Draft preview: Kickers

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For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers will go into the draft without a punter on their roster.

That doesn't necessarily mean they will emerge from this year's draft with one.

"We have several options," general manager Marty Hurney said. "We could do it during the draft, after the draft, in free agency. There are some different options we have targeted.  We'll see how it plays out."

The Panthers have never drafted a punter or kicker, dating to their inaugural draft in 1995. They're not alone in that regard.

Over the last 17 drafts, six teams haven't used a pick on a specialist. Six others have used just one pick on a specialist.

Since 1995, 31 punters (and 30 kickers) have been drafted, meaning less than two punters per year were chosen. Yet in all but one year, 1996, at least one punter has been picked.

The punters who appear most likely to be drafted this year are Bryan Anger of California and Drew Butler of Georgia.

Anger averaged 43.7 yards per punt over the past four seasons, grossing 50 or more yards 28 percent of the time and pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line 36 percent of the time. Anger set a school record in 2010 with a 45.6-yard average.

Butler, the son of longtime Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler, averaged 45.6 yards over the past three seasons, grossing 50 or more yards 35 percent of the time and pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line 37 percent of the time. Butler led the nation in 2009 with a 48.1-yard average.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera played at Cal, and he played with Butler in Chicago.

Will any of that translate into the Panthers drafting a punter? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, here are some other fun facts regarding the drafting of specialists since the Panthers made their NFL debut:

--Two were drafted last year – both by teams that hadn't previously drafted one since the Panthers joined the league. The Philadelphia Eagles selected kicker Alex Henery in the fourth round, and the Atlanta Falcons took punter Matt Bosher in the sixth. The Eagles hadn't picked a specialist since 1994, and the Falcons hadn't since 1993.

--The other five teams not to choose a specialist since 1995 are the Buffalo Bills (last time was 1990), Cleveland Browns (1991), Detroit Lions (1992), Tennessee Titans (never) and Houston Texans (never). The last time a Houston team took a specialist was when the Titans were still the Oilers, in 1992.

--The only team in the Panthers era to select two specialists in one draft was the Oakland Raiders in 2000, and kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler are still kicking for the Raiders. Janikowski became just the fifth specialist taken in the first round, a list that also includes Ray Guy, a former Raider widely considered to be the best punter ever.

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