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2016 Position Breakdown: Special teams

The good: This unit was consistently good all season long.

Punter Sam Martin finished the regular season with a 44.2 net punting average as he re-set the Lions record for net punting average in a season by passing the 42.0 average he established in 2015.

View photos of the Detroit Lions special teams in action during the 2016 season.

Kicker Matt Prater connected on a career-high 31 field goals, which ranks as the third-highest single-season total in team history behind Jason Hanson (34 in 1993 & 32 in 2012). He was perfect from beyond 50 yards, hitting all seven of his attempts.

The cover teams were also very good for Detroit in 2016. The punt cover team yielded a punt return average of 6.0 yards for the season, the lowest allowed by a Lions team since 2002 (4.5). That was the fifth lowest average in the NFL this past year. Detroit's coverage units didn't allow a single kick-return touchdown on the season.

Andre Roberts tied for the NFL lead with two punt-return touchdowns and his 12.3 average per punt return ranked third in the NFL.

The bad: You have to get pretty nit-picky to find the bad in the performance of Detroit's special teams this season.

Prater missed a couple extra points. He was 31-of-33 on the year.

The Lions were middle of the pack from a kickoff return standpoint, averaging 22.7 yards per return, which ranked 13th.

Key stat: Martin's 44.2 net punting average ranks as the third-best single-season total in NFL history. Martin finished 2016 second in the NFL in net punting average (44.2) and third in gross average (48.5).

Free agents: Kickoff and punt return man Andre Roberts is an unrestricted free agent, as is long snapper Don Muhlbach.

Roberts became just the fourth player in team history to register two punt return touchdowns in a single season. He also made the most of his opportunities on offense as a fourth receiver. He made some clutch catches for Detroit late in games to help secure come-from-behind wins. He finished with 14 receptions for 188 yards with a touchdown.

Muhlbach passed former Lions tackle Jeff Backus (191) for the fourth-most games played in Detroit Lions history. Thus far in 13 seasons, Muhlbach has tallied 196 career games.

Muhlbach, who turns 36 before next season, was good again this season snapping the football, and says he wants to return for a 14th season. The Lions drafted long snapper Jimmy Landes in the sixth round last year, but he missed the season with a shoulder injury. If Muhlbach is re-signed, he'll likely have to compete with Landes for the job.

The Draft: The Lions don't seem to be in the market for a kicker, punter or long snapper. Depending on what happens in free agency with Roberts, they could be on the lookout for a receiver, running back or cornerback who doubles as a return man. There are a lot of those kind of players available in this draft.

MVP: Martin certainly has a case. So does Don Carey, who the players voted as their special teams MVP after leading them with nine tackles.

But Prater was clutch every time he needed to be for the Lions this season, and he's my choice for MVP here.

Prater was a perfect 6-for-6 on game-tying or game-winning field goals in the final two minutes of contests this season. One of those kicks was a 58-yarder to send a Nov. 11 game in Minnesota to overtime with just two seconds left on the clock.

When the pressure was on, Prater was at his best. That's MVP stuff right there.

For the year, Prater made 33 of 38 field-goal attempts (including playoffs).

Quotable: "You always look back on any position and say there's a few plays here and there you wish you could have back, but at least none of the kicks I missed were last-second kicks to win or tie a game," Prater said after the season. "I was happy with that part of it, but you can always improve and get better."

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