The San Francisco 49ers selected a punter in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft in memory of former western regional scout Reggie Cobb. The season prior, Bradley Pinion averaged 40 net yards per punt, which was 19th in the NFL. Pinion had 32% of his punts land inside the 20-yard line, and 6% resulted in touchbacks.
Enter, Mitch Wishnowsky.
How much of a difference would the rookie make? Wishnowsky finished 19th in net yards per punt at 41.6. Forty-four percent of his punts went inside the 20 with only 3.8% resulting in touchbacks. The Niners didn’t need Wishnowsky to be Andy Lee. With a stout defense, forcing offenses to drive 80 yards consistently was more than good enough. Using DVOA, The 49ers punt team ranked seventh at 6.4%. That’s up from 0.0 from the year before. It’s safe to say Wishnowsky had a positive impact.
Age: 28 (turned 28 on March 3)
Experience: One accrued season
The 49ers signed Wishnowsky to his rookie contract only a few days after drafting him. As a fourth-round pick, Wishnowsky received a $764,072 signing bonus. Wishnowsky’s base salary in 2020 will be $866,018.
How he can improve in 2020
Wishnowsky should try and get that net average over 42.0 in 2020. That’s a good goal for his second season. To crack the top-10, he’d have to have a net average of 43.0. Mitch was ninth in the NFL at punts landing inside the 20. Keeping his percentage in the mid-40s would be nice.
Most importantly, keeping the number of punts of his that are blocked at zero. San Francisco is one of the most talented teams in the NFL. The way to beat them during the regular season is by capitalizing on their mistakes.
Wishnowsky handled kickoff duties as well, and the 49ers were 15th in DVOA, so about average. The Niners went from -0.4 to 0.5 with Wishnowsky kicking, so there was a noticeable difference. The goal in 2020 should be for that number to get closer to 2.0.
Kick the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs. Flip the field if the offense is pinned deep on offense—pin opposing offenses inside of the 20. Don’t have any punts blocked. That’s Wishnowsky’s recipe for success in 2020.