Before we start, yes, I know, the Browns are set at all three of the specialist positions. So this article is mainly relevant to Browns as most of the punting intellectual property contained within is from our very own Jamie Gillan A.K.A. “The Scottish Hammers”, coach Mr. Aaron Perez.
Having coached three current starting punters in the NFL, our own Jamie Gillan, Broncos Coby Waldman, and the Patriots Jake Bailey he has vast experience. He has seen many of the guys were are going to discuss up close and personal. Aaron is the best choice to navigate us through this year’s Punting Draft class. First, we will take a look at four of the top punters coming out this year, then a few guys that do not have such a buzz about them but could turn up on an NFL squad given the right conditions. Remember, this time last year, nobody had heard of Jamie Gillan…
Joseph Charleton – South Carolina
Weight 295 Pounds
Charlton is a three-year starter for the South Carolina Gamecocks, improving his stats year on year as he has progressed on to Special Teams MVP honors. He has a big frame and leg to match allowing him to flip the field. He averaged 47.7 yards per punt which placed him top 5 nationally. His hang time is good but direction and touch could use some work. Charlton has allowed 12.2 yards average return which has to be a little concerning. But if he irons out consistency issues, particularly with direction and touch he has a realistic chance of turning up on an NFL roster.
Michael Turk – Arizona State
Weight: 226 Pounds
Michael Turk burst on to draft radar with a stunning physical display at the combine, racking up 25 bench reps in the process. Turk is leaving college early, which is odd at the position. Giving up that year of eligibility where some of the kinks in his game could be worked out. His open-field punting has been very good, his thick muscular build and technique allowing a 51.8-yard gross average.
He is the nephew of veteran punter Matt Turk, which has to count for something, regarding pedigree and access to training. If Turk can work on adding some hang time and taking off some leg on midfield punting and work on consistency, his decision to leave a year of eligibility behind him could prove fruitful.
Braden Mann – Texas A&M
Weight: 198 Pounds
Aggies Braden Mann has been on the radar of many scouts for a few years now. A Ray Guy award winner and holder of multiple NCAA records, Mann, not only has made his mark punting but has also performed kick off duties to a good standard (66% touchback) and is an above-average open-field tackler. Which is surprising when taking his relatively small frame into consideration. With 54.3 % of Mann’s punts going for 50 yards plus added to his excellent placement and direction skills, this places him at very close to the top of this class if not the first punter off the board in this year’s draft.
Tommy Townsend – Florida
Weight: 191 Pounds
Townsend presents as possibly the best all-rounder in the draft. Not all that big but not small either. He has not got a massive leg or incredible ball placement, but what he does have is the ability to do all of the above to a good standard. Townsend’s brother Johnny, also a former Gator, was drafted by the Raiders, as discussed previously, pedigree counts for something here too, as with Michael Turk. Townsend really passes the eye test when watching tape and he can be very agile in the pocket and possess great ability to slow things down intentionally to draw in coverage. Townsend allowed just 1.3 yards per return, this will be eye-catching for the pro scouts. Townsend is a plus runner and can be seen out running DBs on tape. Some work on technical issues on operation time and consistency will place Townsend towards the top of this draft class.
For me, Townsend and Mann are two guys who really jumped off the screen whilst watching film. Townsend looked smooth and fearless and the ball really pinged off Mann’s foot. For my money, these two guys will get serious looks in the draft. But like we spoke about before, this time last year, nobody knew who Jamie Gillan was. And like most years, guys are going to pop out of nowhere to work their way into camp. So let’s have a quick look at three guys, who may not be top of this year’s class but could end up in a camp to cause a surprise.
A 6’6″ 230-pound former quarterback who made his way to be punter for the Oregan Ducks. Maimone is blessed with all the physical attributes it takes to make it at the pro level. Maimone finished his Ducks career as their all tie leading punter with an average of 43.4 over 107 punts.
A San Jose Spartan who was a grad transfer for Yale will be interesting to keep an eye on. This super solid two-step punter was a four-year starter for the Ivy League outfit. If you are looking for a smart guy, with all the tools in the bag, Galland offers a lot as a project in the pro game. With his Ivy League credentials, he could even be a fit for the Browns camp.
More of a kicker as he walked on at Fresno State but has now converted to punting full time. As a walk-on, he impressed his coaching team that much that he was offered a scholarship. This speaks to the high character of this young man. Cusick is an accurate and smooth directional punter who may need more time to develop but is making good progress to be considered for camps this year.
Names to also keep an eye on for Draft Day and beyond Cody Grace, Sterling Hofrichter, Alex Pechin and Dom Maggio
Huge thanks to Aaron Perez @thepuntfactory for his contribution to this article
John Cahill/Aaron Perez