The Cleveland Browns used their first of two seventh round picks in NFL Draft to select kicker Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State with pick No. 224. The Browns have Cody Parkey as the kicker, but he is not a player who is assured of a roster spot in 2017, especially after this selection. Gonzalez could be the team’s starting kicker this coming season if he outperforms Parkey during the preseason. NFL.com has him as the highest graded specialist in the draft. Here is what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had to say about the newest Browns kicker:
STRENGTHS: Has a powerful lower body and gets good trajectory on long-distance kicks. Has continued to add size and leg strength. Nailed 13 or 15 kicks of 40-plus yards this season including seven of nine from 50-plus. Kicks have desired end over end rotation. Finished career as the 24th most accurate kicker in FBS history. Banged kickoffs into touchbacks at a rate of 75 percent over the last two seasons. Has good operation time with hasty approach to strike the ball. His obsessive-compulsive disorder helps to create an orderly approach that has in part led to his success.
WEAKNESSES: Uses altered follow through for shorter kicks. Tends to short-leg shorter kicks, causing some inconsistencies with his accuracy. Takes questionable angles in his pursuit of kick returners. Has allowed three kick returns for touchdowns over last two seasons. Kickoff hang-time was slightly below average.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Round 3-4
NFL COMPARISON: Dustin Hopkins
BOTTOM LINE: Self-made, four-year starter who has steadily increased his kickoff distance and range as a field goal kicker. As the most prolific field goal kicker in FBS history, Gonzalez has a good chance of being drafted and becoming an instant starter.
At Arizona State last season, Gonzalez made 23-of-25 field goals, including nine field goals from 40 yards or longer, his longest being 59 yards. He also holds the FBS record for most field goals made in his career (96). Selecting a kicker in the draft is not a frequent occurrence, so his talent must have been too much for the Browns to pass up. Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness pointed out certain statistic about Gonzalez, one that shows just how good the kicker was in 2016.
Kickers who kicked more 50+ yard field goals than Zane Gonzalez in 2016:
1. Justin Tucker
End of list.
— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) April 29, 2017
Given his status as a drafted player, look for Gonzalez to become the Browns starting kicker in 2017 (and beyond). So, getting a starter this late in the draft is nothing to brush off, especially considering the Browns lean on their kicker as much as they have in recent years.