Don't Bet on the Draft to Solve to the Bears' Kicking Problems

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Don’t Bet on the Draft to Solve to the Bears’ Kicking Problems

Chicago Bears

Cody Parkey is on his way out, but Robbie Gould isn’t coming the rescue.

Earlier today, the 49ers placed the Franchise Tag on Gould, putting an end to a dream scenario in which Gould – the Bears’ all-time leading scorer – returns to Chicago and fills the team’s biggest offseason need. And while we’ve already discussed the many potential avenues in which the Bears could travel to pick up their next kicker, each option comes with its own set of risks. That said, no road appears rockier than the upcoming NFL Draft.

NFL Network draft insider Daniel Jeremiah weighed in on the Bears’ kicking conundrum in a conference call with media members. And per Arthur Arkush of Pro Football Weekly, Jeremiah seemed to strongly advice against banking on the draft for teams in search of a solution: “I’d rather draft one in the sixth or seventh round and bring in a free agent,” Jeremiah explained.

Fair enough. But before we dive into the combo plan Jeremiah sets us up to discuss, let’s explore the idea of jumping the market and beating other kicking-needy teams to the punch on draft weekend.

The Bears have picks in the third (87th overall), fourth (126th), and fifth (162nd) rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. In the unlikely scenario where all of their other needs have been filled, then I suppose we can’t rule out the possibility of using a pick before the seventh round on a kicker. HOWEVER, history suggests it’s not the greatest idea.

Since 1998, there have been 14 kickers selected between Rounds 3-5. That group of kickers has unearthed three Pro Bowlers (Stephen Gostkowski, Nate Kaeding, and Martin Gramatica) and two first-team All-Pros (Gostkowski, Kaeding). Gostkowski stands above the rest here as an outlier, while Kaeding and Gramatica each had solid runs in the NFL. The rest of the kickers, well, see for yourself:

  • Bill Gramatica (2001-04): 37-48 (77.1%)
  • Jeff Chandler (2002-04): 19-27 (70.4%)
  • Josh Scobee (2004-15): 241-301 (80.1%)
  • Justin Medlock (2007-12): 8-12 (66.7%)
  • David Buehler (2009-11): 24-32 (75.0%)
  • Alex Henery (2001-14): 75-91 (82.4%)
  • Randy Bullock (2012-18): 120-145 (82.8%)
  • Caleb Sturgis (2013-18): 120-150 (80.0%)
  • Jake Elliott (2017-18): 52-62 (83.9%)
  • Daniel Carlson (2018): 17-21 (81.0%)

Jake Elliott was let go by the Bengals (who drafted him) and the Jets before latching on with the Eagles. And the jury is still out on Carlson, who made 16 of 17 kicks (that’s a tidy  94.1% success rate) with the Raiders after missing three of the four kicks he attempted in two games with the Vikings. Ah, and let’s not forget John Markham. The Giants selected Markham in the fifth round in 2001 out of Vanderbilt … and he never kicked in the NFL. Yikes. Overall, that collection of kickers isn’t going to inspire anyone to push toward investing pick between rounds three and five on a kicker.

Browsing through kickers taken in the sixth and seventh rounds during the same stretch of years brings a bit more optimism, if that’s your thing. Twenty-five kickers were drafted in Rounds 6-7 over the last 20 years. Three kickers have been first-team All-Pros (Greg Zuerlein, Blair Walsh, Neil Rackers) and two others (Nick Folk and Josh Brown) join Zuerlein, Walsh, and Rackers as Pro Bowl kickers. Hey, that’s not all that bad. This caravan of kickers also includes Bears fan-favorite Paul Edinger (whose wind-up is more memorable than his 75.3% success rate) and long-time Bears nemesis Mason Crosby, whose time in Green Bay dates back to the Brett Favre era.

According to Pro Football Reference’s database, this group has nine kickers who served as a primary starter for at least six years. Perhaps there is value to be had here.

Jeremiah is probably onto something when it comes to shying away from using an early mid-round pick on a kicker and instead going after a late-round find. In either case, there are some boom-bust factors to take into consideration. But because the Bears will probably have needs at other positions on the gridiron, it would be foolish to gamble on a kicker when the risks are what they are when other players who could provide a bigger impact are available.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.