There was quite a bit of initial surprise among 49ers fans when the team used their 4th round selection on punter Mitch Wishnowsky but there were definitely solid reasons behind the choice.
Even Wishnowsky himself was surprised when he got the call from general manager John Lynch on the third day of the draft. While Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan confessed to watching quite a bit of special teams film, it was coaches Richard Hightower and Stan Kwon who kept in contact with the Utah Punter.
Wishnowsky obviously has a strong leg which makes him a talented punter. There are also a few other qualities that influenced the 49ers decision to take him as the 110th overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft.
“I feel like I’ve got good leg strength and then accuracy,” Wishnowsky said. “I feel like I’m consistent -- putting it outside the numbers if need be, and sky-high punts or short yardage punts.”
Wishnowsky trained in Melbourne, Australia with ProKick, a program that assists Australian Football league players transition to the NFL. One of his coaches, Nathan Chapman, recently posted a few videos of Wishnowsky’s punts where you can see his accuracy and placement.
Here is why the @49ers went in the 4th for this guy @mitchwish and he’ll be a big asset to the defence this season. He also has a very accurate going in kick, so they see him as quite a weapon @jenniferleechan pic.twitter.com/5yoCJ1SrFd— Prokick Australia (@ProkickAus) May 4, 2019
Here is also a glimpse of what @mitchwish does when he is going in. Backward spinning Aussie Drop Punt. Great direction, location hangtime and distance. @49ers @jenniferleechan #greatpick pic.twitter.com/IAbWcBbeb8— Prokick Australia (@ProkickAus) May 4, 2019
Another aspect of Wishnowsky’s talents was formed in Australia as well. Before injuries forced him to retire, Wishnowsky played fullback. His experience has helped him be successful at fake punts and getting the first down as the ball carrier. The style of the game also put him in a similar situation as a what fake punt could be.
“I think really just any position back home,” Wishnowsky said. “It’s a free-flowing game. Sometimes you get the ball when you have to get out of a sticky situation and stuff. So, I think just the experience of just playing that, sort of might give me an upper hand if the fake is called to be able to run at least.”
Chapman also believes Wishnowsky’s experience in the AFL only benefitted his ability to be able to convert a fake punt.
"Our game here is a run and carry the ball game, so fakes are pretty natural,” Chapman said. “In fact, a scramble play that doesn’t go to plan is where the natural instinct would take over.”
As the top punter taken in this year’s draft, Wishnowsky doesn’t feel any more pressure than what he would already be putting on himself. He is quite aware of the position he is in to perform.
“Absolutely. Not just because I was a higher draft pick,” Wishnowsky said. “Regardless, the NFL is full of pressure. But I mean I get nervous and I get anxious and everything before punts and it’s always happened my whole career.
“So I don’t fight it. I just take it in and I feel like pressure and that sort of high stress improves performance so I welcome it."