All San Francisco 49ers fans pretty much know the fate of kicker David Akers by now. After posting the worst season of his career, Akers will end up being released by the club. Unfortunately, that does put the 49ers in a very vicarious position heading into the draft. Having to use an important draft pick on a kicker in the draft is not something typical of a NFL team, but with no quality free agent kickers on the market, the 49ers will reluctantly have to use one for the position. Though not typical news 49er fans like to hear, there is a silver lining to the darkened cloud. In actuality, there are three reasons to welcome the challenge.
Number one, the 49ers have 14 draft picks in 2013, so they can afford to use one pick on a kicker and not be overly concerned about cutting themselves short. With that many picks, it’s not even necessary to wrap up a kicker in the third or fourth round; they could feasibly wait until the late rounds. Also, with that many picks to be used, they could even offer up a trade with a team for a quality kicker. They could even wrap Akers up in the trade along with a couple picks. It would make for a very alluring offer to a few teams that have holes to fill without the draft picks to fill them.
To add to the higher possibilities, there are a few very capable kickers entering this years draft. Two in particular stand out from the crowd as the heads of the class. Caleb Sturgis from the University of Florida and Dustin Hopkins from Florida State University will both make very good NFL kickers. Sturgis has been nearly automatic in his five years at Florida; he has a big leg and has played in numerous big moment games. He has proved to be a clutch performer. Hopkins is just as clutch as Sturgis: he has kicked a lot of field goals at Florida State in four years, and his accuracy has risen with each season. It’s fair to say that he is just entering his prime. The 49ers won’t go wrong in picking either of these two rookies in the draft.
And the best news heading into the draft: there are not a lot of NFL teams heading into the draft in which their main priority is the field goal kicker. The Green Bay Packers could have a kicker in mind, but their main priority is probably in the running game or secondary. The Detroit Lions also might look at a kicker if Jason Hanson retires, but they also have bigger issues at running back and multiple defensive positions. The Carolina Panthers and New York Jets also have concerns with their kicking duties; however, offensive line issues will consume most of their draft picks.
In the end, the outcome looks pretty good for the 49ers on draft day when it comes to selecting a kicker. It’s probable that they use a fifth or sixth round pick for either Sturgis or Hopkins. The 49ers could also wrap up some picks along with Akers to woo a trade for a stud kicker.
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