Draft Daily: When, if ever, should teams draft a kicker?
The PFF Draft Daily will hit on a number of NFL Draft-related topics including recent news, scouting reports, PFF draft takes, and much more on a daily basis.
The specialist debate
In our seven-round PFF analyst mock draft earlier in the week, I made a pick that stirred up quite a debate on social media. As “GM” of the Cardinals, in the third round I selected Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez. There is an entire school of thought that you should never spend an actual draft pick on a kicker or punter because there have historically been so many productive ones readily available in free agency. I admit at times that I have found myself in this camp, and believed that draft capital would be better spent elsewhere. However, there is also something to be said for finding a good young kicker in the draft that can stay around and be a point-scorer for the team for a decade rather than cycling through low-cost free agents every year or two. In the salary cap era, teams have to scrimp in some part of the roster in order to build other units, but teams who have spent too little on special teams have seen the choice cost them games during the season.
Gonzalez only missed two field goals in 2016, and both were from outside 50 yards. He routinely kicks touchbacks, as you can see from his chart below. What would you do if you were an NFL GM? Would you spend a draft pick on a kicker in the hopes that he can be a mainstay at the position? Or, would you try to spend your draft picks somewhere else entirely and fill that roster spot with undrafted free agents every year?
Final weekend to purchase PFF Draft Pass before 2017 draft
PFF Draft Pass version 3.0 is available now, and the final version arrives April 24. This is your last weekend to study the all the unique information and signature statistics in PFF Draft Pass before the draft actually begins on April 27.
One signature statistic included in PFF Draft Pass is quarterback adjusted completion percentage, which accounts for passes that were dropped, thrown away intentionally, spiked, batted at the line of scrimmage, or that came out of a quarterback’s hands as he was being hit. A quick glance at the names at the top of the adjusted completion percentage metric (see table below for the top players in the category) shows the three of the top quarterbacks prospects in the class in Deshaun Watson (No. 3), Patrick Mahomes (No. 6) and Mitchell Trubisky (No. 7) all within the top seven in the draft class.
“Lying season” is here
With the NFL Draft less than a week away, “lying season” is in full swing, when many rumors start to trickle out about a team’s intentions or feelings about a particular player. There are some stories that will be rooted in truth or actual opinion, and some floated just to try and misinform everyone outside the team. There will be some stories that are floated by agents to try and get a particular team to bite on the tidbit. Team sources that are intentionally feeding stories to media insiders run the risk of ruining relationships if the stories are false, so they can’t go to the well too often with that deceiving trick. Often times coaches or execs can lead outsiders astray in more subtle ways, like speaking glowingly about a player in a press conference or allowing details of a private workout to be shared. It would appear that plain-old secrecy works the best this time of year, as every draft, we hear stories of players and agents that are shocked that a team picked a player because there was so little pre-draft contact or interest coming from the team that took him. In a time where we have to try and filter through so much pre-draft noise, the best thing to do may be to pay attention to the prospects the team is not talking about.
The latest Pro Football Focus podcasts continue to focus on the draft. Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo and Mike Renner discuss some of the mock drafts from PFF analysts, as well as the top reader comments from each one. On another episode, Senior Analyst Sam Monson joined Renner to discuss Monson’s over/underrated prospects for the draft.