NFL Draft 2013: Tracking the Best Available Special Teams Players
Whether NFL organizations like it or not, punters and kickers are weighed heavily when evaluating wins and losses. Punters can easily flip the field and help a team win the field position battle, while kickers can easily be the deciding factor during a game's final moments.
With the help from some of the best talent evaluators around the Internet, here are the six best special teams players available. The rankings are based off of Matt Miller's big board, and the scouting report info is from Walter Football, CBS Sports and Rob Rang.
2. Quinn Sharp
Matt Miller Breaks Down Quinn Sharp
You can view Quinn Sharp's complete scouting report from Rob Rang by clicking here.
Quinn, who stands 6'2", 205-pounds is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. He can kick field goals, punt, and handle kickoff duties, but helping his collegiate team in these areas actually damaged his growth as a punter.
He is still often compared to Tampa Bay Buccaneers punter Michael Koenen. Here's why (per Rang):
Rare versatility. Unique combination of leg strength, accuracy and technique ... Watched his fair-catches and punts placed inside the 20-yard line consistently decrease over his career as he spent more time focusing on improving his ability as a kicker.
Overall, Sharp is the second-best special teams prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft class.
5. Brett Maher
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You can view Brett Maher's complete scouting report from CBS Sports by clicking here.
The Nebraska senior is often compared to New York Giants kicker Josh Brown. A two-year starter and two-time All-Big Ten kicker, Maher's ability to successfully convert multiple field goal attempts per game is a huge selling point.
He's not without flaws, such as limited range, but he has the potential to kick in the NFL all the same. Here's why (per CBS Sports):
In 2012, Maher had four games with three field goals, giving him six games with three or more field goals in his career.
Overall, Maher is the fifth-best special teams prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class.
6. Brad Wing
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You can view Brad Wing's complete scouting report from Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse by clicking here.
A good overall athlete for the position, Wing stands 6'3", 197 pounds and has great power in his leg. He is often compared to longtime NFL punter Mat McBriar, and he's typically at his best in high-profile matchups (see Alabama games in 2011, 2012.)
However, his injury history and a reported off-the-field incident are causes for concern (per Kruse):
While arguably the top punting talent in the draft, Wing has off-the-field issues (failed drug test, lack of "professionalism," per CBS Sports) and a two-year injury history. A team in need of punting competition will likely take a risk on him in the late rounds.
Overall, Wing is the sixth-best special teams prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class.
1. Jeff Locke
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You can view Jeff Locke's complete scouting report from Rob Rang by clicking here.
The 6', 209-pound lefty punter has a huge leg, can handle kickoff duties and is one of the few special teamers who warrants selection in this year's draft.
Locke is often compared to Jacksonville Jaguars punter Bryan Anger, who was selected in the third round of last year's draft, and here's why (per Rang):
He's consistently been able to flip the field for the Bruins as a punter, ranking among national leaders in net punting throughout his entire career. The leg strength is perhaps even more noticeable on kickoffs, as he has had 55 touchbacks over his career.
Overall, Locke is the best special teams prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class.
4. Caleb Sturgis
Matt Miller Breaks Down Caleb Sturgis
You can view Caleb Sturgis' complete scouting report from Rob Rang by clicking here.
A key attribute in succeeding in the NFL as a kicker is having a short memory. Sturgis, who possesses solid accuracy and leg strength, displayed this attribute in spades during his time at Florida.
Often compared to Detroit Lions kicker David Akers, the 5'10", 188-pounder is the type who can miss a kick early, but still rebound to hit the next one in crunch time. Here's why (per Rang):
Highly accurate kicker who peaked at 86% (24/28) as a senior ... played in a high-pressure environment due to the defensive-minded Muschamp's willingness to play in low-scoring, ball-control football.
Overall, Sturgis is the fourth-best special teams prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class.
3. Dustin Hopkins
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You can view Dustin Hopkins' complete scouting report from Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse by clicking here.
As the nation's top kicker, Hopkins is often compared to New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski. He possesses NFL-ready range, consistency and also provides added value as a kickoff specialist.
Here's what Kruse has to say on the former Seminole:
A consistent approach and a powerful, accurate leg give Hopkins a chance to be a productive NFL kicker for 10-plus seasons. His ability to lift the football off the ground and both boom and place kickoffs are other pluses that should make Hopkins the first kicker to hear his name called during the 2013 NFL draft. Productive but still improving, he is the safest option at the position in this year's class.
Overall, Hopkins is the third-best special teams prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class.