Drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft as a replacement for Andy Lee, Bradley Pinion has not been a disappointment. Whilst one might expect a punter drafted so high to be a Pro Bowler, Pinion is unfortunate to be playing at the same time as some extremely high calibre punters and has himself been extremely consistent as both a punter and a holder for the kickers he has worked alongside. He now enters a contract year and looks well placed to earn himself a new deal as a 49er.
Experience: Fourth season
Pinion is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He has a cap hit of $753,550 and a dead cap of $48,550.
Why he might improve in 2018
So much of the work Pinion does is about experience. He needs to understand the varying impacts of the elements within the stadiums he plays in, the needs of the kickers he holds for, the abilities of the gunners who pursue his kicks and the long snapper he receives the ball from. Another year in the NFL will help the former, and another year with Robbie Gould and long snapper Kyle Nelson can only help the chemistry there. Perhaps the biggest way Pinion can “improve” from the fans’ perspective is actually if he is on the field less in his primary role as a punter and more in his secondary role as a holder on extra points.
Why he might regress in 2018
Given the stability of the core personnel on the 49ers’ special teams, regression from Pinion looks unlikely. Even the schedule has thrown up few possibilities of truly adverse punting conditions (excluding perhaps a Christmas Eve Eve trip to Chicago). If he does regress, it would likely be an indictment of him and would probably lead to Pinion going in search of a new home in March.
Odds of making the roster
The 49ers do have another punter on the roster, Jeff Locke, but he is almost certainly a left footer brought in to give returners experience facing a left-footed punter. As such, Pinion should be a near lock for the 53 man roster.