With less than two weeks to go before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, the NY Jets have addressed many positions of need.
In particular, they have addressed the defensive line and wide receiver positions. They have also added overall depth to both the offensive and defensive units.
One position that has yet to be addressed is kicker. The fact that the Jets have not signed a kicker as of yet in free agency makes it all the more likely that they will either look to draft one in the later rounds or sign a young kicker as an undrafted free agent later on.
Since the departure of Jason Myers following the 2018 season, the Jets have been near the bottom of the rankings in almost every kicking category.
The primary kicker over the past two seasons has been Sam Ficken and he has proven that he is likely not the long-term solution for the team.
In 2020, Ficken only played in nine games due to injury and ended the season with a grand total of 51 points scored. In total, Ficken, Sergio Castillo, and Chase McLaughlin combined for a total of 81 points.
To prove just how underwhelming that total is, take note of the fact that in 2020 there were 23 kickers who ended the season with over 100 points. The leaders, Daniel Carlson, Younghoe Koo, and Jason Sanders all ended last season with a total of 144 points.
Part of the large differential in points scored can be attributed to the Jets’ offensive struggles, but it is also clear that as the team goes forward in their rebuild, they will need to upgrade and find a more reliable kicker.
Fortunately, this year’s college kicking class boasts many outstanding young kickers. At the very top of that list is Florida’s Evan McPherson. The former Gator surprised many people by declaring for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft after his junior season.
McPherson has demonstrated over his past three years at Florida that he is one of the top kickers in the nation, and his leg strength and consistency make him an attractive late-round draft selection for a team in need of a kicker.
Evan McPherson’s strengths
Evan McPherson has been at the top of his game for quite some time. He was a four-year starter at Fort Payne High School in Alabama where handled the place-kicking and punting duties for the Wildcats.
McPherson was considered the No.1 kicker in the nation as well as the fifth-best punter and received multiple scholarship offers before initially settling for Mississippi State.
McPherson continued to excel through his senior season of high school and nearly broke state records for both kicking and punt length with a 60-yard field goal and an 84-yard punt. He came just one yard shy for the record in each.
As his accomplishments grew so did interest from other big-name schools. McPherson flipped his initial commitment and decided to attend the University of Florida.
In his freshman season, he made an immediate impact by hitting all 50 of his extra-point attempts and 89.5 percent of his field goals.
In his three years at Florida, McPherson made 51 of his 60 field-goal attempts for an 85 percent average. The big-legged kicker was 5-for-8 on field-goal attempts of 50 yards or more and also made 149 out of 150 extra-point attempts.
As if that wasn’t enough, McPherson handled kickoff duties for the Gators as well and ended his college career with 43 touchbacks on 81 kickoffs. McPherson has a big-time leg and drives the ball through the opposing team’s endzone consistently.
Evan McPherson kicks with a short, controlled follow-through which contributes to quality accuracy and placement. McPherson also has excellent leg speed and can drive-kick the ball when he needs extra power on it.
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Evan McPherson’s weaknesses
As good as McPherson has been it should be noted that there was somewhat of a decline in his kicking accuracy during the 2020 season. McPherson hit on 17 of his 22 field-goal attempts for an average of 77.3 percent.
This was by far his lowest field goal percentage during his three years at Florida. In addition, McPherson missed on his last three field-goal attempts of 50 yards or more. He did hit on all 52 extra-point attempts.
A few of McPherson’s missed field-goal attempts appeared to be pushed to the right because of a slight tendency to drop his right shoulder. Any deficiencies in McPherson’s game should be easily correctable at the NFL level.
McPherson is not a big-bodied athlete and will struggle to make a tackle when necessary, but this is fairly common of kickers and certainly shouldn’t be a deterrent for a team looking for a solid kicking prospect.
NY Jets prediction
Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer has been one of the very few mainstays of the Jets coaching staff over the last several years.
He has been with the team since 2016 and was recently retained by new head coach Robert Saleh. The Jets could look to reward Boyer for his service by drafting a young and up-and-coming kicker.
McPherson’s leg strength could be a valuable asset when kicking into the strong, gusty winds at MetLife Stadium. His laid-back confidence would also be a positive attribute when dealing with the pressures of making important kicks in front of a raucous Jets’ crowd.
As the Jets continue to improve they will almost certainly be in many more tightly contested games. Having a strong and accurate kicker could mean the difference between winning or losing those games.
Evan McPherson has the potential to do it all for the Jets. Not only can he handle the place-kicking duties but he could also provide a spark on kickoffs. This would allow Braden Mann the luxury of concentrating solely on his punting.
Given Mann’s workload in 2020, McPherson could also be utilized as an emergency backup punter. It would be of great benefit for a young and improving team to bring in a strong and reliable kicker. One that the team could control over the next several years and at a very team-friendly cost.
The Jets have two sixth-round picks in the upcoming draft. If McPherson is still available, the team should strongly consider using one of those picks to select the best kicker in this year’s draft.