Punters and kickers (but especially punters) aren't really the sexy individuals with the huge hits or the jaw-dropping highlights but they are nonetheless important. We all know kickers can win and lose games. Punters so can punters. Colts fans learned that harsh reality watching Mike Scifres single-handedly take us down three playoffs ago.
Fortunately for the Colts, we are set at both positions. Pat Mcafee is a rising star at his position who will hopefully be booming punts in Indy for this rest of this decade and Adam Vinatieri is the most clutch kicker to ever live (Remind me why that our special teams is so bad?) For those less fortunate franchises, here are arguably the top five kickers in this year's draft.
1.Alex Henery - Kicker University of Nebraska
A reader yesterday commented that I had left out Alex Henery from the list of the top 5 punters yesterday. Don't worry, I didn't forgot Nebraska's all-time scoring leader (397 points). Henery though, who also handled some of Nebraska's punting duties is much better kicking prospect than he is a punter. In fact, he's arguably the best kicker in the draft. This past season Henery connected on 18-19 field goals and was a perfect 54-54 on PATs earning him a spot on the 2010 AP All-America First Team list. His only missed field goal was a 51 yarder that was blocked. After improving his accuracy this past season, Henery now holds NCAA record for field goal accuracy with a 89.5 percent mark (68-76 all time). According to Nfldraftscout.com Henery is the number one punter in his class, a ranking few would argue.
He is accurate and has a big leg. Plus he played in a big time conference filled with pressure-packed games... What else do you want?
His only real weakness is that Nebraska used a kickoff specialist so it remains to be seen if Henery could handle those duties in the pros. Still, most scouts have him being taken in rounds 4 or 5, which is high for a kicker and shows that teams don't seem overly concerned about this minor flaw.
He's 6'1 177 pounds and ran a 4.87 at the combine. He is big, strong and athletic, all which will only increase his appeal.
2. Kai Forbath, Kicker UCLA
A 2010 semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award (best kicker in the nation) Forbath is considered by many scouts to be the second best place kicker on the board. Last year he was Second-team All-Pac-10 and his .842 career average is second in school history. Forbath also finished as the number two point-scorer in UCLA history.
Unfortunately for Forbath, he struggled some in his senior season. Coming off a record setting year last year, in which he was the 2009 Winner of the Lou Groza Award and a Consensus All-America Kicker, Forbath decided to return for his senior senior. Still, Forbath is likely to fall somewhere in the 6th to 7th rounds and wind up an NFL starter in the near future.
The guy is deadly accurate. In a game against Stanford earlier in the year, Forbath missed from 49 yards, snapping a streak of 40 consecutive field goals made inside of 50 yards. He also holds two NCAA records for most career games with a least 2 field goals and most career games of at least 3 field goals, validation that he is consistent as well.
The UCLA Senior isn't particularly strong. He gets decent distance on his kicks but he is certainly no Sebastian Janikowski (Although really who is?). He also had a down year after winning college football's top place kicking award the year before. Still some have said Forbath reminds them of an Adam Vinatieri, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
At 5'11 197 lbs, Forbath is a bit small but certainly sturdy. He definitely surprised people with a 4.78 40-yard dash and had a good overall showing at the combine.
Josh Jasper, Place Kicker LSU
Jasper racked up several awards on his way to another stellar season for the Tigers. Among his greatest achievements were 2010 Consensus All-American, 2010 First Team All-American (Football Writers Association of America, Sporting News) and 2010 First Team All-Southeastern Conference (AP).
Jasper finished as LSU's most accurate place kicker of all time and second most accurate in the SEC with an 83.9 career average. Laid back off the field, Jasper brought his game face on it leading the nation with 28 field goals and finishing 10th overall with a 9.8 points per game average during his senior season.
Jasper displayed his booming leg with a career best 53 yarder in 2010 and was 5-7 on field goals over 50 yards during his career. He also connected on 16 field goals of 40 yards or more. Playing in the SEC (especially at Tigers Stadium) Jasper is immune to the pressure and has kicked several game tying or game winning field goals during his time at LSU.
Jasper ran a slow 5.06 40 yard dash and isn't said to be very athletic. He also isn't very big which could be a concern as the last line of defense on kickoffs. Jasper struggled in punting situations for LSU but as a pro kicking prospect there are few major concerns.
Jasper ran a slow 40 but otherwise put up good numbers. He will probably fall to the 7th round, but should be drafted by a team looking for immediate kicking help.
4. Jake Rogers, Cincinnati
Not a particularly acclaimed prospect, Rogers made the Lou Groza Award Semi-finalist round in 2008 and was on its watch list again in 2009 and 2010.
Rodgers is a jack-of-trades handling kicking, kickoff, and punting duties for the Bear Cats. Probably a better punter than kicker, Rogers never the less submitted his name to the draft with a K by it.
Rogers has a huge leg and handled the kickoff duties. He is also a very capable punter as well. Rogers finished as Cincinnati's all time leading points scorer after three field goals and a three extra point effort in week 8. While he certainly benefited from Tony Pike and Brian Kelly's wide open offense, Rogers managed to break the record in only three seasons.
He has struggled with confidence and accuracy throughout his career. After missing an extra point earlier in the season, Rogers came back to reel off a school record 43 straight. However last year, Rogers only made 13-19 (68.4 percent) of his kicks.
Rogers ran a slow 5.06 40 time but measured in at a big 6'2 216 lbs. Rogers might have the strongest leg in the class. www.nfldraftscout.com has him rated as the 5th best kicking prospect, but if he can learn to maintain a strong confidence level, Rogers could be one of the best in his class.
Thomas Weber, Kicker Arizona State
When the spotlight is on, Thomas Weber shines the brightest. During what is usually ASU's biggest game against in-state arch rival University of Arizona, Connecting on a season high five field goals, including (another season-high) 52 yarder, a pair of 40-yarders, a 38-yarder and a 36 yarder, Weber showed that pressure and big game situations don't bother him.
He further showed icy-nerves during his Arizona State pro-day where he nailed each field he attempted.
Weber has a strong leg and is accurate, especially in the clutch. His accuracy from deep is almost as good as it is from closer range which shows good focus and fundamentals.
Injury concerns are a definite red flag for Weber. He only played in eight games his Junior season and is coming off groin surgery this year. Accuracy and consistency have also plagued him in the past.
He was perfect at his pro-day and ran a decent 4.90 in the 40 yard dash at the combine. If he can stay healthy he could be selected as high as the 6th round.