Chargers looking to draft a kicker instead of adding one through free agency?
By Matt Pagels
The Los Angeles Chargers met with kicker prospect Eddie Pineiro at the NFL Scouting Combine. Is the team looking to use one of its draft picks on a kicker instead of adding a veteran through free agency?
The Chargers need to find a kicker. Badly. It’s one of Los Angeles’ top positional needs heading into the offseason.
The Chargers finished dead last in field-goal percentage (66.7) in 2017. They also hit just 37-of-42 extra points, the third-worst mark in the league. They signed former 2016 second-round pick Robert Aguayo to a reserve/futures contract. Aguayo, 23, flamed out with the Buccaneers after just one season. He did not attempt a single kick in 2017 but will look to revive his career. Nick Rose, another 23-year-old who was claimed off waivers from the Redskins this past season, is also on the roster. He struggled in two games with the Chargers, making 33.3 percent of his kicks.
But the Chargers shouldn’t just settle for Aguayo or Rose. They need to bring in more competition. Veteran kickers Graham Gano and Sebastian Janikowski are on the free-agent market and have proven to be quite reliable over the years. Youngsters Caleb Sturgis, Cairo Santos and Dustin Hopkins are unrestricted free agents, too, and all three have solid upside.
But according to LA Times’ Dan Woike, the Chargers are looking to draft a kicker.
Florida kicker Eddy Pineiro said he realistically think he can make an 80-yard field goal. He met with the #Chargers this week and the team told him they’re looking to draft a kicker
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) March 2, 2018
Here’s Woike’s full story on Eddy Pineiro.
Pineiro played two seasons at Florida. In his final year with the Gators, Pineiro led the nation with a 94.4 field-goal percentage. He also became the most accurate kicker in program history. Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, who became the SEC’s all-time leading scorer, also declared for the draft and should be on the team’s radar, too. He has two more years of kicking experience than Pineiro, as he’s been the Tigers’ starting kicker since 2014. However, he hit a career-low 74.2 percent of field goals in 2017.
Where will Pineiro and Carlson go in the draft? Some kickers don’t usually get picked until the later rounds. Most don’t even get drafted. There were three kickers–Jake Elliott, Zane Gonzalez and Harrison Butker–drafted in 2017, with Elliott going in the fifth round and Gonzalez and Butker going in the seventh round. It was the most kickers drafted since 2012 when there were four kickers taken.
In 2016, Aguayo was the only kicker drafted, and Tampa Bay traded up into the second round to take the former Florida State Seminole. That was an unnecessary reach, and hopefully a lesson to all teams looking to add a kicker via the draft (the lesson being that no kicker is worth that high of a selection). In 2015, there were no kickers drafted. The Chargers signed undrafted rookie free agent Josh Lambo that year.
The Chargers are desperate for a kicker, but they shouldn’t necessarily worry about other teams drafting one, especially with most franchises already being set at that position. Not only that, but there are decent options in free agency, so other teams might add one through there. If the Chargers are absolutely set on going with a rookie, I can see them drafting Pineiro or Carlson in Rounds 4-6. Sturgis happens to be the most recent Florida kicker to get drafted (fifth round in 2013); Auburn’s previous starting kicker, Cody Parkey, went undrafted in 2014.
An interesting note: In 2016, the Chargers needed to find a replacement for longtime punter Mike Scifres, who they released prior to the draft. They found one in that year’s draft, selecting former Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser with their sixth-round pick.