Round 5. Pick 172.
Punter J.K. Scott, Alabama goes to the Green Bay Packers.
With this selection, on came the scrutiny of the team using a valuable draft selection on a specialist, especially with the track record that the team has in selecting punters (see B.J. Sander, 2004).
With the loss of cheesehead icon Jeff Janis to Green Bay east (Cleveland), as well as a bigger emphasis on Ron Zook’s punting unit, Green Bay has shown that its focus has changed to becoming more accountable in the area of controlling field position.
While 2017 Pro-Bowl alternate Justin Vogel made quite the impression in his rookie campaign, going undrafted from the University of Miami, the team made it clear that Vogel did not do enough to warrant being brought back. While a surprise to most, I didn’t believe Vogel’s numbers to be consistent enough to come back for 2018.
While I also didn’t expect the team to cut Vogel in OTAs (he did ultimately ask for his release) without much competition, I cannot blame him. Vogel knows his potential in this league and knows that what he accomplished in his first season was a solid base to be able to move on to another team.
Moving back to the current status of Green Bay’s special teams unit, Scott has put up impressive numbers in camp so far. At Alabama, Scott was a part of an NFL-scheme for punting, which didn’t involve any rugby-style kicks, helping prepare him for Sunday’s.
Green Bay punters seem to have been allergic to good hangtimes for their coverage units, often having the distance to flip the field but not enough hangtime to let the unit get down the field and contain for a brief gain, often resulting in the field position not being flipped at all.
Scott was a first-team All American as a freshman, and as a senior, he grossed 43 yards per punt and had a net average of 42.3 yards per punt. In comparison, Vogel punted to a 41.6 net average, the team’s best in over 40 years.
Another aspect the team is trying to solidify is long snapper, where they used a seventh-round selection on Hunter Bradley, a snapper from Mississippi State.
While odd to use a selection on a less-than-premium position, the team wanted to get its guy, which apparently was Bradley. Bradley will brought in to the fold essentially with little to no competition, as the team used three long snappers last year to get through 16 games.
The only aspect still up in the air is who will man the gunner positions on punt coverage. Janis was the savant here, setting the tone for what was one of the more consistent coverage units in the NFL.
Rookies like Josh Jackson, Jaire Alexander, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and others, on top of players like Trevor Davis and Kentrell Brice may be looked to alleviate the pressure on the coverage unit by manning the gunner positions.
While there are no givens for who will start week one at punter, long snapper and outside gunner, one thing is for sure: training camp and the preseason will make it tough on the coaches and general manager to whittle it down to the final 53.
Thoughts on how the team can solidify the special teams unit? Leave your thoughts below!뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23