Ranking the 2016 Rookie Kicker Class UDFA Signings

The 2016 NFL Draft saw only one kicker drafted – Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round. While this selection was controversial, 13 other kickers have signed undrafted free agent deals or are participating in rookie minicamps in upcoming weeks. While the NFL Draft is the avenue by which many positions are replenished, undrafted kickers made up 21 out of 32 spots on NFL rosters at the end of 2015. Who could have an impact in this year’s class? Chuck Zodda breaks down every one of the undrafted signings.

While many teams are excited about their recent first round picks, the 2015 NFL Playoffs showed that kickers have just as big of an impact on the outcome of games as other positions. The 2016 kicker class features a number of talented specialists, though only Roberto Aguayo was selected during the course of the draft. Plenty of ink has been spilled discussing his situation, and you can find my breakdown of his selection as well. For 13 other kickers, their path to the NFL had to wait until after the draft, though they now have a chance to prove their worth. Here is how the signings ranked.

  1. Ross Martin, New York Jets – Martin was one of the most accurate kickers in college over the last two years from over 40 yards, and features a clean and efficient motion that is easily repeatable. He also bounced back from a subpar sophomore campaign to post 90.5% and 86.7% accuracy in his final two years at Duke. The one question mark for Martin is his power on kickoffs, where he struggled to generate touchbacks during his college career, but with the NFL continuing to legislate kickoffs towards extinction, this is a minor issue. ETA: 2016
  1. Brad Craddock, Cleveland Browns – Craddock has an incredibly unorthodox motion which looks neither natural nor easy. Despite the visual appearance of his approach and some inconsistencies, he is remarkably accurate from short-distance, going 44 for 47 from under 50 yards over the past three seasons. Craddock’s leg strength is below-average for an NFL kicker, but his accuracy up to 50 yards makes him a capable option, though it will likely prevent him from ever being an upper-echelon kicker. ETA: 2016
  1. Anthony Pistelli, New Orleans Saints – Pistelli has the cleanest and easiest approach of any kicker in this draft. A former soccer player, Pistelli went through a tough time as a junior at Valdosta State, going 4 for 8 in limited action. His senior year saw him post 85.1% accuracy before he transferred to Samford University to pursue a master’s degree, where he hit on 86.9% of his kicks over the past year. Pistelli’s biggest question marks are due to his relative inexperience and lack of data from 50+ yards, but he has all the tools necessary to be a kicker at the next level. ETA: 2018
  1. Jaden Oberkrom, Jacksonville Jaguars – Oberkrom has a big leg that he flashed as a freshman connecting on a 53-yarder with 2:42 remaining in the 4th quarter of the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to put TCU up by two points. His issue is focus, as he missed two kicks from 20-29 yards during his senior season despite going 3 for 3 from 50+ yards. While every kicker will occasionally miss chip shots, this indicates that he is not yet mentally ready to compete at the NFL level. Oberkrom may still win an NFL job this fall due to the struggles of Jason Myers last year for the Jaguars on extra points, but he is likely a year away from possessing the poise needed to perform at the NFL level on a consistent basis. ETA: 2017
  1. Marshall Koehn, Miami Dolphins – Koehn hit a 57-yarder as time expired to beat Pittsburgh during the 2015 season, but his two years as the Iowa stater were relatively average. He has just two attempts from 50+, but he made both of them, showing he does have a knack for the big kick. But he also missed six extra points over the course of the 2015 season, which is a major question mark for the NFL. Koehn generates a lot of rotational force with his motion, which can cause some of these accuracy issues, but he is worth keeping on a practice squad as he does possess an NFL-caliber leg. ETA: 2017
  1. John Lunsford, San Francisco 49ers – Big, big leg. Lunsford has the best leg strength out of any prospect in the 2016 class, but he comes with a number of question marks. He went just 13 for 24 in his senior season at Liberty University, with five blocks helping to drive down his accuracy. Several of the blocks were due to issues with protection and the battery, but Lunsford has a low trajectory similar to that of Steven Hauschka, which could be an issue at the next level. He is frequently off-balance at the end of his motion as well. Even stripping out the blocks, Lunsford had enough issues this year that he is likely not ready today, but his leg strength is enticing enough that he should be able to bounce around training camps for the next several years while he works on his game. ETA: 2018
  1. Will Lutz, Baltimore Ravens – Lutz has a strong leg, capable of hitting from 50+ with ease, but his accuracy is questionable at best. Kicking for Georgia State, he went 8 for 12 as a sophomore, 7 for 8 as a junior, and 12 for 19 as a senior, clocking in at 69.2% for his career. Like Lunsford, his leg strength may keep him in the game, but Lutz also handled punting duties for the past two years, and posted a 44.3 yard average as a senior. Lutz may see a quicker path to an NFL job through punting, and his ability to potentially handle both roles may keep him on practice squads for the next several years. ETA: 2019
  1. Ka’imi Fairbairn, Houston Texans – Fairbairn saw a great deal of press after his 60-yard make as a senior, but leg strength is a question mark for him. He is only 2 for 6 on kicks over 50 yards in his college career, and also just 13 for 24 from 40-49 yards as well. During Senior Bowl practices in January, he struggled in the cold weather, while Martin shined throughout the week. Fairbairn’s balance is inconsistent, and he also routinely takes low trajectories from distance to make up for his lack of leg strength. While he has some traits that NFL teams will find attractive, he does not present the full package needed at this point. ETA: 2019+
  1. Nick Rose, Atlanta Falcons – Rose stated for Texas for the past two years, and after going just 14 for 21 during his first year as a starter, improved to 13 for 17 during his senior year. Rose has a tendency to spin off the ball, causing his accuracy issues. However, he does possess a strong leg, though he needs to clean up his approach significantly to get it to the point where it is repeatable on a consistent basis. He is likely a long-term project in the NFL. ETA: 2019+
  1. Daniel Sobelewski, New York Jets – I will admit, I had to look up where Albright College is (Pennsylvania) before I did any work on Sobelewski. He features a slow approach that has several hitches in it, likely contributing to his 67.1% career accuracy. However, this number is distorted by the 10 blocked kicks due to poor line play at Division III level. Sobelewski does show a strong leg, but has some significant mechanical cleanup before he is ready for the NFL. ETA: 2019+
  1. Andrew Baggett, Cleveland Browns – The Browns made it a two-for-one deal this offseason, picking up Baggett in addition to Craddock. Baggett is likely to be gone by training camp, as his 2015 season was the only one in which he posted above 72.0% accuracy. Baggett also saw nine missed extra points during his college career, despite the college game not using the longer extra point the NFL now uses. Baggett had a nice run as a college kicker, but is unfortunately unlikely to make an impact at the NFL level. ETA: N/A
  1. Marshall Morgan, Buffalo Bills – Morgan features an abrupt motion that reveals inconsistent timing, leading to accuracy issues. While he made a number of big kicks for Georgia over his career, his inconsistency, even from short-distance, makes him a poor fit for the NFL at this time. Though he possesses average leg strength for an NFL kicker, his accuracy issues will likely take time to overcome, as he has not posted above 80.0% accuracy for a season aside from his sophomore campaign. ETA: N/A
  2. Taylor Bertolet, Los Angeles Rams – Bertolet simply is not accurate enough to be an NFL kicker at this point, having never posted higher than 71.0% accuracy in college and also missing 10 extra points during his first two years. He requires a significant amount of work to improve his consistency, and is likely to find that NFL teams do not have the patience for the development required. ETA: N/A

Follow @ITP_ChuckZ on Twitter. Check out his other work here on an unlikely Super Bowl MVP and on whether trading up for Roberto Aguayo was a good idea.

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