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Five college kickers to know in the 2020 NFL draft class

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The Cowboys could certainly use a reliable kicker this year.

Texas A&M and Georgia Bulldogs Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Cowboys’ special teams unit was bad in 2019. While there were issues all over the place, a big part of the dysfunction stemmed from the inconsistency of kicker Brett Maher. Too often the Cowboys would miss out on points because of a missed field goal that definitely should have been made.

They cut Maher and signed journeyman Kai Forbath with three games remaining. Although Forbath was perfect in those games, making all 10 of his field goals and all 10 of his extra points, it’s not necessarily a given that the Cowboys view him as their kicker going forward. And with a new coaching staff in town, including well-respected special teams coordinator John Fassel, maybe Dallas will look to the draft for their new kicker.

With that in mind, here are five college kickers entering this year’s draft that could be a good fit for the Cowboys. Note: this doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys should use a draft pick on any of these players, as many kickers tend to go undrafted (see: Justin Tucker, Dan Bailey), but these are just some of the options to choose from late in the draft or in signing UDFAs after the draft.

Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

Blankenship is undoubtedly the most well-known kicker in this draft. That’s what happens when you combine playing for a powerhouse program, being good at kicking the football, having a memorable name, and wearing unique glasses under his helmet.

Blankenship became a reliable scorer for the Bulldogs, frequently coming through in clutch moments. In four years as the kicker, he hit 80 of his 97 attempts for a career 82.5% rate and never missed an extra point. Blankenship has also never missed a field goal inside the 30-yard line and made nearly 70% of his kicks between the 40- and 50-yard line.

Blankenship saw a drastic increase in attempts in 2019, largely due to an at-times lackluster offense, and that contributed to a lower field goal percentage than he had posted in his previous two years. Still, Blankenship was awarded the Lou Groza award for the nation’s best kicker and is a good bet to be the first (and possibly only) kicker drafted this year.

Sam Sloman, Miami (OH)

Sloman won’t get as much hype as Blankenship and others because of the small school he attended, but he might just be the best of the bunch. After being average in his sophomore and junior year, Sloman made a big improvement in 2019. He had a perfect PAT rate and his 86.7% field goal rate was the highest in the nation among kickers with 30 or more attempts.

Sloman only missed four field goals in total, with three of them coming beyond 40 yards; but he still made 78.6% of those attempts, a pretty high mark. Sloman’s career long is 53 yards, and he hit that in 2019, so leg strength may be a bit of a question mark. Nevertheless, the consistency with which Sloman played is going to catch some eyes.

Dylan Barnas, Central Florida

Barnas had an incredible year, but the 2019 season was the only one in which he actually played during his time for the Knights. That’ll raise some concerns over how sustainable his impressive play was, but the fact remains that Barnas was one of the nation’s best.

He hit 88.2% of his field goals, including a perfect rate beyond the 40-yard line. The efficiency at which the Knights offense ran meant a limited amount of long attempts for Barnas, but he was consistent nonetheless. He did miss one extra point, but still finished 10th in the nation in total points scored for the year. The big question is if he can be that productive on a consistent basis.

Dominik Eberle, Utah State

Much like Sloman, Eberle is a player who made a big jump his senior year. As Utah State’s kicker for three years, Eberle has the experience but was only average the first two years, hitting under 79% of his field goals both seasons. But in 2019, he jumped up to 87.5% despite trying around the same number of field goals as the previous two years.

Leg strength is a clear weakness for Eberle, though, as all three of his misses this year were beyond 40 yards; similarly, his career long is 52 yards and came in his sophomore year. But Eberle was perfect on extra points for his whole career, and it was clear the coaches trusted him in 2019 as he saw a new high in attempts beyond the 40. Much like Forbath, Eberle doesn’t have the booming leg that Maher did, but he’s reliable.

Jonathan Song, Texas Christian

First things first with Song: of all kickers who tried over 20 attempts in 2019, he had the highest field goal percentage by a long shot. Song hit 23 of his 24 (95.8%) attempts and was perfect on extra points. When TCU asked him to put points on the board, he did it.

The concern, though, lies in when TCU asked him to do so. He only tried four field goals between 40 and 50 yards, and hit three of them. Additionally, Song has attempted exactly zero field goals beyond 50 yards in his career. He has 44 career attempts, and none of them were from a distance you typically want to see from an NFL kicker. It’s rather bizarre, and perhaps it’s solely because of the team’s philosophies around that part of the field, but it sticks out either way.

Apart from that, Song is very good and reliable. His pro day will answer some questions about leg strength and range, which could vault him into the discussion for a draft selection. If not, Song is at least someone who can be relied on to make kicks closer to the goalpost, which is more than Maher could say in 2019.