Patriots Draft Fits: Special Teams

Current Situation: Jake Bailey and Joe Cardona make up the punting and long snapping combination, and there is currently no kicker on the roster.

Level of Need: High

SHS Take: The obvious need here is at kicker following Stephen Gostkowski’s release early in the off-season. Nick Folk performed admirably last season, and if for whatever reason the Patriots aren’t able to address the position in the draft or with an undrafted free agent, I could see Folk coming back in training camp.

Mid Round Fits

Rodrigo Blankenship – Redshirt Senior, Georgia, 6’1″, 190 lbs

The consensus top kicker in the draft, Blankenship was a legit weapon for the Georgia offense. He hit 92.7 percent of his kicks from under 40 yards and drilled 3/5 of his attempts from 50+ yards. He combines accuracy with excellent power, as the Brazilian native was a touchback machine during his time at Georgia. Blankenship is as good as it gets when it comes to kicking prospects, and he should have an NFL job soon.

Projection: Late 4th to Early 6th

NFL Comparison: Justin Tucker

Late Round Fits

Tyler Bass – Redshirt Senior, Georgia Southern, 5’10” 185 lbs

Bass is a very accurate kicker (93 percent on kicks between 30 and 50 yards in 2019) and has a very strong leg with 74 percent of kickoffs resulting in touchbacks throughout his college career. He also proved himself clutch, hitting game-winning kicks in both 2018 and 2019. He only hit one kick from 50+ yards during his time at Georgia Southern, but that was mainly due to a lack of opportunity (just one attempt in 2019).

Projection: Late 6th to Undrafted

NFL Comparison: Nick Folk

Jet Toner – Senior, Stanford, 6’4″, 199 lbs

Toner had a bit of a down year in 2019, hitting 75% of his kicks compared to 93% in 2018, but nonetheless he is still an NFL-caliber kicker. He hit a 51-yarder last season, so the leg strength is there, it’s simply about putting it all together to see if he can make an impact. The former Cardinal is huge and has a massive frame at 6’4″, so it isn’t out of the question that he could get stronger and improve his power.

Projection: Late 7th to Undrafted

NFL Comparison: Steven Hauschka

Jace Christmann – Redshirt Junior, Mississippi State 6’0″, 200 lbs

Christmann hit 80% field goals in 2019, improving on 75% from 2018. His long was from 51, so despite concerns of leg strength, he has hit from deep. It should also be noted that he was arrested for a DUI early in 2019, so there are certainly character concerns that will keep him off some team’s draft board.

Projection: Late 7th to Undrafted

NFL Comparison: Dan Bailey

*All stats via NFL.com, ESPN, and Walter Football

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