If you don’t think that special teams are important, ask the Green Bay Packers how their last season ended. We’re going to rank the best special teams in the NFL in 2022 for part of our preseason position rankings.
Best special teams in NFL 2022
There are many moving parts when trying to figure out which teams have the best special team units. Who’s the best kicker? Can your punter pin teams in the 20? Can your punt cover team get downfield and make a stop? Are your kick and punt returners a threat to bring it to the house?
On a side note, special team touchdowns are essentially on life support. Since Tyreek Hill had three return touchdowns in 2016, only six teams have had even two return touchdowns in a season. No team has had three. That includes punt and kick return touchdowns combined.
The Minnesota Vikings still experienced some kicking woes, but they were more efficient than in recent years, converting 86.8% of their attempts.
However, they boasted the league’s most exciting kick return units, making them one of the top special teams in the NFL. Kick returner Kene Nwangwu had a ridiculous 32.2 yards per return and took two back to the house. They also allowed a paltry 383 kick return yards against, which led the league.
Harrison Butker remains one of the very best kickers in the NFL.
The Chiefs nailed 87.5% of their field goals, including an impressive seven for nine from over 50 yards. Giving Patrick Mahomes a kicker who’s automatic from over 50 yards is cheat code, as this Chiefs’ offense can easily move the ball 40 yards into field goal range. Kansas City also ranked in the top ten in yards per punt.
Mike Tomlin is another coach who’s fantastic at getting his teams to buy in on all three phases.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were first in total punt return yards and top ten in kick return yards. They lost Ray-Ray McCloud but replaced him with Patriots standout Gunner Olszewski, who was better in yards per return. Chris Boswell converted 90% of his field goals, including eight for nine from over 50 yards.
The New England Patriots will always boast a top ten special teams unit. Everybody’s heard Bill Belichick rant about the intricacies of long snappers and the advantage of left-footed punters. If anybody will have everyone doing their jobs correctly, it’s Belichick.
The Patriots weren’t flashy, but they nailed 92.3% of their field goals, good for fifth in the league, and were third in yards per punt return. Their success will continue as they’ll remain one of the best special teams in the NFL in 2022.
Detroit Lions kicker Riley Patterson saved their field goal unit last season. Starting in week 12, he nailed 13 out of 14 field goal attempts and 100% of his extra points.
The Lions were already second in yards per punt and had an excellent return team. Their punt and kickoff return units were both ranked seventh on a yards-per return basis. They’ll quickly top the special teams rankings if Patterson is the real deal.
Jake Elliott is one of the best kickers in the league, and he proved it by smashing 91% of his field goal attempts.
He’ll be accompanied by second-year punter Arryn Siposs, who managed to drop 17 of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Jalen Reagor isn’t always spectacular as a returner, but he is a threat to take it to the house anytime the ball is in his hands.
The Atlanta Falcons roster two of the top special team players right now. Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t used as often as he used to be, but he’s still one of the best kick returners in the league.
For his career, he has averaged nearly 30 yards per return since 2013. He’s also tallied eight touchdowns as a kick returner during that stretch. However, he’s not the star of the show.
That honor belongs to Younghoe Koo, who has been one of the best kickers in the league over the previous two seasons. Koo converted an eye-popping 93.1% of his field goal attempts in 2021 and went four for five from 50 yards out.
AJ Cole is the best punter in the league, leading the league in yards per punt.
He’s joined on special teams by kicker Daniel Carlson who proved to be a top five kicker when he smoked 93% of his field goal attempts. That included going six for seven of field goals over 50 yards. The consistency of both their kicking units alone makes them one of the best special teams in the NFL in 2022.
The Los Angeles Rams were second in the league in field goal percentage thanks to Matt Gay. They also had an impressive 11.3 yards per punt return.
They unlocked Brandon Powell later in the season, and he was beyond amazing — averaging 22 yards per punt return, including a touchdown, and 26 yards per kick return. If that production continues in 2022, he’ll be among the most exciting return men to watch.
Justin Tucker is the best special teams player in the entire league, and maybe even league history. That alone would rank the Baltimore Ravens among the best special teams in the NFL in 2022.
Tucker led the league in field goal percentage last season, converting at 94.6%. More impressively, he set the league record, nailing a 66-yard game-winner against the Lions. He was perfect beyond 50 yards, going six for six.
Baltimore also led the league in yards per punt return, and Devin Duvernay was exciting anytime he had the ball in his hands as a return man.