Leading up to April's NFL Draft, Andrew O'Brien will be bringing you positional breakdowns, mock drafts, and more. Here's a look at some of the top punters and kickers who could be available for the Eagles:
Special teams are largely forgotten about in the NFL Draft, but teams can find great value in a kicker or punter on the third day. With no elite prospects worth taking early and turnover among kickers and punters high around the league, it’s not worth it to many franchises to use anything more than a fifth-round pick on either of those positions. Of course, they can still find a long-term solution for their kicking and/or punting games among college football’s top prospects.
Here’s a look at the top kickers and punters:
THE TOP PROSPECTS
Caleb Sturgis, Kicker, Florida (5-11, 187 lbs.)
Sturgis hit 23-of-27 of his field goals and was a Lou Groza finalist for the top kicker in the nation for the second straight season. He was 8-of-9 from kicks beyond 40 yards and will likely be a third-day selection.
Dustin Hopkins, Kicker, Florida State (6-2, 190 lbs.)
In his senior season, Hopkins made 25-of-30 field goal attempts and became the NCAA FBS all-time leading kick scorer. Strong on kickoffs as well, he could be the first kicker selected.
Quinn Sharp, Punter/Kicker, Oklahoma State (6-1, 205 lbs.)
Serving as Oklahoma State’s kicker and punter, Sharp has a big leg, as evidenced by punts with 5.0-plus seconds of hangtime and 70 percent of his kickoffs going for touchbacks. He might initially be a kickoff specialist but could develop into an NFL-caliber kicker or punter.
Jackson Rice, Punter, Oregon (6-3, 223 lbs.)
Rice’s talents were probably wasted in Oregon’s offense, but he has a good leg and produces solid hangtime. If he’s not drafted late, he’ll get a shot to prove himself at someone’s training camp.
Brad Wing, Punter, LSU (6-3, 184 lbs.)
After a stellar 2011 season that saw him named as a First-Team All-American, Wing took a step back in 2012 and ultimately missed the Chik-fil-A Bowl after being suspended. Wing is probably the most talented punter in the draft, however, and could be the first one selected.
Matt Weller, Kicker, Ohio (6-0, 203 lbs.)
Brett Maher, Kicker, Nebraska (6-0, 185 lbs.)
Ryan Allen, Punter, Louisiana Tech (6-2, 215 lbs.)
Dan Conroy, Kicker, Michigan State (5-10, 186 lbs.)
Jeff Locke, Punter, UCLA (6-1, 203 lbs.)
Scott Kovanda, Punter, Ball State (6-3, 205 lbs.)
Dylan Breeding, Punter, Arkansas (6-1, 211 lbs.)
Buffalo Bills: The Bills allowed the second-most punt return yardage in the league and Shawn Powell’s 38.1-yard net average could easily be improved upon.
Carolina Panthers: Graham Gano made 9-of-11 kicks after replacing Justin Medlock, but the Panthers should look for a better solution. Carolina’s 36.5-yard net average on punts was worst in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns: Phil Dawson can still kick but the Browns may decide to part ways with him for some reason. Reggie Hodges can’t really punt, so the Browns may decide to replace him for that reason.
Detroit Lions: The Lions tied with the Eagles for second-worst punt net average in the league. They could also need a kicker if Jason Hanson decides to retire.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers might want to create some competition for kicker Mason Cosby, who was a wreck down the stretch, missing more than a third of his kicks.
New York Jets: Nick Folk made 21-of-27 field goals last season and generated a league-worst 12 touchbacks.
Oakland Raiders: Shane Lechler is a free agent and could see his 13-year tenure with Oakland end after posting his worst net average since 2005.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: The Eagles allowed the most punt return yardage in the league and tied for second-worst in net average with Mat McBriar as their punter for the majority of the season.
San Francisco 49ers: David Akers was lucky to survive the remainder of the season with the 49ers after falling apart late in the season. It would be surprising to see him back after making only 29-of-42 field goals in 2012.
Washington Redskins: Sav Rocca is a free agent and the Redskins need to upgrade at punter.