The 2019 NFL Draft begins a week today, and I, for one, can not contain my excitement. Of course, the first round of the Draft will steal the headlines for sure, but what about the special teams athletes in play for selection to an NFL roster this year I hear you ask? Well, here’s the top 6 athletes who excelled on ST’s last campaign in the NCAA.
Jack Fox – Punter – Fox University
Jack Fox is arguably the best special teams prospect in the Draft this season. He was named the Conference USA Special Team Player of the Year, whilst he also added the team MVP Award and the OJ Brigance Award to his résumé in his absolutely immaculate 2018 season. These awards were a result of his great production, which featured 26 punts of 50-yards or more. In addition, he added 31, yes, THIRTY-ONE, punts inside the 20. Perhaps most impressive was his 3,636 punt yards, which led the league.
As evidenced, Fox could truly be a game-changer for a team at the next level. He boasts a terrific leg in terms of power, but his accuracy is ultimately his best asset. For me, he should be drafted in the sixth round at THE very latest.
Matthew Gay – Kicker – Utah Utes
I interviewed Matthew about a month ago (http://ninetynineyards.com/2019/03/28/path-to-the-2019-nfl-draft-meet-utah-ute-mattew-gay/) and was thoroughly impressed by his work ethic, determination and mindset, all of which I feel will help him dominate in the NFL.
The 6’0”, 230lbs kicker possesses an absolutely phenomenal leg, both in terms of accuracy and power. Furthermore, he’s one of the more distinguished kicker’s at the collegiate level, having won the Lou Groza Award in 2017, whilst he has been apart of 2 First Team All-Pac-12 Teams and has been nominated a Consensus All-American in 2017 also.
Gay holds the school record for most consecutive field goals made in a row at 21. Moreover, he has led the league in FG’s made at 30 in 2017, whilst he led the league in scoring last year with 8.8 points per game.
I have no doubt in my mind that Gay will be drafted, probably in the late sixth or seventh round.
Cole Tracy – Kicker – LSU
Cole Tracy’s career is one of the most unorthodox of any player you’ll meet. He began playing collegiate football at Assumption College at D2 level, where he was immense. Of course, things weren’t always easy for the NCAA’s all-time leader in FG’s, being that he missed his first ever kick, which is now football folklore. Irrespective of that tale, he played three years at the school from 2015-2017. In that space of time, he became the all-time leader for points in school history with 373. Besides that, he also contributed the most points in a single season in school history (148 in 2017), as well as holding the record for the most field goals converted in school history (68).
Then, this season in 2018, he transferred to Louisiana State University. There, he became the all-time leader in field goals converted within a season with 28. On top of that, he also converted 100% of his 42 PAT attempts, whilst he only missed 4 FG’s in its totality. Most amazingly however, the final kick of his career against Central Florida in this season’s Fiesta Bowl surpassed Zane Gonzales of Arizona State for the most field goals converted in NCAA history. He also holds the NCAA all-time scoring record (all divisions) for points by a kicker with 502.
Evidently, Tracy has got that mindset that makes kickers excel in the NFL. He’s got that clutch gene that all special teams players need. The thing I admire most about Tracy is his mentality, which came across brilliantly in fellow #99YDS writer Oli Hodgkinson’s interview with the man himself – http://ninetynineyards.com/2019/03/25/cole-tracys-path-to-the-draft/.
Jack Bailey – Punter – Stanford
Jack Bailey, the Stanford Cardinal, is second in my punting prospect rankings. Now, that proclamation is not a slight on Bailey, but a reflection of just how great Fox is, because Bailey is amazing too.
Straight off the bat, Bailey’s leg power is insane. He already boasts the school record for the longest punt at 84 yards, which was conducted against California on December 1, 2018. Furthermore, he holds the school record for best punt average (43.81), whilst he made the All-Pac-12 Second Team twice.
In his 2018 campaign, Bailey nailed 68 punts for 2996 yards, averaging 44.1 yards per punt. Additionally, he registered 24 punts inside the 20-yard marker and notched 20 punts of 50+ yards.
The 2019 NFL Draft may not call Jack Bailey’s name, but I can guarantee he will be brought in by several teams this offseason, and I believe we could potentially see him starting next year.
Statistical Credits – riceowls.com, utahutes.com, lsusports.net, gostanford.com.
Image Credits – riceowls.com.