When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Evan McPherson in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, they took some heat for it. People laughed at the thought of drafting a kicker at all, let alone in the fifth round, but McPherson showed why special teams prospects should be valued in the draft with his performance as a rookie last year.
McPherson finished the year going 28-of-33 on field goal attempts giving him a percentage of 84.8. His extra-point completion percentage was 95.8%, as he missed just two extra-point attempts all year.
McPherson kicked the Bengals to the AFC Championship Game in epic fashion and also kicked the stripes into the Super Bowl. Not bad for a fifth-round pick who people felt at the time should go undrafted.
Teams took notice of what McPherson was able to do and the impact he made on a young Bengals team and it showed in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Evan McPherson had teams re-thinking draft strategies
The first special teams player to go off the board over the weekend was LSU’s Cade York, who went in the fourth round to the Browns. Cleveland might have swept the Bengals during the course of the 2021 season but the Browns brass clearly saw the impact McPherson had on that young team and followed in their footsteps by drafting a kicker on Day 3.
Six picks later, another AFC North team went with a special teams player, as the Ravens selected punter Jordan Stout out of Penn State — a punter in the fourth round! Baltimore clearly plans to move on from Sam Koch, who has been with their organization since 2006 and is slated to turn 40 this summer.
Three picks after Stout was selected, the Buccaneers also drafted a punter. Jake Camarda of Georgia heard his name called in the fourth round, proving that teams are valuing kickers and punters now more than ever.
Matt Araiza, the so-called “punting God”, went in the sixth round to the Bills and Trenton Gill went to the Bears in round seven. While York was the only kicker to be drafted, much as McPherson was a season ago, teams clearly saw that drafting special teams players before the final round isn’t a bad strategy.
The addition of McPherson gave the Bengals a confident kicker who could take the field in the final seconds and get the stripes a win. We saw it time and time again in 2021.
The Browns are trying to replicate that magic with York and other teams are putting a higher price on special teams players as well. Those guys have Evan McPherson to thank for that.