The Cleveland Browns have yet to learn their lesson
Back in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns burned a seventh-round draft pick on kicker Zane Gonzalez. Just a year and two games after he was drafted, he was released by the Browns following a missed game-tying kick against the New Orleans Saints.
In the 2019 NFL Draft, former general manager John Dorsey used one of his two fifth-round picks on former Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert. After a shaky start to his 2020 season after an inconsistent camp, his future with the team now hangs in the balance.
While Gonzalez was less of a detriment to the team, given he was just a seventh-rounder, these two cases bring a reminder, especially to the Browns: stop using draft assets on special teamers.
Taking a look at current starting kickers in the NFL
Looking at the kickers currently starting for NFL teams across the league, over half of them never heard their name called in the NFL Draft. Out of those 14 who are currently on NFL rosters after being drafted, a handful were cut from the team that drafted them before taking a single in-game kick; among them is Kansas City Chiefs’ and Philadelphia Eagles’ kickers Harrison Butker and Jake Elliott.
Over the past two years, outside of Seibert, players like Matt Gay formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Justin Rohrwasser, now on the New England Patriots’ practice squad, were unable to hold their jobs, losing them to veteran kickers. If there is less than a 50/50 chance that the kicker drafted will make the opening day roster, especially make it through two years, and you have a higher likelihood of finding an adequate kicker as an undrafted free agent or off of the streets, then why burn draft capital on one?
Why the Browns must stop drafting kickers
The argument when this topic of drafting kickers comes up is usually, “well if they are good then what is the big deal?” The big deal is this: as the NFL has made kicking a harder task in the game, moving back points after touchdowns and eliminating the dangers of kickoffs, teams need these players to be reliable. If they are not, even for a two-game stretch, teams are willing to cut bait and grab a new guy off the street without hesitation.
So why use a draft pick and give guaranteed money (even if it is minimal) to a player who could be off of the roster in less than a quarter of the season? Looking at the bigger picture as well, day-three of the NFL Draft always offers highly athletic players who may be raw in their understanding of the Xs and Os, but given their athletic profile offer a high upside for a low-risk pick.
Just this past year, the Browns were able to land former Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth round. While Peoples-Jones was inactive this past week (as good teams should not have to thrust sixth rounders into action right away), the Browns took a chance on a guy with a tantalizing athletic profile, even though his college production did not match.
Take a chance on the high-ceiling prospects on day three of the NFL Draft, not kickers. They have the potential to hit big, while kickers can be found off the streets with relative ease.
After two failed kickers, even one drafted by the Sashi Brown regime current general manager Andrew Berry was apart of, the Browns need to learn their lesson and pursue a different avenue to find a consistent leg.