The 2019 NFL Draft’s three days of hectic decision-making is officially over, and it brought bag loads of surprises with it. One thing which caught me off guard was the lack of selections in the special teams department. Even more than that, I was surprised by the selections themselves for certain prospects, especially the NFL’s snub of Jack Fox out of Rice University, or Cole Tracy from Louisiana State University. That said, if you weren’t aware of the athletes taken in the Draft, then I have documented my thoughts on the selections below.
Matt Gay – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Round 5, Pick 145
As most of you will know by now, I interviewed Matthew awhile ago in an article I produced for NinetyNineYards prior to the Draft. It was during that interview process that I was blown away by his mentality, determination and drive to succeed in football. This must’ve been something that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also discovered, as they drafted him 145th overall on the third day of the Draft.
In exchange for their selection, the Bucs are getting the best kicker in the Draft in my opinion. Gay is a former Lou Groza Award winner, who achieved that feat in just his first season. Moreover, he was the conference-leader in field goals made twice in his two years of footballing participation. Furthermore, he produced a consistently accurate collegiate kicking career, which saw him register an 86.2% FG conversion rate on 65 attempts. To add to that, Gay has also never missed a point-after attempt kick in 85 tries.
Whilst I can understand the anger towards this selection given the needs the Bucs behold elsewhere, I absolutely categorically believe this bold move will pay off. Matt possesses an exceptionally strong leg, which is coupled with laser-like accuracy.
General Manager Jason Licht spoke of his eagerness to quash the franchise’s kicking woes, something he hopes to do with the selection of Matt Gay.
“Kicker’s a very important position. It’s one of the most important positions on the team. Right now, we have a coach that really believes in kickers and the importance of it, [he] stresses it,” exclaimed general manager Jason Licht.
Mitch Wishnowsky – San Francisco 49ers – Round 4, Pick 110
Australian punter Mitch Wishnowsky grabbed headlines over the weekend, as the San Francisco 49ers selected him in the fourth round. Wishnowsky served as the first special teamer to be taken off the board, which made for a great moment on our tv screens.
The Aussie’s collegiate career was ground-breaking to say the very least. In his three seasons as a Ute, Wishnowsky punted the ball 175 times for 8004 yards, whilst he recorded an average of 45.7 yards per punt. In each season he garnered All-American status three times, whilst he finished as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award three times also, making him the first punter in NCAA history to achieve that feat.
There are several other interesting aspects to Wishnowsky as a person, aside from his nationality. The punter is a very impressive athlete, being that he clocked in at 4.63s on the 40-yard dash. Additionally, at 27 years of age, Mitch enters the league at a very mature age which should stand him well at the next level.
With Bradley Pinion exiting the Bay Area this offseason, Wishnowsky appears to be poised to usurp any challenger to his throne as the Bucs’ starting punter.
Austin Seibert – Cleveland Browns – Round 5, Pick 170
Former Oklahoma Sooner Austin Seibert was a surprise selection in the Draft for me. In my opinion, LSU’s kicker Cole Tracy deserved to be selected ahead of Seibert based on production alone. Nevertheless however, the Browns elected to take the veteran kicker in Seibert instead.
Seibert served four years in the NCAA, which allowed him to create history as he exited the league as the career-leader in points by a kicker with 499.
In his senior campaign, he produced a career-year. That included an 89.5% FG conversion rate, as he converted 17 of 19 attempts. On top of that, he only missed 1 of his 89 PAT attempts. An interesting aspect to his ability is his versatility. This is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that he was also the Sooners’ punter in his four-year stint with the University.
If we are being honest, the Browns haven’t had the best of luck with kickers in recent memory. That said, Seibert has a proven track record of being consistently accurate, which is something they could make use of dramatically. If nothing else, the selection will drive some camp pressure on Greg Joseph, who performed well in the second half of the 2018 NFL season.
Jake Bailey – New England Patriots – Round 5, Pick 163
Stanford Cardinal Jake Bailey was a name I was almost certain would be called this weekend. Luckily, that prediction came true, as the New England Patriots plucked him off the board in the fifth round with pick #163.
Bailey’s four-year career in California saw him nail the ball on 185 occasions for 8105 yards. That total produced a career 43.8 yards per punt average, whilst his biggest punt clocked in at 84 yards.
Whilst Bill Belichick’s affinity with left-footed punters as of late still lingers, Bailey isn’t worried.
“Yeah, I’ve been aware of [his] history. You guys have a fantastic special teams unit and I think there was some faith in bringing me in. So, I’m really excited to get to work with you guys and learn how to get it done the Patriots’ way.”
The Patriots may have just re-signed Ryan Allen to their roster ahead of the forthcoming season, but Bailey will be the organisations punter for the future. He produced a phenomenal collegiate career as a Cardinal, whilst he can perform a variety of punts. Don’t be shocked if Bailey leapfrogs his counterpart by the end of the upcoming season.
Image Credits: Wikipedia.com