Whole Nine Sports

2020 NFL Combine Preview: Specialists

Steve Wirtel
Photo by Wesley Winterink, Iowa State Athletics
Alex Katson
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The 2020 NFL Combine is officially underway. If you missed our previous articles, check those out! We’ve already covered QB, WR, and TE, with the rest of the position groups soon to come. In this one, we’ll take a look at the specialists: kicker, punter, and long snapper. 12 total players will be in Indianapolis from those three groups (a full list is included below). We’re going to pick 1 player from each group as a potential top performer, then pick 1 kicker and 1 punter who can make or break their draft stock based on performance this week.

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The Participants

Rodrigo Blankenship
Photo by Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports

Measurements are listed as height, weight, hand size, arm length, wingspan.

Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern: 5’10 4/8″, 185, 8 6/8, 29 4/8, 71 4/8

Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia: 6’1″, 190, 9, 30 5/8, 73 1/8

Joseph Charlton, P, South Carolina: 6’4 4/8″, 195, 8 4/8, 32 3/8, 78 2/8

Blake Ferguson, LS, LSU: 6’2 5/8″, 229, 9 6/8, 31 3/8, 75 6/8

Sterling Hofrichter, P, Syracuse: 5’9 5/8″, 196, 8 5/8, 29 3/8, 71 4/8

Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M: 5’11 3/8″, 198, 9 2/8, 30, 73 7/8

JJ Molson, K, UCLA: 5’11 2/8″, 182, 9 4/8, 30 6/8, 73 3/8

Alex Pechin, P, Bucknell: 6’0 5/8″, 213, 9 3/8, 29 5/8, 72 2/8

Arryn Siposs, P, Auburn: 6’2 4/8″, 213, 9 2/8, 32, 76 3/8

Tommy Townsend, P, Florida: 6’1 3/8″, 191, 9 1/8, 32 1/8, 76 4/8

Michael Turk, P, Arizona State: 6’0 4/8″, 226, 9 7/8, 31 1/8, 76

Steve Wirtel, LS, Iowa State: 6’3 6/8″, 235, 9 3/8, 31 1/8, 75 3/8

Potential Top Performers

Tyler Bass
Photo by Frank Fortune, The Fortune Image

Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern: I’m going to spoil this now: all three of my picks were at the Senior Bowl. That may be a reflection of my bias having seen them in person. However, it’s also a reflection of the fact that the Senior Bowl brings in the best talent, especially on special teams.

Bass has an absolute cannon for a leg: I think his true range is in the 60s, despite his career long at Georgia Southern of 50. His accuracy also isn’t represented well in his career statline; I think his 90.5% mark from 2018 is much closer to his real potential. I’d expect Bass to wow with his power on the field in Indianapolis, but his accuracy will get more than a few teams to show interest as well.

Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M: There’s a commonality between Bass and Mann, beyond the fact that they were at the Senior Bowl. They both kick the ball hard. In 2018, Mann averaged 51 yards per punt, the best in NCAA history by more than a yard and a half. Despite this, Mann doesn’t accrue an inflated number of touchbacks, nor do opposing returners gain substantially more yards against him. He punts the ball into the sun, and the sun rewards him. Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, a dome, expect Mann to launch some bombs and force teams to take notice.

Steve Wirtel, LS, Iowa State: Wirtel is the one I’m not picking due to on-field drills, necessarily. For those of you that didn’t listen to our interview with him on the Whole Nine Sports podcast, Wirtel said that he plans to do every drill at the combine. (Go back and listen to the episode here.) He’s the most athletically well-rounded long snapper in the country, by his own estimation, and I’m inclined to believe he’ll prove it in Indianapolis.

Make or Break

Alex Pechin
Photo by Bucknell University Athletics

Both of these players’ make or break portion of the combine is the on-field workout.

Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia: Blankenship entered college as a prodigious kicking prospect. He entered 2019 as perhaps the best NFL kicking prospect since Sebastian Janikowski. To me, though, he left the Senior Bowl as the 2nd best kicker available in this draft.

Blankenship struggled with accuracy issues late in his final season at Georgia as well as in Mobile. The version of him we see in Indianapolis on the field could either regain him his K1 designation or it could tank his stock to that of a UDFA. He’s still a kicker, after all.

Alex Pechin, P, Bucknell: Have you heard of Alex Pechin? No? The 2019 FCS Punter of the Year and four-time first team All-Patriot Leaguer? Yeah, I don’t blame you. Hear me out, though. Pechin holds the Patriot League record for single-season punt average (47.3 from this year). While that’s no 51 yards per punt, it’s still pretty solid for a college punter: 47.3 would’ve been good for 4th in FBS this year. If Pechin is able to show that sort of leg along with pinpoint control, he might be a draftable player. If he looks like an FCS player in a field with 6 other FBS players, he might be headed to the XFL.