There's a lot to be had and a lot to be desired from the 49ers in the kicking department going forward, taking into account the past few seasons. It hasn't been a definitive strength for the team, nor has it been a glaring weakness. Through injuries and age, San Francisco has managed to have a leg available to get the job done nine times out of ten, or something close to it. As for the production out of their punter? Well, I don't need to say much there. It's a strength, and will remain a strength for the foreseeable future.
|2010 - Joe Nedney
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Joe Nedney has been the picture of reliable throughout his entire career. Since arriving in San Francisco, he's been the unquestioned starter and has performed admirably. My biggest problem with his actual play is the lack of power on his kickoffs. He's never been a guy to consistently put the ball at the five yard line, and even less so as the years are piling on, but he's still solid and his kickoffs do have solid hangtime.
As you can see from the numbers above, Nedney was dependable as ever, drilling everything 39 yards and below, while going 3-for-5 on field goals forty yards or more. His biggest problem over the past two seasons has been his injuries, one specifically in his leg. It's been present throughout his entire career but it's causing a lot more stiffness in his old age.
Still, when he's healthy, he's one of the better kickers in the league when it comes to putting it between the uprights. His kickoffs aren't going to suddenly improve, but if he can produce when so many teams have had problems making field goals over the past couple years, I suppose there's nothing else for it.
After the jump, we look at the other kicker/punter options on the 49ers roster, the 2011 free agents for the position and of course, the 2011 NFL draft ...
|2010 - Jeff Reed
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Reed is someone that I ... really hate to root for on principle just because I really dislike him. But the minute he put on a 49ers uniform, I rooted for him to succeed, and that he did when Nedney went down with an injury. His kickoffs are definitely similar to Nedney's, they come up short around the ten-yard line, but they do hang for a good amount of time and it's not a weakness so much as it is just "not a strength."
He went 9-for-10 for San Francisco, though none of those were fifty yards or more. He was a solid replacement and apparently just needed a change of scenery to get his career back on track. The 49ers really could not have asked more from him in 210.
|2010 - Andy Lee
Andy Lee is potentially the best player on the 49ers and I really don't need to go over why that is, but I will anyway. He's got a great leg with fantastic accuracy, and a smart punter. He generally knows which type of punt to do in every situation, and has the power to simply boom one if need be. His leg strength is probably his biggest asset.
2010 did appear to be a down year, though. It's questionable as to whether Lee was actually out-kicking his coverage due to a change in his own punting style/abilities or if the lacking ability of the 49ers special teams unit was at play. All that is clear is that punt returners seemed to get decent yards on the Niners last year.
Going forward, the 49ers will obviously have Andy Lee back as their punter, that most definitely will not be changing. As far as their kicker situation goes, my gut tells me that it will be Joe Nedney doing the placekicking. This is, of course, providing he can get and stay healthy, but I feel as though the 49ers believe that he can and will.
One other thing to consider is the possibility of carrying two kickers on the roster. One for kickoffs and one for connecting on your field goals and everyday extra points. It's something that new special teams coordinator Brad Seely is not adverse to trying, and it's a distinct possibility with someone like Fabrizio Scaccia signed to a future contract.
Scaccia is the guy who hit the 68-yard field goal, and while playing for the UFL, got himself a few touchbacks and going 12-for-16 on field goals. That doesn't seem fantastic, of course, but do note that the shortest miss of his was 48 yards, meaning they tried to get everything they could out of his leg. He's an option, for sure.
2011 Free Agency
Jeff Reed, San Francisco 49ers: Probably the easiest signing for the 49ers if they do not feel that Nedney is healthy enough for the job in 2010. He's not the best kicker available, however.
Matt Prater, Denver Broncos: Prater is dependable and has a good leg. If he's fully recovered from his groin injury, he should be a top priority for the 49ers if they do not want to stick with Nedney. However, he is a restricted free agent, which means the Broncos may retain him.
Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints
Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings
Olindo Mare, Seattle Seahawks
Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
Shayne Graham, New Endland Patriots
Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
2011 NFL Draft
It's also possible the 49ers draft a kicker at some point, perhaps even early on if they're looking for a fresh start. Alex Henery is the only guy I honestly know anything about, so you guys are on your own on that front. To me, Henery is a guy that I would be happy with the 49ers drafting as early as the fifth round, if they're serious about bringing in a young guy. I feel like that is where he'll go, in the fifth, and providing they don't need to bomb the later rounds for some other position, it works out well.
Our own Drew K took a look at the kickers who had the most to gain and lose just a few days ago, so go ahead and check that out.