Punters are typically afterthoughts in the NFL, but for the New York Jets, Braden Mann has proven to be important.
NFL punter isn’t the flashiest position that comes to mind when thinking about football, but every player has a role to play, a specific job to perform, a task to execute. After muddling through with an undependable kicking game the past few seasons, the New York Jets took Braden Mann from Texas A&M in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Drafted in the sixth round with the 191st pick, punter Braden Mann out of Texas A&M isn’t your average back yard kicker.
Going into college, Mann was already a nationally recognized special-teamer, posting a perfect 25-25 extra point percentage his senior year of high school and recording an average of 45 yards on just over 40 punts.
During his first two years at Texas A&M, Mann served primarily as a special teamer, averaging nearly 64 yards on 76 kickoffs as a freshman, and an average of 62 yards on 73 kickoffs as a sophomore.
Those numbers are very impressive, but the best was yet to come for the young kicker as he entered his junior year as the starter; the coaches entrusting him with key responsibility for a prestigious football program, and he didn’t disappoint.
During a crucial matchup against nationally-ranked Alabama, Mann set the NCAA single-game record with a 60.8-yard average punt, a record that hadn’t been touched since the early 1980s. Mann continued his record-breaking season with a myriad of eyebrow-raising performances, including a game against Kentucky, where he recorded an 82-yard punt…
The 82-yard punt is the longest in Texas A&M school history and the longest in college football since the 1940s.
By midseason, Mann was nationally recognized and praised by prestigious outlets such as Sports Illustrated, USA Today, ESPN, and Sporting News. He was recognized as a First Team All-American; A.K.A. the best of the best. But he wasn’t done just yet.
In November of 2018, against The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Braden Mann made his 14th punt of 60 or more yards, breaking the NCAA FBS single-season record set in 2005. This, along with his numerous First Team All American recognitions, was impressive enough to be acknowledged (once again) by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and The Professional Football Writers of America, just to name a few.
Mann would eventually go on to lead the nation with a season average of 50.98 yards per punt, as well as leading the nation with a record 99.27 G.P.R. punt rating (Football Outsiders), and he also won the Ray Guy Award for the best collegiate punter.
In a league and draft dominated by flashy one-handed catching skills, blistering 40-yard dash times, and chest-pounding bench press numbers, the importance of other positions can often be overlooked as we tend to focus on big names, big plays, and big impact moves.
However, football is a game of strategy and chess, just as much as it is a game of brute force and incredible feats of mankind’s physical and mental will, and special teams are an integral part of this complicated chess match.
The Jets and Joe Douglas realized this when they took the best punter in the country with the 191st overall pick. This was not just a pick to replace former kicker Lachlan Edwards, but an investment in special teams for years to come; a commitment to excellent field position in every single game, a thumbs up to Sam Darnold and company. In essence saying “we’re thinking of every single way to win football games here.”
These are the kinds of messages you want to send as a general manager and head coach, and with the best punter in the country on your sidelines, things just got a whole lot brighter for the New York Jets.
Braden Mann; New York welcomes you (and your phenomenal leg).