Last year at this time, Detroit Lions’ fans weren’t thinking about Sam Martin, a punter from Appalachian State. Naturally, they were focused on what the team would set out to do in the early rounds to fill bigger needs.
Martin, though, went on to become one of the better rookie specialists in the league and one of the better picks Detroit made, averaging 47.2 yards per-punt with a long of 72 yards. He downed 22 punts inside the 20 yard line, which is an important statistic for a punter while being an excellent kickoff specialist. All year long, Martin was a positive weapon; an asset instead of a liability.
The year before Martin’s arrival, Detroit had a revolving door at punter with Nick Harris and Ben Graham, neither of whom could consistently get the job done. In 2013, the kicking situation was eerily similar. Aging David Akers couldn’t make field goals consistently, and as a result, Detroit’s offense often struggled.
Just as many people weren’t thinking about Martin’s last year, most won’t realize that the Lions have already worked out Nate Freese of Boston College, while also taking a look at Jarod Brown of Old Dominion. Both prospects bring important elements to the table that the Lions have been lacking. Freese was one of the most accurate kickers in the country, making 94.6 percent of his kicks his final two years in college. Freese also punted for the Eagles in addition to kicking off, showcasing his versatility.
With Brown, looks can be deceiving. At 5’11″ and 235 pounds, he first appears suited for a different position on the field, but the leg is impressive from distance. Last season, he connected on a 54 yard field goal against Pitt at Heinz Field, which was an all-time high that hasn’t been matched in the stadium. Even though he lacks in accuracy, Brown apparently has a knack for onside kicking, which is an interesting but peculiar variable to consider in his candidacy.
Both names are important to remember, considering the Lions worked out only one punter last season in the pre-draft period, and it was Martin, their eventual fifth round selection. Detroit has only confirmed a facilities visit from Freese, but did send a scout to monitor Brown at Old Dominion’s pro day in March. Thus far, they are the only two names to surface in the hunt for a kicking specialist, along with Cody Parkey of Auburn who had a private workout with the team.
Detroit hasn’t been linked to any other kicker this draft season, names such as Anthony Fera of Texas, Zach Hocker of Arkansas or Chris Boswell of Rice. Could the Lions’ ideal replacement for Jason Hanson be Freese, Brown or Parkey? Considering Detroit didn’t hide who they were interested in last season, it’s wise to keep an eye on this trio next weekend.
Though kickers are often mocked, their position remains vital, as Detroit learned last year. When contemplating how the Lions might fill out the roster, don’t forget a few names, one of which could end up being called upon plenty next season.
Tags: Detroit Lions