WHY THE HELL DID THE REDSKINS DRAFT A KICKER?
Conventional NFL wisdom says that, unless we’re talking about a Sebastian Janikowski type of talent, you never draft a kicker. So why, in an otherwise smart and solid 2014 selection process, did Bruce Allen and the Redskins draft a kicker?
Let’s break this down one by one.
First, Zach Hocker was selected in the 7th round. At this point in time, in the year 2014, the draft could realistically chop that final round off the clock and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. With undrafted free agents getting as many looks as they do, there’s kind of no good reason for that last round. Guys like Tom Brady and Alfred Morris are sometimes found in the 6th, so that seems a logical cutoff point.
Today, the talent found in the 7th round is basically the same as the best 50 UDFAs.
Second, this was the pick that the Redskins received from the Titans for trading down in the 6th round. It was kind of a freebie, exactly the kind of pick where you take a flier and see what happens.
Third, Hocker has skills, particularly from long range (that’s a terrible last name for a kicker, BTW – as soon as he misses a big kick, everyone will make that hocking sound in their throat). He averaged 63.2 yards per kickoff for Arkansas, which is more than enough to pin opposing return men deep in their own end zone. For the season, Hocker made 13 of his 15 FG attempts, or 87 percent.
Fourth, Redskins kicker Kai Forbath–after setting a record with 17 consecutive field goals to start his career–dropped off a little bit in 2013. He finished 18-22, which is about 82 percent.
A couple of decades ago, that would have been a Pro Bowl season. In today’s NFL, that puts you at the 24th in the league. Before you say “Well Forbath kicks in an outdoor stadium in least half his games so he’s at a disadvantage”, please note that 12 out of the top 14 kickers last season played their home games outside.
Admittedly though, 18-22 is acceptable. That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as watching kickoffs fall weakly short of the goal line, which is ultimately the main reason Hocker was drafted.
Note: Sebastian Janikowski actually finished dead last in field goal percentage last season, at 70 percent.
In the end, this sends a message to Forbath. NFL coaches like competition at most every position, especially at kicker. Most of these jockey-like NFL outliers seem to perform at their best when they have someone breathing down their neck.
Hocker figures to give Forbath a run for his money in the leg power department, and if he can impress at training camp, we may see that Forbath’s job wasn’t as secure as everyone assumed it was.
So the next time one of your buddies asks the angry rhetorical question “Why the hell did the Redskins draft a kicker”, tell him. Then try to forget that you actually had a deep conversation about kickers.