Much like the NFL Combine, the 2011 Senior Bowl provides a rare opportunity to get a lot of players together in one place alongside a lot of coaches, scouts, and executives. The 49ers have used this to get a better idea of some interesting options available in this year's NFL Draft. On Monday they spoke with Cal DE Cameron Jordan who could solidify the left side of their defensive line. Yesterday they conducted three more meetings with Vincent Brown, Christian Ballard and Alex Henery.
Brown is a wide receiver out of San Diego State who ranks in the 15 to 19 range of positional rankings that I'm seeing. Ballard is a defensive tackle out of Iowa ranked 13th among DTs by Scouts Inc, but ranked 6th by Draft Countdown. Henery is a kicker out of Nebraska who appears to be the consensus number one in the positional rankings.
I wanted to focus in on Henery because of his high ranking among kickers. We'll have some more on Brown and Ballard at some point down the road, but for now let's talk kicking. This past season saw Joe Nedney go down with a knee injury in mid-November and the 49ers replaced him with Jeff Reed. While Reed's kickoffs left something to be desired, he still managed to do a fairly solid job on his field goals. He did miss some and I recall one being a rather timely miss, but he started out strong, and overall was a solid replacement for the injured Nedney.
Now the 49ers find themselves in a bit of a quandry. I'm a Nedney fan but he's turning 38 in March and the injuries are adding up. He hadn't missed a ton of time before this year but this isn't his first gimpy stretch so far. Jeff Reed was a solid replacement but his kickoffs weren't impressive and he still struggles at times. Is it time for the 49ers to grab a big leg in the draft, wait for rookie or NFL free agency, or stick with Nedney or Reed?
I realize the kicker position isn't quite as exciting as QB or many others, but it's a huge job. The Raiders were raked over the coals by many for selecting Sebastian Janikowski so high, but they lost a ton of close games and Seabass has been big for them. I'm not saying the 49ers should draft a kicker in the first round, but it might be time to consider the options. The 49ers once selected kicker Jeff Chandler in the fourth round of a draft and he didn't work out, so there is certainly reason for trepidation. However, maybe a kicker might be the right call in the mid to late rounds.
In yesterday's practice Henery booted a 52-yard field goal that might have been good from 65. Of course he also shanked one into the crowd, so he's obviously not a sure thing. What is the answer at this point for the 49ers?