The 2014 NFL draft is rapidly approaching (begins on May 8) and there are media reports that the New England Patriots may target a top 10 kicker. That may not be as big a mistake as it would appear at first glance.
The Patriots certainly have needs at other positions that are more important than place kicker or punter, but it may be possible for the Patriots to address those needs and also draft a place kicker or punter.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has proven over the years that he puts thought and work into his special teams units. He understands it usually takes playing well in all three phases of the game to win a Super Bowl, and that includes special teams. A punter can help switch field position, and place kickers can assist in winning (or losing) a game with one swing of their leg. But should the Patriots really use one of their 2014 draft picks on a kicker or punter?
Again, at first glance many Patriots fans may yell, “no!” However, if you think about it for a second, it actually may make sense for the Patriots to draft a top 10 place kicker (not a punter though). True, place kickers (and punters) do not get a ton of respect in the NFL, but how many times does a game or season come down to field goal?
Patriots fans distinctly remember the 2002 AFC divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. If you’re a Patriots fan that game is called the “Snow Game,” not the “Tuck Rule Game” (as every non Patriots fan calls it).
With 27 seconds left in regulation, and after the question of whether or not Patriots QB Tom Brady‘s arm was moving forward was settled and the Patriots retained possession, place kicker Adam Vinatieri (or Varitek, as Boston mayor Thomas Menino has called him) kicked a 45-yard, game-tying field goal. The game went to overtime. The Patriots received the opening kickoff, Brady marched the offense down the field (after a less-than-stellar first half), and Vinatieri hit yet another field goal in the snow, giving the Patriots the win and a trip to the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots went on to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl by beating the St. Louis Rams, the “Greatest Show On Turf” when Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired. Vinatieri also kicked the game winning field goal against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII for the Patriots. Those certainly aren’t the only instances where kickers have won games, but it does illustrate just how important they can be.
After the 2005 season, the Patriots did not place the franchise tag on Vinatieri and he became a free agent, ultimately signing with the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots drafted place kicker Stephen Gostkowski out of Mempshi in 2006 with their fourth round pick to replace Vinatieri. Gostkowski’s current contract is up at the end of the 2014 season (his ninth) and he will become an unrestricted free agent. If the Patriots can re-sign Gostkowski, great, but if not they need to make sure they a kicker they are confident in going into the 2015 season..
While possibly trading backup QB Ryan Mallet and drafting a QB (possibly Zach Mettenberger) would probably help the Patriots make the transition at QB, they need to make sure they are in a position to win another Super Bowl before the window closes on Brady.
If New England feels they won’t be able to resign Gostkowski or that it is time to move on from him and they have addressed their other needs through free agency and the draft, taking a top 10 kicker (maybe with one of their two fourth round picks or their sixth round pick) may actually make sense.