Ranking the top kicker and punter prospects of 2017
We’re just one year removed from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only selecting a kicker in the second round, but actually trading up to ensure they landed Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo. Fast-forward to 2016, and the former Seminole struggled so much as a rookie that the Buccaneers are actually bringing in competition for him in training camp. So, does that mean that no kicker should ever be drafted that high again? Well, in this draft class, we have one kicker who might be deserving of a Day 2 draft pick, two players who have potential at both kicker and punter, and several players who could be selected in the late rounds, and should at least get an opportunity at training camp. So who are the best kickers and punters in this draft class? Let’s take a look.
1. Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
Make no mistake about it, Zane Gonzalez’s 2016 season was one of the most impressive ever put together by a college kicker. His booming leg makes him a candidate to come off the board by the end of Day 2. The only kicker in America to make more than Gonzalez’s seven 50-plus-yard field goals this past season was Baltimore Ravens’ star Justin Tucker (10). More than just a strong leg, Gonzalez is also incredibly accurate, connecting on 92.0 percent of his field-goal attempts; he was perfect from inside 50 yards, though he did miss one extra point in 2016.
2. Younghoe Koo, Georgia Southern
One of the most accurate kickers in the nation in 2016, Georgia Southern’s Younghoe Koo connected on all of his field goals under 50 yards, and went one-for-two on his two attempts from 50 and beyond. With a career long of 53 yards, the only thing that will concern NFL teams is that he has missed three extra points in his college career. That being said, Koo has shown enough to warrant consideration as a late-round draft pick.
3. Jake Elliott, Memphis
Elliott was the other kicker in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl with Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, but definitely didn’t have as impressive of a week there. The concerning part about Elliott’s play is that he has made just 77.0 percent of his field goals over the past three years, including 81.5 percent this past season. What will encourage teams to take a chance on him, though, is that he has connected on eight of 13 field-goal attempts from 50 yards or more over the past three seasons.
1. Rigoberto Sanchez, Hawaii
Sanchez is an interesting prospect, with success both as a punter and as a kicker, albeit on a limited basis as a kicker. He has averaged 40.2 net yards per punt over the past two seasons, with 54 of his 143 punts in that span landing inside the opposing 20-yard line. He adds intrigue as a kicker, connecting on all 13 of his field-goal attempts in 2016, including his lone attempt from 50-plus yards.
2. Toby Baker, Arkansas
One of the top punters in the nation in 2016, Baker might not offer any versatility when it comes to being able to kick field goals, but he is a good enough punter to be considered as a draft option. Over 61 punts this past season, he saw 36.1 percent returned, with 24 fair catches and 23 landing inside the opposing 23-yard line.
3. Austin Rekhow, Idaho
The biggest debate with Rehkow is actually what position he is best at. As a punter, he saw just 18 of his 63 punts returned last year, with 30 landing inside the opposing 20-yard line. He has the leg to keep the ball in the air, with a max hang-time of over 5.20 second in each of the past three seasons. As a kicker, he improved every year, connecting on 87.1 percent of his field goals in 2016.
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