Fan frustration caused by a kicker missing field goals might be greater than frustration felt at any other position. Quarterback struggles? "That offensive line is terrible!" "Play calling is horrendous" "He has nobody to throw to!" Offensive lineman struggle? "Quarterback holds the ball too long!" Running back struggles? "No one blocks!"
Kicker struggles? "He’s got one F***ING job!"
Quarterback | Running Back | Outside Linebackers |
Offensive Line | Inside Linebacker | Safety | Wide Receiver
Much has been made of David Akers season long slump. No kicker missed more field goals in 2012 than Akers as he made just 69% of his attempts. What stands out to me is his percentage in wins vs. losses. In wins and one tie this season, Akers made 75% of his kicks. In losses, he made just 58%. What’s more, Akers has only made 56% (5/9) of his kicks attempted indoors compared to 72% (24/33) outdoors. Isn’t kicking indoors supposed to be easier? Scary thought given this weekend’s NFC title game.
The Niners haven’t drafted a kicker since they took Jeff Chandler out of Florida in the fourth round of the 2002 draft. While they may not draft one this year, if it’s a consideration it’s likely there are only three to four kickers to hear their names called this year.
#1: Dustin Hopkins* 6-2 190lbs – Florida State Stock: Steady Projection: 6-7 round
#2: Quinn Sharp* 6-1 205lbs – Oklahoma State Stock: Rising Projection: 6-7 round
#4: Caleb Sturgis** 5-10 186lbs – Florida Stock: Steady Projection: 7th round
#5: Bret Maher 6-0 185lbs – Nebraska Stock: Steady Projection: 7th round/ UDFA
Just missed: Zach Brown**, Portland State; Tyler Bithancurt, West Virginia; Dan Conroy; Michigan State.
*Accepted invite to Senior Bowl.
**Accepted invite to East-West Shrine Game
I’m not a fan of drafting kickers (in real life or in fantasy) so it’s tough for me to lobby that the 49ers consider
wasting using a late round pick on one. However, there are a few intriguing options.
Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins is used to being billed as the country’s top kicker. In high school he was the top rated kicker in the country as a junior and often spent summers working with kicking coaches to fine tune his craft. It paid off as this past season he became the all-time leader scorer for kickers in major college football history with 466 points. Hopkins is a two-time Lou Groza Award (Nation’s top kicker) finalist and was 25-30 (83%) in 2012. Impressively, he converted all but one of his field goal attempts from 50+ yards (5/6).
Quinn Sharp from Oklahoma State was a dual threat kicker in college. It’s not sure what he’ll do in the NFL as some scouts like him as a punter and others as a place kicker. Sharp made 28 of 34 (82%) kicks in 2012 including a long of 51 (twice). He also average 46 yards on 44 punts while regularly accounting for 5+ seconds of hang time. Sharp also led the nation in touch-backs in 2011 and 2012. I think he’s likely to be a punter in the NFL but some team could give him a shot to kick field goals.
Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis is coming off an impressive senior season in which he converted 86% of his attempts 24-28 including 3-3 from 50+. Another two-time Groza Finalist, Sturgis shows above average accuracy on long field goals and has nailed his only game winning attempt. He also bounces back nicely from misses and has ability to hit from anywhere on the field. His career long is 52 yards but scouts will want to see him continue to consistently hit from there.
If making a change, are you a fan of drafting a kicker or should the Niners look to free agency for help?