The Cincinnati Bengals addressed their abysmal kicking situation from 2016 by selecting Jake Elliott in Round 5 of the 2017 NFL Draft.
After enduring Mike Nugent’s struggles for far too long, the Bengals made sure they came out of this draft with the player they feel is the best kicker prospect this year. Elliott never missed an extra point or any kick under 30 yards during his college career, which is music to the ears of Bengals fans after watching Nugent miss those kicks on a regular basis.
During Elliott’s career, 63 percent (210-of-330) of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. During the course of his four-year college career, Elliott became the Memphis Tigers’ all-time leading scorer. He also set records for field goals made in total and from 50 yards away or more.
Elliott became the first kicker selected this year after many experts pegged Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez as the top prospect. Gonzalez wound up going to the Cleveland Browns, so both kickers will have their careers begin in the state of Ohio. The Bengals are hoping they got the best kicker, and say Elliott’s kickoff ability gave him the edge. But few experts seem to agree that Elliott was the better prospect in comparison to Gonzalez, and rankings heading into the draft don’t indicate Elliott was a good value pick at 153rd overall.
- ESPN’s Todd McShay did not have Elliott among his top 300 players coming into the draft.
- Mel Kiper ranked him 267th.
- Elliott was not among Pro Football Focus’ top 300 prospects.
- CBS Sports had him ranked 220th.
- The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, did not have Elliott among their top 300 prospects.
While the rankings being so low is unfortunate, that's usually the case with any kicker prospect. Sure, the Bengals may have taken Elliott a round or two sooner than most projected, but they had to make sure they landed the best kicker in their minds. After watching Nugent miss so many kicks that helped cost the Bengals wins (not to mention Randy Bullock doing the same against the Texans), they needed to select a kicker in this draft, even if it was a reach. And, with 11 draft picks, selecting a kicker at any point shouldn’t be an issue.
Let's just hope Elliott was the guy the Bengals should have reached for.