Former ASU kicker Zane Gonzalez should continue his success in the NFL

Gonzalez should be selected early in the upcoming NFL draft

Zane Gonzalez, former ASU football star kicker and unanimous All-American, is moving on up.

Gonzalez is expected to be drafted into the National Football League (NFL) later this month, and although teams ordinarily opt not to use an early pick in the draft on kickers, Gonzalez is no ordinary kicker and deserves to be selected toward the beginning.

Just this past October, Gonzalez broke the NCAA field goal record with 89 successful kicks, making him one of the NCAA's best kickers of all time and creating a precedence for his inevitable future success in the NFL.

Often times, kickers may be unimpressive in college but end up thriving in the NFL as they become more seasoned at their position. Therefore, teams usually use high draft picks for other positions with the intention of finding a kicker later.

“Teams refrain from drafting kickers early because quality kickers can be found in the undrafted ranks or (they can find) a veteran free agent that is very cheap,” Charlie Campbell, senior draft analyst at WalterFootball.com, said. “As a result, the value of the draft favors position players over specialists.”

Even kickers who are among the best in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) typically aren’t considered as early draft picks, as it’s hard to predict how a player’s collegiate success will translate to the NFL. There's also a question of whether he will have a smooth mental transition.

Gordon McGuinness, lead special teams analyst and SEC writer for Pro Football Focus and ESPN contributor, said this transition can shape a player's professional success. 

“There’s so much that goes into being a good kicker in the NFL, and I think the mental aspect is something that scares teams a little bit,” McGuinness said. “We saw Tampa Bay take Roberto Aguayo in round two last year, and then it looked very much like mentally he kind of fell apart with the pressure of being a very high draft pick and with the extra critique that came along with that.”

Nathan J Fish | The State Press

ASU senior kicker Zane Gonzalez kicks his NCAA record 89th career field goal in the fourth quarter of ASU football's 23-20 win over UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2016 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.


Nevertheless, Gonzalez had an especially remarkable senior season with the Sun Devils, and his ability to translate his talent into the NFL seems probable.

“Gonzalez showed phenomenal accuracy last year, connecting on 92 percent of his field goals,” Campbell said. “That level of accuracy is rare and very impressive. Also, hitting six of nine from 50-plus is very impressive in displaying his leg strength and accuracy from long ranges. That makes Gonzalez a special kicker that is draftable.”

His 2016 season statistics prove his competency at the professional level, as he outperformed all of his fellow NCAA kickers in addition to most NFL kickers in long-yardage kicks.

“If you look at last year, if you take the NFL and college football, the only guy who kicked more field goals of 50 yards and above than Zane Gonzalez was Justin Tucker,” McGuinness said. “There’s a lot of value in a guy who can kick that consistently from 50 yards and beyond, and I think that’s hopefully going to see teams draft him a little bit earlier than a kicker would normally go.”

Gonzalez is already playing like a professional, and as the undisputed best kicker in the upcoming draft, a number of teams in need of a kicker could certainly benefit from making him a priority in the draft.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, which will start April 27, Gonzalez could be selected as early as the end of the third round in the compensatory picks, but we’re more likely to see him chosen in the mid- to late picks of the fourth round.

If Gonzalez were to start in an NFL game tomorrow, he would surely be able to not only keep up with veteran professionals, but in a few years he could become one of the best kickers in the league entirely. His consistency and overall level of talent make him a promising prospect who you can be confident will deliver.

Gonzalez could be sporting a uniform next year for the Bengals, Colts, Falcons, Jets, Ravens or Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions.

While there may be some concern for his success in the NFL because his first three years at ASU weren’t nearly as impressive as his last one, Gonzalez has proved his consistency through the off-season and is still expected to perform well at the professional level.

“There’s just that slight worry that (he's) maybe more of a one-year wonder,” McGuinness said. “When you look at what he did last year and see him at the pre-draft expo this year, I think he has a pretty good chance to be a special player.” 


Reach the columnist at alexwolfe3098@gmail.com or follow @alexandrawolfe_ on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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