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What to expect from Jake Moody as a rookie: He’s ‘Money’ within 50 yards

Taking a deep dive into Moody’s career at Michigan to see what the 49ers are getting in their third round pick

Illinois v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

“You can count on three things in life: death, taxes, and Jake Moody.” - Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, via Matt Barrows of The Athletic.

The San Francisco 49ers sent shockwaves throughout the league during day two of the NFL Draft, selecting Michigan kicker Jake Moody with the 99th overall pick. When the 49ers made the selection, Moody became the first kicker selected in the first three rounds of the draft since Roberto Aguayo was taken 59th overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2016. But before we look at the spot he was picked in, let’s look at Jake Moody, the player, first.

“Money” Moody was the consensus No. 1 kicker entering the draft last month after making 69-of-84 (82.1 percent) of his kicks over his five seasons at Michigan without missing a PAT attempt (148-for-148). He was good on 86.6 percent of his chances the last two seasons, converting 52-of-60 attempts, with his longest make coming from 59 yards out last season.

So, what can 49ers fans expect from the new kicker? Let’s take a deep dive into the 49ers’ newest kicker.

He’s accurate – as long as it’s within 50 yards

Moody attempted a career-high 35 attempts, making a career-high 29 field goals, hitting on 82.9 percent of his kicks in 2022 after making 92 percent of his kicks in 2021. The near 10 percent drop-off from 2021 is almost exclusively from his longer attempts.

Moody only attempted one 50-yard field goal in 2021, converting a 52-yard field goal in a win against Washington. He was trusted with more attempts from distance with less desirable results in 2022, making 3-of-7 attempts from 50 or more yards. It’s not that leg strength is the issue.

Moody himself has said he’s hit from 70 yards in practice before, and his career-long make of 59 yards against TCU had plenty of leg to hit from at least 60. The only kick he missed short on was from 62 yards out against UCONN.

The other misses from 50+?

  • 50 yards, from the right hash, wide right vs. Rutgers
  • 50 yards, from the left hash, wide left vs. Rutgers
  • 57 yards, from the right hash, wide left vs. Ohio State

All three of the misses had enough leg but just missed their mark.

While the longer kicks have their issues, Moody is as close to automatic as can be. From 49 yards and shorter, Moody hit 26-for-28 (92.8 percent) in, 2022 and 64-for-75 (85.3 percent) over his college career. As with the 50+ attempts, let’s focus on just his, 2022 attempts from 0-49 yards.

Moody had three games where he finished with four or more field goal attempts, going 13-for-13 in those games. His biggest performance of the season came in November against Illinois, with the undefeated Wolverines needing a win before their yearly clash with Ohio State.

Moody was good from 46, 41, 33, and 35 going 4-for-4 with a PAT tacked on, scoring 13 of Michigan’s 19 points. The final three kicks came in the fourth quarter, bringing Michigan back from down 17-10 to a 19-17 win, with Moody hitting the game-winner with nine seconds remaining to keep the Wolverines’ playoff hopes alive.

And while it’s taken for granted, Moody finished 2022 60-for-60 on PATs in 2022 and 148-for-148 over his college career. Robbie Gould missed at least one PAT in each of his six seasons with the 49ers.

Death. Taxes. Jake Moody.

Moody handles kickoffs

Mitch Wishnowsky handled kickoffs for the 49ers from 2019-2022 until Robbie Gould took over last season. Wishnowsky’s average kickoff traveled 63.1 yards, resulting in a touchback just 50.1 percent of the time on 223 kickoffs. Gould wasn’t better, averaging 58.8 yards per kickoff while forcing a touchback on 41.2 percent of his 136 kickoffs with the 49ers.

Moody from 2021-2022 had 200 kickoffs that traveled an average of 62.3 yards, resulting in a touchback 65.5 percent of the time. Keep in mind that in college, a fair catch can be made anywhere between the goal line and the 25-yard line, resulting in a touchback. No, I did not watch each kickoff to distinguish what would be an NFL touchback vs. a college touchback.

While the 49ers finished tied for 10th for the longest average kickoff in 2022, averaging 62.9 yards per kickoff but finished with the sixth-worst touchback percentage at 47.5 percent. Moody could be a fix to the 49ers’ kickoff problems.

Number comparison with Robbie Gould and Zane Gonzalez

Jake Moody (2021-2022) compared to Robbie Gould (2021-2022) and Zane Gonzalez (2020-2021*)

Stats Moody Gould Gonzalez
Stats Moody Gould Gonzalez
Attempts from 0-49 yards 48-52, 92.3 percent 42-49, 85.7 percent 31-36, 86.1 percent
Attempts from 50+ yards 4-8, 50 percent 5-6, 83.3 percent 5-8, 62.5 percent
PAT 116-116, 100 percent 89-91, 97.8 percent 60-62, 96.8 percent
Kickoffs 200 114 120
Average distance on KO 63 63 64
Touchback percentage 66.5 48.2 59.2
Postseason/Big Game FG stats** 5-6, 83.3 percent 14-14, 100 percent n/a

*Gonzalez missed the 2022 season with a groin injury

**Postseason/Big Game FG stats count as an NFL playoff game for Gould and Gonzalez, vs. Ohio State, Big 10 Championship Game, and College Football Playoff games for Moody

But the 99th pick?!?

John Lynch said following the draft that teams were trying to trade up to select Moody, which prompted the 49ers to take the kicker at 99. We might never find out whether that was accurate or not, but the Patriots did trade up 13 spots to select Maryland kicker Chad Ryland in the fourth round, which adds merit to Lynch’s claim.

There is a small sample size in the history of teams taking a kicker in the first three rounds of the draft. Since the Raiders used the 17th overall pick in the 2000 draft to select Sebastian Janikowski, 48 kickers have been selected with four kickers taken in the first three rounds – Moody (third round in 2023), Roberto Aguayo (second round in 2016), Mike Nugent (second round in 2005), and Nate Kaeding (third round in 2004).

The results of the three prior to Moody are a mixed bag. Aguayo attempted 31 kicks in one season with the Carolina Panthers, but Carolina cut the kicker after his rookie season after he converted only 71 percent of his attempts.

Nugent played four seasons with the team that drafted him, the New York Jets, making 81.5 percent of his attempts with the Jets before signing with the Bengals and having a lengthy 16-year career.

Kaeding lasted the longest with the team that drafted him, making 86.2 percent of his kicks in eight seasons with the Chargers before joining Miami for the final season of his nine-year career.

Using the past examples, Moody can either spend his career with the 49ers, spend his rookie contract with the 49ers before finding long-term success elsewhere, or be a bust. At a minimum, we have all the bases covered.

Jake Moody was the best kicker in the 2023 NFL Draft. The 49ers should have drafted Jake Moody. Using pick No. 99 on a kicker wasn’t a great decision. All of those statements are true, but now it comes down to performance for the former Michigan kicker. The third-round selection will be a talking point, but if Moody performs well, it’ll be a moot point. If he doesn’t, well, that’ll be another story.