Patriots

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Three kickers worthy of being selected

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Three kickers worthy of being selected

Kicker isn't one of the popular positions entering the NFL Draft, but these players fill an important role at the pro level.

An accurate kicker can make a huge difference in pressure-packed moments, and New England Patriots fans know that all too well.

The Patriots' first three Super Bowl titles all were won by three points earned on fourth-quarter field goals by Adam Vinatieri.

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Stephen Gostkowski was drafted by the Patriots in 2006 to replace Vinatieri and became the team's all-time leading scorer. He also won three Super Bowl championships with the Patriots, and his kick late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIII sealed the win. 

Gostkowski was released by the Patriots last month, so New England is among the teams that could consider selecting a kicker in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Let's take a look at three kickers worthy of being drafted from this year's class.

1. Rodrigo Blankenship

College: Georgia
Class: Redshirt Senior
2019 Stats: 27-for-33 on field goals, 46-for-46 on extra points

If you watched college football over the last four years, you probably saw Blankenship play. He spent four seasons kicking for Georgia and performed in a lot of pressure-packed moments, whether they were pivotal SEC matchups or the College Football Playoff. Let's not forget the 51-yard field goal he made against Alabama in overtime of the CFP national title game in 2017 that nearly won Georgia a championship.

Blankenship hit 80 of his 97 field goal attempts (82.4 percent) for the Bulldogs. He connected on six of his nine attempts from 50 yards or longer, and he never missed a field goal from 29 yards or closer. Blankenship was perfect on extra points in his career, too. As a senior, he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker and earned an All-SEC first team selection. Blankenship's accuracy and experience kicking in big games are two huge factors in grading him the best kicker of the 2020 draft class.

Projected Round: Sixth 

2. Tyler Bass

College: Georgia Southern
Class: Redshirt Senior
2019 Stats: 20-for-28 on field goals, 36-for-36 on extra points

Bass has a powerful leg, and Georgia Southern let him use it. He attempted 36 field goals from 40 yards or longer over the last three years, and he made 27 of them (75 percent). Bass excelled on kickoffs too, achieving a touchback on 198 of 268 kicks in his career, including 55 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs last season. He also made all three of his field goal attempts in Georgia Southern's 23-16 loss to Liberty in the 2020 Cure Bowl. Bass' versatility in that he can be accurate on field goals and consistently earn touchbacks on kickoffs make him a solid prospect.

Projected Round: Seventh

3. Dominik Eberle

College: Utah State
Class: Senior
2019 Stats: 21-for-24 on field goals, 45-for-45 on extra points

Eberle is a very accurate kicker who had little trouble connecting on long field goals. He's got a huge leg -- connecting on four of seven field goals from 50-plus yards over the last three seasons, as well as a 14-for-17 mark on field goals of 40-plus yards over the last two seasons. Eberle's best performance came as a senior. He missed just three field goals and hit on eight of 10 attempts from 40 or more yards. His play earned him a spot on the 2019 All-Mountain West first team. Eberle is a good bet to have a long, productive career at the pro level given his accuracy for Utah State.

Projected Round: Seventh

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the NFL Draft. This Wednesday at 5 p.m., stream the NBC Sports On the Clock: NFL Mock Draft special on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBoston.com.

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

The New England Patriots brought one of their undrafted rookies back into the fold on Wednesday.

Isaiah Zuber, a wide receiver out of Mississippi State, reportedly has been re-signed after being cut by the team a week ago.


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Zuber played three seasons at Kansas State before transferring to Mississippi State for his senior season, in which he tallied 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-year-old's best college season came during his junior year, when he had 52 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns.

The Patriots have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season so far -- including WR Marqise Lee -- thus opening up roster spots for the undrafted free agents who initially were cut. Fellow UDFA receiver Will Hastings also was re-signed by the team shortly after being released.

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)