limiting his effectiveness. Lee finished fourth with a leg that has a long punt of 64 yards this season.“Lee is a three-time Pro Bowl pick and could be in for another trip with another solid season,” New York-based Dennis Waszak Jr. said. “With Arizona’s offense struggling as the worst-ranked unit in the league, Lee has been plenty busy while punting an NFL-leading 71 times, and his 48.5 gross average and 41.7 net both rank near the top.”Cameron Johnston of Philadelphia finished fifth as the other punter to receive a first-place vote. New York-based Simmi Buttar noted the Australia native is tied for the league lead in gross average with Dickson and has a long punt of 68 yards.Washington’s Tress Way and Dustin Colquitt of the Chiefs tied for sixth. San Francisco-based Josh Dubow noted no punter has been better than Way at pinning teams deep, with nearly 60 percent of his punts downed inside the 20.“No one has even approached that mark in nearly three decades,” Dubow said.Colquitt, like Hekker, simply doesn’t get many chances to punt. Wilner says, yes, Colquitt could get rusty with how well the Chiefs move the ball, but the punter remains one of the NFL’s best.Sam Koch is a 13-year veteran for Baltimore yet remains a factor for the Ravens and came in eighth. He finished just ahead of a second-year punter in Matt Haack of Miami. The Dolphins keep Haack pretty busy, but he has put 31 kicks inside the 20 to finish ninth.Rigoberto Sanchez of the Colts came in 10th, and he has the second-best net average at 42.8 yards that cannot be ignored.“Don’t usually look at indoor kickers, but Sanchez has given up a total of 63 return yards,” Wilner said. The Seattle Seahawks had late-season runs to get to the top of DVOA in 2012, 2014 Justin Britt Color Rush Jersey
, and 2015. That probably will not happen in 2018, but the Seahawks are certainly looking like a team on the rise.Seattle is now 10th in DVOA after ranking 11th last week and they are ninth in weighted DVOA. Following Week 12, the Seahawks were 11th overall, 11th on offense, 11th on defense, and 11th on special teams (no typo), and are currently 10th, 10th, 16th, and 9th. The concern there is the defense of course, even after a 43-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers, because the Niners are bad and Nick Mullens/Dante Pettis/Jeff Wilson looked kinda good at various times.Seattle’s next objective: Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen. That’ll be much harder to defend, but thankfully Russell Wilson has the offense on the move up.The Seahawks now rank fifth in passing DVOA and 10th in rushing DVOA. They’ve faced the 14th-most difficult schedule of defenses by DVOA, compared to say Nazair Jones Color Rush Jersey
, the New Orleans Saints, who’ve seen the 30th-ranked schedule — though Wilson has comparable numbers to Drew Brees in many respects. Just saying.The number one ranked passing team is the Kansas City Chiefs, who Seattle hosts in two weeks, and the number one ranked rushing team is the LA Rams, who they’ve already faced twice.Overall, the Seahawks have faced the 10th-hardest schedule by DVOA while the Chicago Bears, a team they could face in the wild card round, has seen the easiest slate of teams this season so far. The Rams could go 15-1 as they face the easiest remaining schedule, while Seattle ranks 22nd in that same category. If the Seahawks have anything going for them maybe (I’m reaching here) it’s that they’re at least balanced with how average they are on defense: 16th against the pass and 15th against the run. They’d probably like to trade up to be better against the pass, especially if they manage to get to the point where they’re facing Brees or Jared Goff in the playoffs, but this is where they stand now without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks struggle against number one receivers, ranking 26th in DVOA against in that category.Individually, Russell Wilson is now 8th in DYAR and 6th in DVOA. Chris Carson is 20th in DYAR, 20th in DVOA, and 13th in success rate. Rashaad Penny’s DVOA of 8.3% is the same as Kareem Hunt’s but on significantly fewer attempts. Tyler Lockett is 1st in DVOA among all WRs with a huge lead over number two Michael Thomas. Jaron Brown is 1st in DVOA for WRs with fewer than 50 targets. Overall, it’s been another nice second half run for Seattle with four games left to go. The next will be a difficult matchup against the Vikings but a big win at home could give them a much bigger push than their blowout win over San Francisco.