Draft preview: Kickers

Outside of the game's opening kickoff, NFL kickers have to wait for their teams' offense or defense before they take to the field.

It's a similar situation come draft day.

While multiple players from just about every offensive and defensive position group will have been selected by the end of the first round, kickers will be waiting - and they could be waiting for a while.

"It's tough to get drafted as a kicker, so I'll be happy if I get drafted," said Nebraska kicker Alex Henery, the only kicker who can all but count on being drafted this year. "We'll see what happens."

Since the Panthers first participated in the NFL Draft in 1995, 59 kickers and punters have been drafted, an average of less than four per draft. The Panthers have never drafted a kicker, though John Kasay was selected in the fourth round of the 1991 draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

Since '95, just three kickers or punters have been taken in the first two rounds compared to 32 in the last two rounds.

"The position we play isn't a position that's necessarily drafted highly," said Miami punter Matt Bosher, one of roughly a dozen kickers in the running for a half-dozen draft spots at most. "It's very rare for somebody to get drafted super-high, but you know going in what to expect."

Armed with that knowledge, kickers understand that not hearing their name called out at the draft isn't necessarily the end of the line. Last season, 19 of the 32 kickers on opening day entered the league as undrafted free agents.

"If you work hard, you might get drafted, or then again they might pass on you," Bosher said. "You just have to work hard and be willing to do whatever it takes if you don't get drafted to get picked up."

The lack of love for kickers on draft day doesn't mean that NFL teams don't value their services. Their viability of draft day is low in part because only a few are needed yet there are many more floating around with NFL experience, big legs, or both.

Even though Henery is in the best position in this class to be drafted, he's familiar with the plight of the kicker. He wasn't offered a single football scholarship out of high school but walked on at Nebraska and blossomed into the most accurate kicker in NCAA history.

Henery hit on 68-of-76 field goals and missed just one of his 194 extra points to amass a school record 397 points.

"It's something I didn't even dream of doing," Henery said. "To go to a university like that where there have been so many great kickers and to be compared to them, it still feels unreal to me."

He'll likely feel a similar sensation at the draft, even if few of his fellow kickers will.


Here's a look at the top kicking prospects eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft, which kicks off April 28:

ALEX HENERY6-2, 177, NebraskaHolds the NCAA record for career field goal accuracy at 89.5 percent, connecting on 68-of-76 field goals…Also an accomplished punter, with a 43.9-yard average last season…Made all 14 of his field goals in postseason play.

CHAS HENRY6-3, 219, FloridaWinner of 2010 Ray Guy Award, presented annually to college football's best punter…Averaged 45.1 yards per punt as a senior…None of his 165 career punts were blocked…Roughly 40 percent of his punts were downed inside the 20 but less than 10 percent resulted in touchbacks.

RYAN DONAHUE6-2, 193, IowaOne of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award after averaging 44.6 yards per punt last season…Punted 251 times in four seasons, suffering a single block – a partial block at that – as a freshman in 2007.

KAI FORBATH5-11, 197, UCLAOn pace to challenge Henery for the career field goal percentage record entering last season but struggled relatively speaking, converting 13-of-18 attempts…Still finished 85-for-101 for his career…2009 Lou Groza Award winner.

JOSH JASPER5-10, 174, LSUThe team's primary kicker for just two seasons but made the most of it, leading the nation in 2010 with 28 field goals on 31 attempts…Holds school record for field goal accuracy at 83.9 percent.

MATT BOSHER6-1, 208, MiamiA triple threat as a kicker, punter and kickoff specialist…Made 45-of-53 field goals over his career…Averaged 41.7 yards per punt…Also handled kickoff duties, getting 15 touchbacks in 2010 alone.

Others in the draft discussion: K Dan Bailey (Oklahoma State), P Derek Epperson (Baylor), K Thomas Weber (Arizona State), P Reid Forrest (Washington State) and K Wes Byrum (Auburn).

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