Another high draft pick on a kicker, another bad result. The Packers cut their losses yesterday when they gave punter B. J. Sander his walking papers. They have decided to go with a young kicker from Canada instead.
We've been here before, of course. The Packers found an excellent placekicker way back in 1972 when they plucked Chester Marcol out of Hillsdale College with a second round draft pick. Marcol did a very good job for a number of years, until he began losing his battle with the bottle. But since then, the Packers have reached for kickers three separate times and each of them didn't work out. The Packers picked up a punter from Michigan State named Ray Stachowitz in the early 80s. Stachowitz was supposed to be an upgrade over journeyman David Beverly, but he really never did well, hanging on for a few years before quietly disappearing. Back in 1997, the Packers decided to drop reliable Chris Jacke and drafted Penn State kicker Brett Conway. Conway was injured and never kicked for the team; fortunately, the Packers were able to find Ryan Longwell on the street. Longwell developed into the best, most consistent kicker in Packer history before his departure this off-season. Sander, a punter from Ohio State, was unimpressive throughout his tenure in Green Bay.
There seems to be a pattern here - Big Ten kickers, big legs in college, little results. Specialists can be a huge problem, of course; Phil Bengtson's 1968 Packer squad probably would have made the playoffs except for the terrible production they got out of a cavalcade of kickers. But it doesn't make much sense to draft a kicker too high. The only Hall of Fame kicker to be drafted in the first round was longtime Raider punter Ray Guy. It should tell you something.