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Kickers face tough draft odds

Steelers/NFL Videos

Scouting the kickers and punters

1. Chris Boswell (K)

Rice, 6-2, 185

Made six attempts of 50 yards or longer last season, although he went a career-worst 14 of 21 overall (career: 65 of 88). Made three of 50-yards plus against SMU in 2012. Missed eight extra points in college after going 172 of 172 in high school.

2. Steven Clark (P)

Auburn, 6-5, 230

Three-time Ray Guy award semifinalist. Adopted Aussie kicking style (ball travels end over end and bounces back toward punter) last season after working with former Auburn punter Cody Parker. Averaged 42.6 yards in 2013, downed nine punts inside the 10 in final four games, with five inside 5.

3. Kirby Van Der Kamp (P)

Iowa State, 6-4, 202

Strong left-footed punter who excels at placing the ball inside the 20. Averaged 42.4 yards during four-season career, including 45.2 in 2010. Converted all seven fake-punt attempts during his career.

4. Pat O'Donnell (P)

Miami, 6-4, 220

All-Big East punter at Cincinnati in 2011 (43.8-yard average). After graduating, transferred to Miami and averaged school-record 47.1 in 2013. Timed at 4.62 seconds in the 40; did 23 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine, or better than 21 defensive linemen lifted.

5. Tom Hornsey (P)

Memphis, 6-3, 221

Punted a remarkable 297 times during college career; Ray Guy award winner last season (45.2 yards). Native of Australia and a good athlete; ran for 62 yards on three fake-punt attempts and also completed a 61-yard pass attempt.

6. Cairo Santos (K)

Tulane, 5-8, 164

Native of Brazil; Lou Groza award winner while going 21 of 21 on field goals and 26 of 26 on PATs in 2012. Slumped to 16 of 23 last season after his father died in September performing an airplane stunt. Kicked indoors, and there are questions about leg strength for NFL.

7. Anthony Fera (K)

Texas, 6-2, 211

Texas native who transferred from Penn State after two seasons to be closer to seriously ill mother. Made 20 of 22 attempts last season, including 6 of 8 from 40 yards-plus. Hip injury limited him to six games in 2012.

8. Richie Leone (P)

Houston, 6-4, 211

Very strong leg, as evidenced by averages of 45.5 (2012) and 43.2 (2013), when he placed 34 punts inside the 20. Also made 11 of 17 field-goal attempts and all 32 PATs last season.

9. Cody Mandell (P)

Alabama, 6-3, 216

Walked on at Alabama and became a four-year starter; averaged 44.3 yards as a junior and 47.1 as a senior, with 15 punts inside the 20. Despite impressive stats, he doesn't boom the ball like top NFL punters.

10. Jeff Budzien (K)

Northwestern, 5-10, 180

Most accurate field-goal kicker in Big Ten history; made 42 of 45 the last two seasons and never missed any of 136 career PATs. Made 6 of 9 from beyond 50 at pro day.

Best fit for Steelers

They've signed former LSU punter Brad Wing to push the newly signed Adam Podlesh, so the only specialist they're likely to bring in is a kicker. How about Nate Freese, a Strongsville, Ohio, native who was 18 of 18 last season and 35 of 37 the last two seasons at Boston College?

One to watch

1. Chandler Catanzaro (K )

Clemson, 6-2, 195

Wasn't especially busy, but rarely missed: 13 of 14 on field goals last season, 18 of 19 in 2012. And accuracy matters most in NFL.

Homegrown

1. James McCombie (P)

Slippery Rock, 5-11, 181

Impressive pro day; averaged 47.2 yards outdoors on a cold day. In ‘13, averaged 43.2 yards with a long of 74 and no blocks; 40.7 as a junior. Scouts like how he can drive ball high and far no matter the weather.

Monday, April 28, 2014, 12:24 a.m.
 

The most common margin of victory in an NFL game is three points, yet the players often called upon to supply those points are among the most overlooked in the NFL Draft. Only two kickers were drafted in 2013, neither above the fifth round, and that's not an anomaly for punters, either. In 2011, only one kicker and one punter were chosen, and only two specialists have been drafted above the fourth round since 2005.

Despite the importance of having an uber-accurate kicker during an era when the NFL's field-goal accuracy rate has risen from 68.6 percent in 1986 to 86.5 percent last season, teams believe they can sign accurate kickers and long-distance punters as free agents.

The 2014 kickers and punters class likely will be no different, though there are some intriguing prospects. Rice kicker Christopher Boswell, for example, is a left-footed kicker capable of crossing up coverage's by kicking right-footed on onside kicks.

Former Penn State kicker Anthony Fera expects to land a job after going 22 of 26 on field goals the last two seasons for Texas; he was 14 of 17 during his lone season as Penn State's regular.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

 

 

 
 


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