Players across the NFL have spoken ... and Derius Davis was the NFL's top punt returner in 2023.
The Bolts rookie was voted by his peers as the All-Pro Punt Returner in the NFLPA's second annual Players' All-Pro Team that was revealed Wednesday.
Every active NFL player had the opportunity to cast their vote for the Players' All-Pro Team. In addition to voting for players at their position or that they line up against, among the rules were that players cannot vote for themselves or teammates and could not have missed five or more games before Week 15. For the special teams (or "core teamers") category, various player leaders from each locker room nominated their two top players for the ballot.
Davis was drafted by the Chargers in large part for his prowess in the punt return game at TCU — and he picked up where he left off in the NFL.
He turned in a stellar rookie season, returning 24 punts for 385 total yards, good for second-most in the NFL.
But Davis' punt return average of 16.0 ranked first among qualified leaders. He was also one of eight players to return a punt return for a touchdown this year and is the first alternate as a return specialist for this year's Pro Bowl Games. Davis was a big part in helping the Chargers special teams unit finish the season ranked with the highest Pro Football Focus grade (90.8) and second in the NFL in team DVOA according to FTN Fantasy.
And his lone touchdown was an explosive one under the bright lights.
During the first quarter of the Bolts' Week 9 game against the Jets on Monday Night Football, Davis weaved his way through New York's punt coverage unit for an 87-yard touchdown. It was the longest punt return in the NFL up to that point and ended up being the third-longest return of the year.
The fourth-round rookie would go on to win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time in his career following his performance in Week 9. He became the first Chargers returner to win accolade since 2018 and was the first Bolts rookie returner to be recognized with the award since 2000.
"I give a lot of credit to [Special Teams Coordinator] [Ryan] Ficken and those guys out there that's blocking for me," Davis said earlier in the week about his rookie season. "Coach Fick, he showed me a lot with just how to watch film and just little fundamental things as far as returning.
"Like I said, I give credit to those guys out there blocking for me because I feel like my job is the easiest job," Davis added. "The hardest job is just to go out there and block for that long. I give credit to those guys."
Davis proved to be a weapon in the punt return game from the moment stepped on the field, and his peers believe he was the best in 2023.
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