We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After looking closely at both the offensive and defensive starters, we now turn our attention to the specialists. The Falcons have long enjoyed stability at these spots, but 2020 brings in new faces across the board, including a true competition at punter for the first time since 2011.
Today we take a closer look at rookie Sterling Hofrichter, Atlanta’s seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. A top college punter, he will compete with veteran Ryan Allen for the starting job this season.
P Sterling Hofrichter
Age: 23 (24 during 2020 season)
Contract: $634K cap hit in 2020, rookie contract through 2023 ($847K APY)
Career Production: 49 games played | 270 punts, 43.2 average, 13 touchbacks, 112 fair catches, 99 punts inside 20, 72 50+ yard punts, 1 blocked punt | 3/4 FGs, 75% FG percentage, 52-yard long | 171 KO, 60.5 KO average, 103 touchbacks (College)
2019 Production: 12 games played | 69 punts, 43.9 average, 2 touchbacks, 36 fair catches, 29 punts inside 20, 22 50+ yard punts | 1/1 FGs, 100% FG percentage, 52-yard long | 64 KO, 61.0 KO average, 42 touchbacks (College)
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 7th round (#228 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020)
Measurables: 5’10, 196
After a tumultuous year at punter in 2019, the Falcons elected to have an open competition for the position in 2020. Veteran Ryan Allen returns after a solid half-season in relief of Matt Bosher, but joining him is intriguing rookie Sterling Hofrichter. The Falcons haven’t drafted a specialist since 2011—though they have been good at finding UDFA kickers, many of whom have gone on to start for other teams. Punter has been a bit of different story, with Atlanta cycling through four veterans in 2019 in an attempt to replace Bosher.
Rookies are certainly at a disadvantage this season, as OTAs and minicamps never happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if anyone has a shot an earning a starting job this offseason, Hofrichter has to be near the top of the list. For starters, Hofrichter is a decorated college punter. He’s a four-time Ray Guy Award nominee for the nation’s best punter and a three-time All-ACC winner (including two first-team nods, a team record for Syracuse). Hofrichter was also Syracuse’s special teams captain for the past three years.
Outside of that, Hofrichter was an exceptional punter in terms of stats. In 2019, Hofrichter led Syracuse to a #3 overall finish in net punting average with 43.03 and set the school’s single-season record for lowest punt return yardage with just 17 yards allowed all year. He was excellent with his accuracy and hang-time, with just 2 touchbacks and a whopping 85.5% of his punts not being returned. His 43.9-yard punt average and 65-yard long punt were both the best marks of his career. Hofrichter has also only had a single punt blocked in his entire tenure as Syracuse’s punter.
Outside of punting, Hofrichter also handled kickoffs for Syracuse and served as the backup kicker. His 61.0-yard KO average in 2019 was the highest of his career. He also showed off his powerful leg, making a 52-yard FG during the 2019 season and going 3/4 on FGs in his career. As an important note, Hofrichter’s hand also reflexively makes the “Vulcan salute” from Star Trek every time he punts. Therefore, he is the GOAT.
Projection: In a normal year, I’d say Hofrichter would have a significant advantage to win the starting job. But with a shortened offseason and no preseason games to prove himself, Hofrichter might find himself stashed for a year on the practice squad in favor of the veteran Ryan Allen. I firmly believe Hofrichter is the more talented (and versatile) player at this point and will be the future at punter for Atlanta—but the pandemic could very well delay that for a year.