You know it’s been a long build up to the draft when our series on the best and worst draft picks in Cardinals history finds its way to the kickers. I know right? Place kickers and punters are not exactly the sexiest of topics in the football universe. Their kickers for crying out loud!
Since writing 800 words or so trying to figure out who the best kicker in Cardinals draft history is, would probably put you to sleep and make me shatter my Chromebook into hundreds of little bitty pieces, I figured instead we’d look at the bigger picture when it comes to kickers and the draft. So I ask again, should the Cardinals ever draft a kicker?
Since the NFL shortened the draft to seven rounds in 1994, the Cardinals have used only one draft pick on a kicker. The team drafted Bill Gramatica in the fourth round with the 98th overall pick. Gramatica played in 33 games for the Cardinals and ended his career with a one game stint with the Miami Dolphins. His biggest claim to fame of course was that he was the brother of Pro Bowl kicker Martin Gramatica.
Bill’s second biggest claim to fame was the moment he tore his ACL celebrating a 43-yard field goal in the first quarter of a 2001 game at the New York Giants. Yes. Seriously.
So when we look at history, it’s apparent that the Cardinals don’t really see kickers and punters as worthy of using one of their precious draft picks on. Is that the right mentality though? Who do you think of when you think of the best kickers in the league? For punters you probably think of Shane Lechler, formerly of the Raiders or the Colquitt brothers, Dustin and Britton, who play for the the division rival Chiefs and Broncos. Field goal kickers you might also think of the Raiders and Broncos, who have Sebastian Janikowski and Matt Prater, who have both made kicks of 63 yards and further. So if these are some of the best kickers, do they make a big enough difference for their teams to be worthy of a draft pick?
Different teams have different philosophies and the results are hard to say which is the better way to go. The Broncos signed both of their kickers in free agency and didn’t burn a draft pick on either. The Raiders? Well the Raiders have always been known for being different. In 2000, the Raiders not only drafted one, but two kickers. The Raiders made what today would seem like an insane decision when they used the 17th overall pick in the first round to draft Janikowski. Janikowski has played 13 seasons in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl just once. That same year the Raiders used a fifth rounder on punter Lechler. Maybe those picks should have been reversed. Lechler is a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro.
Although there are exceptions to every rule and in some cases a kicker may come along that is so exceptionally talented that he’s worth using a draft pick on, for the most part I can’t see the Cardinals using a draft pick on a kicker anytime soon. As long as the draft is only seven rounds, the picks are just too valuable to use on a kicker. Unless the team is certain that the kicker could come right in and replace their current kicker and give them a noticeable advantage, they are better off taking their pick of the free agent kickers that are coming out of college every year.