The Cleveland Browns have been searching for a steady kicker ever since the departure of Phil Dawson, and they may have found one in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Typically, it’s hard to get too excited about a seventh-round draft pick. It’s also hard to get excited about kicker competitions — unless your team really needs a kicker. The Cleveland Browns have been searching for a consistent kicker ever since allowing Phil Dawson to leave back in 2013. Last year’s starter, Cody Parkey, made just 20-of-25 field-goal attempts and missed an extra point.
In an effort to help finally settle the position, the Browns traded up with the New York Jets to snag former Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez.
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The fact that Gonzalez was available in the seventh round is actually a bit surprising. NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein pegged Gonzalez as a third- or fourth-round pick.
Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Matt Miller also believed Gonzalez was worthy of a fourth-round pick and named him the top specialist in the entire draft. He had the following to saw of the kicker:
Former NFL kicker Jay Feely told us he liked Gonzalez more than 2016 second-rounder Roberto Aguayo, citing his accuracy over 50 yards. On his nine attempts over 50 yards in 2016, Gonzalez hit seven of them. He added size and strength before the 2016 season, and it showed as he hit on 23 of 25 kicks. He is also a talented kickoff specialist, drilling those for an average of 69 yards in his last two seasons. Gonzalez was a unanimous All-American and the Lou Groza Award winner.
Now, Aguayo, selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was probably not worthy of a second-round pick. Still, many considered him to be the top kicker in the 2016 draft. Gonzalez is widely believed to be the best kicker in this draft. The Browns got good value with him in the seventh round. Gonzalez will likely compete with Parkey for the starting gig.
The Browns did a great job of adding players who can make an immediate impact early in the draft. They added guys with high upside in the middle rounds. Now, they’ve added a guy who could possibly solidify the kicker position for the next decade. It’s been a solid draft for the Browns from top to bottom.