PATS REPORTER

Perry: Could undrafted rookie challenge Nick Folk at kicker?

PATS REPORTER

The last two seasons may have been relatively forgettable for New England Patriots fans. But they can't blame Nick Folk.

The 36-year-old was a nice find for Bill Belichick almost two years ago, brought aboard after Stephen Gostkowski suffered a season-ending injury. Since then, Folk has made 40 of 45 field goals and 42 of 45 extra-point attempts. 

Last offseason, Folk lingered as a free agent, watched the Patriots draft kicker Justin Rohrwasser in the fifth round, re-signed with New England, saw Rohrwasser released, and then went on to place fifth in the NFL in field goal percentage among kickers with at least 20 makes (93 percent).

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Maybe Folk doesn't possess the kind of range he did as a rookie when he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl back in 2007. But he hit two 50-yard game-winners last year. And he’s generally been very steady.

Folk is about to turn 37 years old, though. And the Patriots may be looking to move on this summer. While they didn't draft a replacement for Folk, they did bring in one potential sub as an undrafted rookie. 

Quinn Nordin, Michigan's kicker the last four seasons, finished his career as the school's all-time leader in field goals made from 40 yards away or longer (14), and he tied a Wolverines record by making a 57-yarder in the Citrus Bowl. The Patriots' lone undrafted free agent signing this spring, Nordin may be able to continue a 17-year streak of Belichick's club keeping an undrafted rookie on the Week 1 roster. 

 

Nordin wasn't the most accurate kicker as a collegian. In four games in 2020, he made two of five kicks. For his career, he hit 42 of 58 attempts (72 percent). In minicamp this spring, though, he opened eyes with a quick right leg that led to pummeled footballs on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, easily clearing uprights from over 50 yards away.

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Nick Folk's FG% with Patriots in 2020
92.9%
Quinn Nordin's FG% at Michigan (career)
72.4%

"When you go watch him you can see the leg speed and see the leg power that he generates," special teams coach Cam Achord said last month. "So he's a very intriguing guy to work with... We've all got a lot of guys in here that are here to compete, and you've just got to iron it out day after day. But he's got enough intangibles that he's one of the guys you want to work with, for sure."

Folk could end up being the choice for yet another season. Accuracy matters. And because punter Jake Bailey can handle kickoffs, "leg speed" might not be the most critical factor for Belichick when he looks at the place-kicker position during training camp. 

But if the Patriots feel like they can take advantage of Nordin's raw ability (particularly late in the season when weather is a factor and "leg speed" may matter more), if they feel like they can improve his accuracy, if they feel like they could potentially have another kickoff option to take some of the load off of their All-Pro punter's plate, then it might make sense to do what the Patriots hoped to do last offseason: Thank Folk for his on-the-field work and his professionalism behind the scenes -- his special teams teammates love him -- and usher in a new era at the position with a rookie.