By College Football Analyst Josh Buchanan for TonySoftli.com

 

Below is a look at each of the projected top 3 kickers, punters, return specialists, and long snappers with complete position rankings below for the 2014 NFL Draft.

 

TOP 3 KICKERS

  1. Sergio Castillo, West Texas A&M

Castillo is the top rated kicker of this year’s crop hitting on 80% of his field goals with a 55-yard long.  He has good height, distance, and accuracy on his kicks.  He is a four-time first-team All-Lonestar selection and should be a priority free agent.

 

  1. Dylan Rushe, Endicott (MA)

It is hard to find someone for camp who can kick, punt, and kickoff but Rushe is that guy.  He hit 82.4% of his field goals in 2013 while averaging 40.8 per punt with 12 fair factches, and 58.1 kickoff average.  His kickoffs aren’t very deep and his punts don’t have a great hang time but he does have an adequate leg and is best as a kicker.  He’s a four-time all-conference pick who should be a tryout or free agent signing.

 

  1. Eric Kindler, Wisconsin Whitewater

Kindler had his worst season as a senior, which is why he dropped from being my preseason top kicker.  In 2012 he hit 70% of his field goals and averaged 41.7 per punt but only averaged 34.6 per punt and hit 75% of his field goals in 2013.  While better on field goals, he didn’t do as well in punting and his kickoffs were marginal.  Kindler is a three-time All-WIAC selection and likely tryout or free agent signing.

 

TOP 3 PUNTERS

1. Chad Zinchini, Tennessee Tech

Bobby Wenzig was the top rated player here in the preseason but a strong year by Zinchini caused him to vault to the top spot.  He average 44.8 per punt in 2012 but improved to 45.9 as a senior.  Zinchini is a transfer from Middle Tennessee State who was named first-team All-OVC each of the last two years.  His leg strength was shown with 28 punts of over 50 yards and a 70-yard long punt.  He should be a priority free agent.

 

2. Rory Perez, Montana State

The Montana State product averaged 44.9 yards per punt in 2013 with a 68-yard long and had 17 fair catches. His biggest strength besides consistency is that he has good hang time on his punts.  He could be a good camp body for placekicker as well as he hit 50% with a 45-yard long this past year.  His best shot to make it is as a punter though and should be a free agent signing.

 

3. Bobby Wenzig, Alabama State

You could argue he should be #2 on this list and could be rated among the top placekickers as well.  He Is a two-time first-team All-SWAC selection and two-time All-American.  He averaged 42.8 yards per punt and hit 70.6% of his field goals in 2013.  He is #3 on this list due to lacking elite hang time.  He should be a free agent pickup.

 

TOP 3 LONG SNAPPERS

1. Tyler Ott, Harvard

At 6’3, 253 pounds Ott was the backup tight end but a three-year starter at long snapper.  He has good zip, velocity, and is consistent with his snaps.  He handled all snapping duties and is perhaps very underrated.  Some teams probably didn’t know much about him during the fall but several did and that got him in the Senior Bowl.  Ott could potentially make it and snap for a while in the NFL.  Expect him to be a priority free agent with a slight shot in the late 7th round, if a team with a compensatory pick is in need of a long snapper.

 

2. Chris Maikranz, Lamar

Maikranz played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and while he doesn’t quite have the snap times and velocity as Ott, he is a solid snapper who should get a shot in a training camp.  At 6’4 3/8, 258 pounds he is a big kicker who has started four years at long snapper.

 

3. Richard Wright, Liberty

Wright is a four-year starter and redshirt senior who has been first-team All-Big South three straight years.  He’s a big kid (6’1, 268) who would make a quality camp body as a long snapper.

 

TOP 3 RETURN SPECIALISTS

1. John Brown, Pittsburg State

While Brown has a slight frame and build at 172 pounds, he is an explosive player and smooth route runner.  He could be listed among the top receivers but is by far the top return specialist.  He was a first-team All-MIAA pick as a receiver, punt returner, and kick returner.  He is a two-time All-American and MIAA Special Teams Player of the Year.  His ability to adjust, second gear, explosion, and speed made him a lethal weapon in college and should allow him to have a nice NFL career as a 5th-7th round pick.

 

2. Fabian Truss, Samford

I almost put Truss behind Spencer and Slaughter but left him here because, while he didn’t test as well, he was more dynamic in the fall.  He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and had 36 catches as a running back but his 14.8 punt return average and 32.1 kickoff return average in one of the toughest FCS conferences put him at #2.  Truss was a three-time All-Southern Conference selection as a running back as well as return specialist.  He earned All-America honors both as a junior and senior.  The 5’9, 187 pounder is small but would be a great camp body and practice squad member as a priority free agent signing.

 

3. Diontae Spencer, McNeese State

Spencer would get drafted if not for being just 5’8, 173 pounds.  He ran a 4.3 40 at his pro day with a 40 inch vertical and 4.30 short shuttle.  He shows great speed on tape and could have easily been rated as a wide receiver but came in higher as a return man so he was put here.  He averaged 16.7 per catch with 9 touchdowns in 2013 but averaged 7.6 per punt return with one touchdown and 29.4 per kickoff return with two touchdowns.  Spencer really got on NFL radars with a good performance in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl as a late addition.  He is a versatile player to watch for as he is the ideal practice squad player to develop into a special teams standout.

 

OVERRATED: Kevin Fogg, Liberty

At 5’9 ½, 182 pounds you would like to see better than 4.50 speed but the main reason for him being listed here is because you have to pick one and he was a preseason All-American kick returner who didn’t quite live up to that.  He was an All-Big South cornerback though and would be a good camp body because he could play the slot as a nickel corner and return both punts and kickoffs.

 

UNDERRATED: Tyler Ott, Harvard

Nobody knew who he was before the Senior Bowl, outside of about half the NFL, and still you don’t see everyone rating him as high as he should be among the top players in this draft class.  He is potentially the top long snapper in this draft due to his ability to do all snaps, his velocity, and accuracy in his snaps.

 

SLEEPER: Nathan Slaughter, West Texas A&M

A lot of people knew nothing about him when he went to the Medal of Honor Game but the 5’9, 184 pounder has put on a show this year.  He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this year and then ran a 4.3 40 and had a 44 ½ inch vertical at his pro day.  He went from an unknown to a solid priority free agent.  If his shuttles were better he would have been #2 or #3 on the return specialist list.

 

RISER: Chad Zinchini, Tennessee Tech

Zinchini was barely n the NFL radar coming into the season but his strong senior year made him a priority free agent who would probably get drafted if he had shown he could be a quality field goal kicker during the fall.

 

FALLER: Taylor Groff, East Stroudsburg

Groff was firmly on the NFL radar coming into the season as a first-team All-PSAC East selection but saw his stock drop during the fall only completing 46.7% of his field goals with a long of 38 yards.

 

INTRIGUING: Diontae Spencer, McNeese State

His versatility and speed make him someone who went from an under the radar prospect to someone who should be a priority free agent and could carve out a good career as a utility player in professional football.

 

SMALL SCHOOL SPECIAL TEAMS RANKINGS

KICKERS
Pos Rank First Name Last Name School Round
1 Sergio Castillo Jr. West Texas A&M FA
2 Dylan Rushe Endicott (MA) Tryout
3 Eric Kindler Wisconsin Whitewater Tryout
4 Curt Duncan Carson-Newman Tryout
5 Ray Early Furman Tryout
6 Tyler Sievertsen Northern Iowa Tryout
7 Zebulon “Zeb” Miller North Dakota Tryout
8 Taylor Groff East Stroudsburg Tryout
9 Steven Wakefield Mercyhurst Tryout
10 Sam Brockshus Minnesota State-Mankato Tryout
PUNTERS
Pos Rank First Name Last Name School Round
1 Chad Zinchini Tennessee Tech PFA/FA
2 Rory Perez Montana State FA
3 Robert “Bobby” Wenzig Alabama State Tryout
4 Kollin Carman St. Francis (IN) Tryout
5 James McCombie Slippery Rock Tryout
6 Kevin VanVoris West Texas A&M Tryout
7 Kasey Redfern Wofford Tryout
8 Nicholas “Nick” Liste Youngstown State Tryout
9 Zach Pulkinen Bemidji State Tryout
10 Jordan Berry Eastern Kentucky Tryout
11 Scottie Gallardo Fort Lewis Tryout
12 Nick Ferrara Stony Brook Tryout
13 Andy Wilder Northern Arizona Tryout
14 Grant Bowden Liberty Tryout
15 Brandon Kliesen CSU-Pueblo Tryout
LONG SNAPPERS
Pos Rank First Name Last Name School Round
1 Tyler Ott Harvard PFA/FA
2 Chris Maikranz Lamar Tryout
3 Richard Wright Liberty Tryout
4 Donny Tudahl New Mexico Highlands Tryout
5 Alex Taylor Carson-Newman Tryout
RETURN SPECIALISTS
Pos Rank First Name Last Name School Round
1 John Brown Pittsburg State 7th
2 Fabian Truss Samford PFA
3 Diontae Spencer McNeese State PFA/FA
4 Nathan Slaughter West Texas A&M FA
5 Jermaine Jones Saint Augustine’s FA
6 Kevin Fogg Liberty FA
7 Dae’Quan Scott James Madison Tryout
8 Dennis Carter Minnesota State-Mankato Tryout
9 Ryan Smith North Dakota State Tryout
10 Michael “Mike” DeCaro New Haven Tryout
11 Torrance Williams Sam Houston State Tryout
12 Niccolo Mastromatteo Coastal Carolina Tryout
13 James Owens Florida A&M Tryout
14 Gary Hunter Dayton Tryout
15 Rob Jones Delaware Tryout