It may be time to face reality for Cleveland Browns fans. Phil Dawson may not be a Brown anymore. If that’s the case, it’s time to think about who will fill Dawson’s valuable role. Who is the best kicker coming out of college?
The answer is up for debate. From the Florida State Seminoles, Dustin Hopkins appears to be the front runner. The senior kicker was very good this past season for FSU. In his college career, Hopkins scored a record setting 466 points for the Seminoles. As each year went by, Hopkins just got more and more accurate. From his freshman season through his senior season, Hopkins raised his accuracy from 70 percent to 83 percent.
This past season, Hopkins was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, the nations best place kicker. With career highs of 56 and 52 yards, Hopkins does display a strong leg. The best comparison would be the New England Patriots‘ kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The Browns’ situation is very similar to the Patriots situation years ago. Cleveland needs someone to replace their “ole reliable” kicker. Gostkowski made Adam Vinatieri disposable and allowed him to test the free agency market in 2006. The Indianapolis Colts signed Vinatieri the moment they had a chance.
The Cleveland front office could look to free agency, but I believe they will be better off grooming a rookie, much like they did with Dawson. The one thing that may scare the Browns about Hopkins is he has hardly any cold weather kicking experience. The 22-year-old did kick in outdoor conditions, however, it would be the frigid cold air off the shores of Lake Erie that would take some getting used to.
We all want Dawson to remain in orange and brown till the day we die, but that’s just not reality. There is another Dawson out there, the Browns just have to find him. Hopkins is projected to go in the sixth or seventh round.
Ryan Ruiz – Cleveland Browns Writer
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