Do kickers ever deserve to be first-round NFL draft picks? Pt. 2
In 1978 the St.Louis Cardinals drafted Steve Little in the first round and 15th overall. He was a two-time All-American kicker and punter at the University of Arkansas. In 1977, he tied the NCAA record with a 67-yard field goal against Texas. He got a lot of hype, and the possibility of him kicking and punting in the pros is what got him drafted so high. Unfortunately, he was a dreadful kicker, making less than half of his attempts, and he was a below-average punter. Due to poor play and off-the-field issues, the Cardinals released him six games into his third season. Things only got worse for Steve. Just hours after being cut, he was critically injured and paralyzed in the crash of his sports car during a rainstorm. He died at the age of 43 in a hospice. Not worthy of a first-round draft pick.
In 1979 the New Orleans Saints drafted Russell Erxleben in the first-round and 11th overall. He was a three-time All-American kicker at the University of Texas. And just like Steve Little, he also tied the NCAA record with a 67-yard field goal against Rice University. He was dubbed The Million Dollar Kicker due to his first-round status. The Saints were hoping he would be their kicker and punter. Unfortunately, Russell pulled his hamstring in the second game of his rookie season and missed the rest of the season. He had more kicking problems into his second season, and the Saints made him strictly a punter. Russell was a top 10 punter for the next five years. In 1987 he tried out with the Lions, but he got cut. His life after football was filled with scams, Ponzi schemes, wire fraud, money laundering, and prison time. He was not worthy of a first-round draft pick.
Twenty years later, another team would choose a kicker in the first round of the NFL draft. In 2000, the Oakland Raiders selected Florida St. kicker Sebastian Janikowski with the 17th overall pick. He had a powerful leg and would consistently boot the ball on kick-offs through the uprights. Urban legend has it that he once kicked an 82-yard field goal in practice while in high school. He won the Lou Groza award twice, which goes to the nation’s best kicker. Unfortunately, Janikowski had some off-the-field issues, like getting into barroom brawls and trying to bribe a cop. And when he was a member of the Raiders, he was arrested on drug charges. He was eventually acquitted of all these charges. He was the 27th ranked kicker in his rookie year, making only 68.8% of his field goals. Things would get better. Seabass played 17 years with the Raiders leading the team as their all-time leading scorer. He holds all kinds of records for them, including a 63-yard field goal against the Broncos on Monday Night Football. He tied the NFL record that Tom Dempsey of the Saints held at the time. He played his final season for the Seahawks. He was a good fantasy kicker but not worthy of being a first-round draft choice. His lifetime field goal percentage is 80.4%. That’s not even top 50 all-time.
It seems like these kickers have a lot of off-the-field issues. It probably stems from the money they get as a first-round draft choice. However, some of the best kickers are late-round draft picks or free agents.
Read part 1 of this article here.
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