Saturday, January 22, 2011

Should an NFL Team Ever Draft a Kicker?

Everyone in the Bay Area can still hear the moans, cries, gasps and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the drafting of Sebastian Janikowski in the 1st round of the 2000 NFL draft. 211 kickers have been drafted since the beginning of the NFL Draft in 1936. 106 of them (51%) either never appeared in an NFL game or played less than 10 games in their career. So, I would say "no" to the question,

Only three have ever been drafted in the first round: Janikowski, Charlie Gogolak (1966) and Steve Little (1978). Pete's brother and no-relation-to-Rich combined for 402 points in 96 games, with Little throwing in some skills as a punter. Janikwoski has now scored 1142 points in 173 games and is one of the more accurate long-range kickers in NFL history, hitting on 61% of his FG of more than 40 yards. So, compared to other first round kickers, Janikowski is hands down the best ever selected. But, why take a kicker in the first round?

When they drafted Janikowski, the Raiders were coming off an 8-8 season, Their quarterback was 34 year old Rich Gannon who made the Pro Bowl. The selection after Janikowski was Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, so it makes sense that the Raiders would not take him. What is more interesting is the selection made by the Seahawks two picks after Janikowski: Shaun Alexander. The Raiders running backs in 1999? Napoleon Kauffman and Tyrone Wheatley. Ouch.

It should be pointed out that when Washington drafted Charlie Gogolak in 1966, the draft was not that deep. There were productive players available (USC running back and future Chief Pro Bowler Mike Garrett, for example) but the Redskins had future hall of famer Charley Taylor at halfback and he was only 24 years old. Goglak did help the team in 1966, scoring 105 points, good for 3rd in the league.

Steve Little was drafted by the Cardinals in 1978, then in St. Louis. Their kicker, two time pro-bowler Jim Bakken, had retired. The Cards had an electric offense in 1977, featuring Pro Bowlers at QB (Jim Hart), RB (Terry Metcalf) and WR (Mel Gray). The offensive line had three pro bowl players on its own (Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler and Tom Banks). The defense was shaky down the stretch. The Cards lost their last 4 games by a combined score of 125-48, with two of their opponents rushing for more than 200 yards against them. There were fair defensive players available in the draft (LB Gary Spani, DE AL Baker who made a couple of pro bowls in the 1980s) left at pick 17. The Cards did take defensive players with their next three picks, but only one of them (strong safety Ken Greene) turned out to be a starter.

The person they "should" have picked? Tight End and future Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome, selected 27th by the Browns. Why didn't the Cards take him? In 1974 they spent the 7th pick of the draft on tight end J.V. Cain, who caught 25 passes in 1977 and doubled as a wide receiver. Cain was a young, quality tight end, so the Cardinals did not need Newsome. Tragically, Cain died of congenital heart failure in training camp in 1979, a disaster no one saw coming.

The top scoring kickers in NFL history are Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson, both drafted in 1982, Morten in the 4th round, Gary in the 7th round. Mark Mosely, who made a pro bowl and once held the NFL record for most consecutive field goals made, was drafted in the 14th round in 1970. What is interesting is that most of the kickers drafted in the 1950s and early 1960s were also punters (Sam Baker, Tommy Davis). The last of this breed was Frank Corral, taken by the Rams in the third round in 1978.

Of the top 20 all time in field goals made, 9 were signed as free agents. Of the top 20 all time in percentage of field goals made, 12 were signed as free agents. Unless you don't need anything else, don't draft a kicker.

No comments:

Post a Comment