LSU kicker Cole Tracy

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Gabriel: Scouting Bears' Kicking Options

The Bears could select a kicker next week in the NFL Draft.

Greg Gabriel
April 18, 2019 - 10:00 am
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(670 The Score) We don’t have to go over the various woes of the Bears placekickers. All we need to know is they have to add a reliable one. 

The Bears already have three different kickers on their roster, none of whom have ever kicked in a regular season NFL contest. The three are AAF veteran Elliott Fry who was just signed last week after the AAF folded, along with Chris Blewitt and Redford Jones.

Fry was 14-of-14 in his field goal attempts with the AAF's Orlando franchise this spring, while the others have been to NFL camps but never have made it to a regular-season game. Looking at tape, the kicker with the strongest leg is Blewitt, who just recently won the competition at the Kohl Kicking Camp.

After taking to a few special teams coaches, the consensus is that there are three draft eligible kickers who are worthy of being drafted. According to these coaches, none should be drafted high and the earliest any of these coaches would pull the trigger on a kicker is the fifth round and preferably the sixth.

Related: Gabriel: Secondary Prospects Bears Could Target

The problem the Bears have is they only have five total draft picks, with none coming in the sixth round. That means if they really like one of the three kickers, they could either use their fifth round pick on one of the kickers or hope and wait that at least one of the three is there for them in the seventh round.

Drafting placekickers can be a risky business because it’s not a given that a college kicker will have success in the NFL. One of the main reasons is the ball the kickers use. 

In college, most placekickers used soft, older footballs that have been worn somewhat. Using those type ball is easier for some reason than using the brand new hard NFL kicking footballs. It seems like a relatively minor adjustment but reality is it isn’t and for the most part when college kickers get to the NFL they can struggle at first using the NFL style footballs.

The three placekickers who are the consensus best in this draft class are the following:

Cole Tracy – LSU

Tracy is a transfer from Division-II Assumption College where he had much success but it wasn’t against top competition. Following the 2017 season, he transferred to LSU where he connected on 29 of 33 field goal attempts as well as all 43 extra-point attempts. He has a strong leg and he was able to connect on nine of 12 attempts over 40 yards this past season. He also showed a strong leg with his kickoffs.

Austin Seibert – Oklahoma

Seibert didn’t attempt nearly as many field goals at Tracy in 2018 with only 19 total attempts. He connected on 17 of this kicks and beyond 40 yards he was one of two. In 2017 he made 17 of 21 kicks attempted and went four of six beyond 40 yards. Seibert also does the kickoffs and has shown a very strong leg and good hang time with his kicks. 

Matt Gay – Utah

Gay is a former soccer player and has only kicked in games for the last two years. Being that he kicked at Utah, he had the advantage of kicking at altitude and that helps with distance, which means it can be difficult to get a real feel for his leg strength.

Over the last two seasons, Gay was successful on 56 of 65 attempts which is rather average but did make all 85 of his PAT attempts. As for leg strength, Gay has made nine of 12 attempts over 40 yards the past two years with a long of 56 yards. Like the others, Gay has been a consistent kickoff guy.

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Like with players at regular positions, how the various clubs actually rate and line up the kickers on their draft boards will vary, so trying to get a good idea of when to actually draft a placekicker can be a guessing game. 

With the Bears only having five total draft picks this year, I cannot see them using a pick on a kicker before the seventh round. What also enters the equation is the Bears won't just draft a kicker because they have a need. They have to feel that the kicker that draft has a good chance of making the club. 

If they don't feel that way, it becomes a wasted pick.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.