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25 Oct 2012
Umm ... err ... going to go with "no" on this one.
Posted by: Rivers McCown on 25 Oct 2012
89 comments, Last at
01 Nov 2012, 8:54pm by
Cherry picking at its finest. However, I've often said that if Hanson had been drafted by a team other than Detroit, he's in the Hall-of-Fame. Not even a consistently good team during his career, mind you, but even a team like the Dolphins or Falcons.
No insult to Jason Hanson, who's been nothing but a class act and reliable player, but I can tell you as a Lions fan, I would gladly trade 21 seasons of Jason Hanson's good kicking for a player on offense or defense that would have contributed for 8-10 seasons (Robert Brooks being taken a few picks later is the only one I can think of right now), and signing a servicable free agent kicker.
But I remember the later rounds of that '92 draft being relatively slim pickings, so it's hard to argue too much.
-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.
I hate the new ads between the article and the comments :-(
no kidding. like i need a banner of bullshit soccer nonsense and weight loss idiocy on my football website.
I'm getting a mix of BS soccer nonsense and young female celebrities without underpants. Sheesh.
I would point out they're getting more sophisticated about targeting ads to our taste and browser history, but that's what I got, plus what looks like WWF women.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say most readers of this site do not watch WWF.
So...not gonna do it.
I'd never once felt the need to get AdBlock until those monstrosities showed up here. One day of those adverts here and on the NFL Extra Points page, and AdBlock's now installed.
I miss the days of Catholic Match Girl.
Now I have to disable adblock to see what everyone's talking about...
Edit: No go, I think I'd have to disable NoScript as well. Switching to IE.
Edit 2: Aaand I can't even get the site to render with IE. End of experiment.
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!
I've resisted it until now, too, but this *might* push me over the edge, even though I'm being entertained here for free and I support Mr. Schatz's right to feed his wife/kids/Fabergé egg habit/whatever he has.
Maybe get some demographic data out of those end-of-season surveys you do, find some more, uh, targeted advertisements.
As I type in my comment, there's a tastefully understated Chevrolet banner ad on top of the page, but as soon as I click "post" I know it'll be back to the kind of crap I'd see on Barstool Sports.
Could this ad garbage get any worse? As I type this there's some scammy ad in red type at the top of the page telling me I might have just won a MacBook. And ads in the body of the page? Who thought that was a good idea?
Ad Block Plus is the answer. Flash blocker is another good one.
If you're on someone else's computer - then may Mike have mercy on your soul.
It's also possible that the spammers have given up on the comment threads and actually infiltrated the site...
...to read the content on this site.
Oh, wait. Yeah.
To the gentlemen at Football Outsiders: Keep on placing those annoying ads that allow you to earn a living while providing me with interesting reporting and analysis
Hate to say it but things are looking grim. Ad space taking over where content should be, crappy advertisers that border on being scams, a site that hasn't seen a redesign probably ever, lots of staff turnover.
I can't tell for sure, but I don't think you hated to say that.
Why aren't there any ads for football books and memorabilia on this site? It would be as easy as selling crystal meth at a Greatful Dead gig.
Its like saying "spending a high first round pick on a running back is a great idea, because look at X, Y and Z at the moment, and also, A, B and C were first round picks and they are all time greats." Sure, it makes sense, as long as you ignore all the times that it doesn't work out.
That being said, I don't think its necessarily a bad argument to say that kickers and punters are undervalued from a draft perspective. Going off DVOA, special teams is worth 1/3 of defence and offense. Defence and offence rely on the performance of all 11 players (more if you include sub packages), while special teams really relies largely on the performance of about 5 or 6 specialists (K, P, LS, returner and one or two key special teamers).
A 6th or 7th round pick is likely to be the (assuming 50 team rosters) 20th to 25th best player on offense or defence, while a 6th round punter or kicker will be the starter. So if you can get a good one, the draft pick should be worth it from a value perspective.
Once you get up to the 3rd or 4th round or so though, you're expecting that player to really be about 15th-20th on the roster, and likely to get some decent playing time in the first few of years either as a backup or sub-package player (e.g. dime back, 4th WR, 2nd TE), even if they don't pan out to be a starter. I think at that point the value of them against a punter or a kicker doesn't really stack up.
It'd be interesting to see some proper analytic research on the average value of drafted kickers/punters v undrafted ones though, and their relative career value compared to late round draft picks.
What about longevity though? How many positions can play at a high level for as long as kickers and punters can?
Regarding taking a kicker versus a position player in the 6th or 7th round, there is one other important consideration: if a team is interested in a punter or kicker in one of the last rounds, but doesn't draft them, the chance that that player goes undrafted is pretty high. Every team is always looking for depth players at DB/WR/TE/etc., so if a team passes on a DB with its 6th round pick, it does so knowing that there are probably going to be at least 5-10 more DBs drafted, and if it wants him it has to cross its fingers that another team doesn't grab him. But in a given offseason, only 5 or so teams are seriously looking at rookie kickers, so unless a team has an extremely strong preference toward one over the others, it makes sense to avoid wasting a draft pick.
Zeuerlein is a perfect example: he played at Missouri Western, and it sounds like the Rams stumbled across him by luck. The chance that another team would not only know of his talent, but would spend a draft pick on him, is pretty low. So why wouldn't the Rams draft the DB they want in the 6th round, sign Zeuerlein after the draft, and get both?
Interesting point, which I've probably over thought: say there are 8 positions where most teams want late round depth (OL, DE, DT, LB, CB, WR, RB, TE). There's 32 teams in the league, lets just assume every single one is interested in players in those positions (which I think is fairly reasonable, most teams will probably take a guy in any of those positions in late rounds even if they think they are fairly well set there).
I guess the odds of a player at one of those positions in (say) the 6th round slipping through to UDFA would be lower because more teams are looking at them, but I would think with kickers there's fewer viable options available, so the equivalent demand would be about the same. Possibly.
I am aware that this doesn't really make sense.
Indeed. It'd be good to see more breakdowns on the value of the various kickers in the league (how much better IS it to have Jason Hanson than Billy Cundiff?) and also how better to value said kickers (is it better to have someone who's deadly accurate from inside 45 but can't kick it far enough to make beyond 52 than someone who can kick from 60 but has shakier accuracy? And how do we figure in the ability to kick off well--or, for that matter, if a team needs a second kicker as a kickoff specialist, how much does that devalue a kicker's worth?) and on whether drafted kickers perform any better than undrafted ones...(I'd suppose we'd also need some kind of metric about how many undrafted kickers get invites to camp and then get cut instead of getting a job...). I'm actually inclined to think that there may be value in drafting a kicker, particularly if one gets to the mid or low rounds where it's deep in the "crapshoot" territory anyway. On the other hand, there's Russell Erxleben.
I think FO's research has generally shown that field goal accuracy for a kicker isn't that predictable year on year, whereas kickoff distance is. I mean, the easiest way to show that is to ask "who is the best kicker in the NFL?". Last year people would have said Akers, the year before Cundiff, this year I have no clue (possibly Zuerlein due to his hype?).
Maybe drafting a punter is more valuable than drafting a kicker? Top punters (like Lechler and Lee for example) seem to be far more consistent in performance than kickers. Although that might be an issue with the stats - kickers get either a 1 or 0 on each attempt, and only 2 or 3 extra hits or misses each yearyear can be a 5-10% change in the accuracy, whereas a bad punt from a punter still likely nets him sort of 80% of the value of a normal punt in stats terms.
I dunno, I see the value in drafting a kicker, I just think that if you're drafting one in the 3rd or 4th round either you've not done a very good job of identifying good players who will be available around that time in the draft, or he'd better be a damn good one.
My interpretation is that the research shows that FG% is a poor measure of accuracy, not that accuracy is more variable.
You lost me. What could be a better measure of accuracy than the percentage of kicks that were accurate? Certainly, you'd want to look at the distances to assure you weren't docking a guy for missing some 60 yard prayers and maybe weed out blocks that clearly weren't the kicker's fault, but that's the only downside I can see.
You do what the Bears coaches do in practice, and measure how close to the center of the goal each kick is.
That's a good training method along the lines of those inserts that you use in practice to make basketball rims smaller. But over a reasonable span of time wouldn't the guy who's most consistently nearest the center also make the most kicks outright?
The problem is with "over a reasonable amount of time". 30 odd kicks a year is not enough.
That's why they have this thing called practice.
With the countless other things to worry about with kickers: consistency, does the ball get up high quickly enough, does he handle the pressure well, can he keep his timing even if there's a bad snap, etc. worrying whether he was dead center on kicks made under game pressure would be pretty far down the list.
My original point was that FG% was poor measure of accuracy.
Got that part. It didn't make any sense. Guy who makes the most will also have the most down the middle. And if for some crazy reason he wasn't you wouldn't want him as your kicker. Then you decided they only watch what the kickers do on Sundays.
Guy who makes the most will also have the most down the middle
Have any proof?
Then you decided they only watch what the kickers do on Sundays.
What? I never even implied such a statement. Coaches know what they're doing. FO using FG% to measure accuracy is what I'm talking about.
Well, for the reverse to be true, you'd have to posit we draw from two populations of kickers. For one population the distribution of their kicks is bi-modal with peaks inside each upright and a local minimum in the middle of the goal posts. For the other population, the distribution is tri-modal, with peaks outside each upright, local minima inside each, and a local maximum in the middle of the goal posts. Then the former population would make the most kicks while the latter would have more down the middle.
I guess you can decide on your own how plausible that is.
What do you mean by plausible? I'm not asking FO to actually do any of this. I'm just pointing out that FG% is a flawed stat and we should be aware.
I think we need to discuss what "accuracy" means here. I think in terms of kicking a football, it means to place the oblong ball between the two yellow uprights.
Given that, FG% is the best available statistic to measure accuracy. Or I suppose FG+XP%. If you suggest "accuracy" means something else, I don't know how useful your methodology would be. It really doesn't matter if a kicker can put the ball in a trash can from 40 yards, or hit the end zone pylon on the fly, or hit the fly on the end zone pylon. And since it doesn't matter to the game of football, I'd be shocked if any football team has its kicker practice such things.
I believe most, if not all, teams practice with a narrower set of goal posts than is regulated on Sundays. But a team wouldn't keep a kicker who had a 90% success rate through these but a 65% success rate in game conditions over a guy who had an 85% success rate in practice and an 85% success rate on Sundays. In football, the guy who kicks two of three perfectly down the middle and shanks the third is less accurate that the guy who kicks 9 out of ten barely inside the left upright and the tenth barely outside.
It's the *only* stat available to measure accuracy. So it is the best and worst stat by definition. That doesn't make it a good measure.
I think we need to discuss what "accuracy" means here. I think in terms of kicking a football, it means to place the oblong ball between the two yellow uprights.
Agreed. However, when you only get to measure 30 odd kicks are year, that's a tiny sample size for one. For two, if a kicker is "bulls-eyeing" every kick that means he's likely to make more in the future because if he misses slightly he'll still be within the uprights. Whereas with a kicker who is regularly having close calls, a small miss for him will mean a real miss.
This is why the Bears, the team with the best special teams in the league going on 6 years now, measure how close to the center their kickers are in practice. Unless you think Dave Toub is just an idiot who doesn't understand how accuracy works.
Btw, you entire example of 4 kicks vs 10 kicks demonstrates perfectly how small sample size is a problem when measuring kickers, not what a good way to measure accuracy is.
All I'm saying is that the only thing that matters in this game is keeping the kick between the yellow posts. They all count the same. It's entirely possible that a kicker, when everything goes perfectly, splits them perfectly, but if there's a hiccup somewhere -- a bad hold, bad footing, late snap, wind, more pressure than ususal, going through a divorce, crowd noise, sore ankle, wet ball, sand in his eye -- misses a lot more often that the guy who tucks the ball just inside the upright. These things happen often in games, if not practice.
I mean, it's true that there are only published states for 30-odd kicks a year, and that's all that you and I can go on, but if a kicker kicks the ball 50 times a day in practice, isn't that a sufficient sample size to see whether he can reliably put the ball through the uprights? The most accurate kicker in the only terms relevant to the NFL is the one who puts the ball between the posts the highest percentage of the time (assuming reasonably consistent kicking points).
All I'm saying is that the only thing that matters in this game is keeping the kick between the yellow posts. They all count the same.
I'm not disagreeing with that, but if you want to predict who will make the next kick, it's still bad idea to use FG%. If you need a real life example, look at one Mike Vanderjagt.
It's entirely possible that a kicker, when everything goes perfectly, splits them perfectly, but if there's a hiccup somewhere -- a bad hold, bad footing, late snap, wind, more pressure than ususal, going through a divorce, crowd noise, sore ankle, wet ball, sand in his eye -- misses a lot more often that the guy who tucks the ball just inside the upright. These things happen often in games, if not practice.
True, but again, I think the fact the Bears coaches do this is good evidence that it's a good idea. Also, a good coach should be simulating as much of those things as possible to see how the player reacts.
You've answered your own question. Even a replacement level NFL kicker should be able to hit just about everything under 40 yards, FG% doesn't take that into account. To an extent you would expect FG% to be inconsistent as the largest variable on whether kickers hit their FGs is almost certainly distance. Field position and HC desisions will vary that more than the kickers will themselves vary - or at least as much.
I agree, but as a Redskins fan who has watched the parade of Shaun Suisam(I still know he'll blow a big one for the Steelers when it matters, just like he has in a few playoff games), Graham Gano, Billy Cundiff and Kai Forbath the last few years, it would be novel to not have to hide my eyes on every single field goal attempt.
Billy Cundiff is a great argument in favor of the need to draft kickers.
At a site that takes special teams so seriously, it's surprising to see the argument in favor of drafting punters and kickers dismissed so quickly.
At least make an argument that it's not necessary! Compare the value of a kicker or punter with the other people drafted in the later rounds!
Do the names Durant Brooks, Ed Bunn, Jeff Hall, Cris Shale, or Wayne Ross mean anything to you? Redskins draft picks at the punter and kicker positions since Lohmiller. And was Lohmiller really worth a 2nd? Teams have very little ability to identify kickers and punters who will be successful, even once their in camp.
Any sixth or seventh round draft pick is a lottery ticket. The argument for taking position players is that every year teams are hit by injury and playing sixth string players so the argument for using those on position players is strong (Redskins at safety, this year, for example). But the record for drafting kickers if very poor. Very very few end up playing better than replacement level for the team that drafted them. Some may stick for a while but don't perform particularly well. Of those who are better than average for a sustained period, most don't get good immediately. To use the Redskins again, David Akers was once a Redskin and they didn't keep him.
What's more, veteran kickers are on the waiver wire regularly during the season. It's truly the easiest position to staff in the NFL.
I don't think it's ridiculous to draft a specialist. I wouldn't do it until the 5th round, but if there's an exceptional talent that you believe in still on the board, make the pick and don't look back. Specialists have the advantage of career longevity as well, so if you get a good one, you can be set for a while.
To wit, here is the 5th round of the 2000 draft.
Shane Lechler was arguably the best player taken in that round (but still taken 57 spots ahead of Tom Brady, ha ha ha). Only KGB would be in the discussion, in my opinion.
But that's cherry picking to the extreme. Look at some of the other highly drafted kickers/punters - in the last 10 years, David Buehler, Randy Bullock, Justin Medlock, Mike Nugent, Nate Kaeding, Jeff Chandler, Bill Gramatica, B.J. Sander, Travis Dorsch, and John Markham have been drafted in the 5th round or higher. None of those guys were worth their draft status. If you're picking in the 5th round, how do you know you're getting a Lechler instead of one of those guys?
The decision isn't between a sure stud at K/P or a lottery ticket at another position. It's a lottery ticket either way.
That doesn't mean that they're not worth a pick. The last three rounds are basically a crapshoot anyway. The real argument against drafting a specialist is that they probably won't be drafted by other people.
With regard to Lechler, if I recall correctly, he was a very talented punter in college. According to his wikipedia page, he still holds the collegiate record for career punt average (44.7). So it was well-known that he was very talented.
I agree that taking a specialist in the early rounds of the draft is pretty stupid, because it is so hard to differentiate which ones will be exceptional (just like any other position). I'd be curious to know what Raider fans think about taking Seabass in the first round, for example. But the later you get in the draft, I think the value proposition changes a bit, because if you pick a good specialist the career longevity can really work in your favor, long-term.
On the other hand, I actually don't think I'd ever draft a kicker, just a punter. The other sport I follow closely is soccer, and I play a bit too, and the act of kicking is so mental that I'd want a veteran kicker who has seen and lived it all. Some guys handle pressure better than others. I'm not that impressed by big legs and the guy who could conceivably hit a 65-yarder. I'd rather have the guy who I trust to hit from 45 with the game on the line.
I dunno, I think the the soccer analogy for field goals is that its the equivalent of a penalty. Rather than actual physical talent, its the ability for people to shut out external influences and just do their job. I'd bet the actual kicking ability for the average college kicker or punter isn't much different from the actual kicking ability of the average NFL kicker or punter, if they were all just kicking for fun on a sunny field somewhere. What matters in the NFL (and on a penalty in soccer) is being able to do what you want to do with the ball while ignoring everything else going on around you.
As you say, some people just handle pressure better than others, but I'm not sure that's really a veteran thing. Some people can just do it, some people just can't, and no making them a veteran will change that.
*I hate referring to it as soccer. Its football dammit, you play it with your feet!
Being born in the United States I grew up with football and soccer. Though I fully understand the frustrations, which is why this old picture still makes me smile, and while I'm a big fan of American Football I will call it HandEgg from time to time.
You may be a dirty packers fan but that picture made me lmao.
It's association football, and soccer is a really old English abbreviation for association.
Indeed. In some (read primarily upper class) sections of English society, "soccer" is still widely used, to differentiate the sport not from American football but from rugby football. I wouldn't be surprised if the same was to some extent true in Scotland, Wales, and perhaps English regions where rugby union is comparably popular to (association) football - the South-West, maybe.
2001 Derrick Gibson
2002 Phillip Buchanon / Napoleon Harris
2003 Namdi Asamoghua / Tyler Brayton
2004 Robert Gallery
2005 Fabian Washington
2006 Michael Huff
2007 Jamarcus Russell
2008 Darren McFadden
2009 Darius Heyward-Bey
2010 Rolando McLain
In the context of the Raiders using a 1st round pick on Seabass begins to look a very good choice!
> I'd be curious to know what Raider fans think about taking Seabass in the first round, for example
The previous few Raider seasons had a huge number of heartbreaking losses of 3 points or less, many of which revolved around missed field goals. So, from a fan perspective, this was a wildly successful move -- problem solved.
Which is not to say it was smart football management; but given the way Al was drafting, it could have been worse.
Of course, Janikowski is practically the only offense the Raiders have had over the past few years.
People are throwing around the phrase "cherry picking" pretty recklessly here.
Look, when you make a draft pick, you are always going to have a certain risk that the player is going to miss. The argument presented isn't that "this kicker is better than the people drafted at the same, therefore drafting in the 5th round is always justified." The argument is "people are vastly overrating the value of late-round picks when they are used on position players - look at a typical round and how many of the players taken this late are little better than free agent talent."
The comparison here is: what the extra value gained from drafting a kicker in the 5th or 6th round as opposed to the extra value gained from drafting a linebacker or running back or lineman that late in the draft?
If the best kickers and punters are only available in the draft, and a GM doesn't think his team needs yet another practice squad player, and that's the only kind of player available, going for a kicker or punter in the draft might well be worth it.
I'm pretty much of the same mind except I'd get rid of the exceptional talent caveat. I also wouldn't draft a kicker or punter period if you have a limited number of picks or are going through a major rebuilding. While there may be what looks like an exceptional kicker or punter available, if he doesn't work out you've blown a draft pick on someone who has probably cost your team at least a few games. Russell Erxleben was mentioned above. Mike Nugent also comes to mind. As a Packers fan I can also throw in third round punting bust BJ Sander, whom the Packers actually moved up to draft. (One big reason why Mike Sherman lost his GM duties. I was especially irritated because both Matt Schaub and Chris Canty were still available.)
I do agree Lechler was probably the best overall pick in his round. I'd also toss Dante Hall into the 2000 draft discussion simply because he was the most feared returner in football for a couple years.
Hoo-rah-ray, hoo-rah-ray, ray, ray--U-Va!
Yeah, the human joystick was a pretty good 5th-round pick.
Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs
The article's mention of using a franchise tag on a kicker is a red herring. A franchise tag on a kicker is relatively risk-free for both sides. A kicker is probably the least likely person to be injured on a team, so they'll often sign the tag. (It happens, but it's comparatively rare.) It's among the lowest cost tags so it doesn't tie up much cap space. If the kicker still wants to hold out, you can find a replacement for a few games fairly easily.
What if, say, there were, uh, a hypothetical punter who could always put the ball out of bounds at the 1-yard line?
It would need a catchy name that's hard to forget, that's for sure.
This is why it pays to read through all the comments before leaving one.
I'd take him #1 overall. There is nobody who will help your team more than giving your defense 99 yards to defend after every punting situation.
Just went back and re-read it. Wow, that was long ago:
* Said punter's value was discussed in terms of DPAR.
* People kept trying to hijack the thread with discussions of the relative merits of Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and Mario Williams.
Is there a direct link to that? Because although I know I've read the original, I would have no idea how to find it now.
It's actually linked through appropriate entry in the FO Glossary.
Never mind found it. And jsut before RP is introduced, I read the most hilarious poast I've read in a while: Some dude arguing DE's should never go #1 over-all because "because you can get just as much pressure from good scheming as you could from a line made up of Warren Sapp (at his prime), Kris Jenkins (when not fat and injured), Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney."
So, the only positions worth spending a #1 overall pick on, according to this dude, are QB, CB, LB, OT, WR. That's right, Linebacker. Over Defensive End. And I'm pretty sure he's not referring to 3-4 OLBs either...
A Cyborg punter like that, or Puntertron if you will, could be worth a lot of draft value!
"Puntertron" is OK, but I still think we can come up with something better... Maybe a cultural reference... something from a movie or TV...
Marvin the Punt-inoid Android?
Punter Punting Rodriguez?
They're all still missing something.... *sigh*.... a certain, simplicity...
Super Duper Punter?
Shouldn't that be "Reggie Rob-ot"?
You're probably still better off just taking an undrafted player, but I do wonder if the new kickoff rules change the calculus at all. A kicker with a good leg can record touchbacks on a huge majority of kickoffs now, and the field-position returns from consistently nullifying your opponent's return game (and, if you are for instance the Eagles, your own suspect return coverage) have to be worth more than the occasional long field goal, right?
I'm not so sure. A very substantial amount of kick returns seem to be ending up around the 15 yard line these days.
Pro Football Reference has the history of drafted players going back to 1936. If you look just at games played, which should be a good proxy for kicker success (they don't track AV for kickers for whatever reason), there is almost no correlation between where a kicker was drafted, and the number of career games played. The trendline equation is total games = -0.05(draft spot) + 81.544. Not sure on punters, but this is SOME evidence against drafting kickers, particularly in the early rounds.
Link to data: http://pfref.com/tiny/4l7kH
I am one who doesn't have much problem with people drafting specialists given certain constraints.
I think the problem with this analysis might actually be that you are overvaluing 6th round non-specialists rather than undervaluing specialists.
From a VBD perspective you certainly want to maximize your total roster value, but you also can only have so many guys on the field, and you HAVE to use a kicker and punter. So while the on paper improvement from using your 6th rounder on a better 7th DB might be better than the on paper improvement from a kicker, you KNOW you will use the kicker whereas the 7th DB might just be cut next year.
Very good point. Late in the draft is a total crap shoot regarding if the guy is ever going to play a down for you, let alone contribute meaningfully. If you have a good feeling that a specialist is going to be, well, special, it'd be dumb not to draft him. (Problem is, of course, that it appears it's no easier to pick the special kickers from the rest than it is with any other position.)
"while the on paper improvement from using your 6th rounder on a better 7th DB might be better than the on paper improvement from a kicker, you KNOW you will use the kicker whereas the 7th DB might just be cut next year."
No, you know you will use A kicker. The kicker you draft in the sixth round might also be cut, because very few teams will go into camp with no options other than their just-drafted rookie. And even if they did, if he stinks up the joint in pre-season, he'll be out of a job and replaced by a street FA kicker.
That's the key point - there's not a large gap between a very good kicker and a replacement-level kicker. Drafting a kicker in the sixth round gives you little upside over what you could get off the street, while drafting a quarterback in the sixth round gives you the upside of Tom Brady.
You are not going to be very successful in life if you spend it chasing upside.
I don't think you are actually doing all the math here.
Right. You have to look at probability too.
Your chance of getting a QB with the upside of Brady (in the 6th) is probably less than 1% of your chance of getting a good upside kicker in that round.
It makes some sense for a team to use a late-round compensatory pick to draft a kicker because:
1) the compensatory pick can't be traded;
2) it ensures that the team has the rights to the kicker rather than having to convince the kicker to sign there and compete for a job in training camp;
3) if the rookie kicker is not quite ready for the job, he can suffer a mysterious injury during the last week of preseason (see Marquette King) and spend the year on injured reserve without being subject to waivers.
Let's say you're sitting in the late rounds with two holes to fill, one at K and one at some other position. If you draft a K, the best-case upside is you get the next Jason Hanson. The worst-case is that he sucks, you dump him and get a UDFA (like a Dan Bailey, Garrett Hartley, Conor Barth, etc.) or street-FA veteran (think a Shayne Graham or Billy Cundiff type). You do the same if you pass on the K in the draft. The difference in value between these outcomes is marginal at best.
If you take some other position, the upside is you might get a Richard Sherman or Marques Colston or Tom Brady (to pick a few prominent examples--there are ones at every position). The downside is that you dump the guy and grab a FA replacement (same as if you draft the K and leave this hole unfilled in the draft). There's obviously a huge potential difference in value here.
The expected value of "draft position X, sign K in FA" has to dominate that of "draft K, sign position X in FA" for essentially any position.
I think you should only draft a kicker or punter is if it's a late round pick and you have enough draft picks to spare. The Rams had ten picks, in part because of the RGIII trade. While the Rams could still use more talent, I don't think using their 8th draft pick for flier on a kicker is a bad use of a sixth round pick when you need a kicker anyway. In 2007, the Packers drafted Mason Crosby with their third pick in the sixth round and 9th of 11 total picks. That also turned out pretty good. (The Packers had three consecutive picks in that round. The previous pick was Desmond Bishop which also turned out decent even if he's not a Brady or Colston.) In both cases, if it didn't work out it's not much different than any other late round pick that doesn't work out.
On the other hand, as much as I liked Ron Wolf as the Packers GM I never liked the Packers drafting K Brett Conway in the third round, even though Chris Jacke had just left as a FA. Conway eventually did play in the NFL but he was beaten out by Ryan Longwell, a UDFA. Even worse was (as I pointed out elsewhere), Mike Sherman trading into the third round to draft punting disaster BJ Sander. The 2004 draft was one of the worst in Packers history with the first four picks - Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas, Donnell Washington, and Sander - all being busts. Not surprisingly, it was Sherman's last turn at GM and Ted Thompson took over the 2005 draft (and shocked everyone by drafting Rodgers in the first round).
If anyone is still reading this thread, I posit this: what's more valuable to a team, an elite kicker or an elite punter?
“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”
Assuming the kicker is a great kick-off man, can make field goals from 60-odd yards, and never misses inside 40, the kicker. But very few kickers are that guy year in and year out, if any, whereas great punters are often very consistent over a long time.
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