Drafting a kicker in the 2017 NFL Draft was a change of pace for the Bengals who had never selected a kicker in the draft during Marvin Lewis’ tenure with the team.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out for the Bengals after they selected the first kicker in that draft, a round five pick, Jake Elliott. The same can’t be said for how the 2017 NFL season turned out for Elliott who failed to make the Bengals’ 53-man roster in September, was promptly — and briefly — added to the practice squad and then joined the Philadelphia Eagles. He went on to win the Super Bowl, contributing heavily in the biggest American sporting event of the year, while the Bengals failed to even make the playoffs.
Considering how conservative the Bengals tend to be, it’s easy to assume the Bengals will shy away from ever drafting a kicker again. I mean, I’m completely serious. Considering what we know about the team, when they fail at something — say free agency — they don’t even try that something again. (Ahem, Antonio Antonio Bryant.)
But, at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said the team actually will consider drafting another kicker this year.
“If a kicker comes up and we feel it’s an upgrade for us, we’ve got 11 picks,” Tobin said. He had previously mentioned how the abundance of picks the Bengals have this year (just like last year) will make some of their decisions and ability to trade easier.
And while Tobin talked up Elliott a bit, he also took the opportunity to compare the now-Eagles kicker to current Bengals kicker Randy Bullock.
“We’re excited for Jake. What a ride he had,” Tobin said. “He was a hard call for us. Randy (Bullock) just out-kicked him in the preseason and to be honest, Randy had a better percentage during the regular season.”
Elliott made 26/31 field goals (83.9 percent) and 39/42 extra points (92.0 percent) in his rookie season with the Eagles (not including the playoffs). As was the case in college at Memphis for Elliott, the 30-39 yard field goal range was one of his weaknesses as he made just four of seven in that range. Meanwhile, he made five out of six field goals from 50+ yards out. In the playoffs, Elliott actually missed two more extra points, including one in the Super Bowl.
Comparatively, Bullock was 18/20 (90 percent) on field goals and 31/33 (93.9 percent) on extra points in 2017. Though, the two extra point misses were in back-to-back weeks as he was coming off an injury that sidelined him for a couple games. At the time, they seemed relatively excusable and he did in fact statistically do better than Elliott.
“We didn’t get many field goal opportunities because when we got down there we scored touchdowns and then we didn’t get down there enough,” Tobin said. “So, Randy had a very high percentage and had a good year kicking field goals for us.
Still, it wasn’t easy for the Bengals to let go of Elliott and watch him walk off to the current Super Bowl champions.
“Jake is going to be a good kicker in this league,” Tobin said. “It was hard to lose him. It really is. Anybody you scouted that you feel confident about and then they go to another team and have success. I feel good for Jake, he’s a wonderful kid. But yeah, it’s hard to lose him.”