Although Hunter Smith statistically posted one of the better seasons of his career in 2008, posting gross and net punting averages that were better than his career averages (44.2 versus 43.4 and 38.8 versus 37.5), Indianapolis voided the final year of his contract and have apparently decided not to retain the ten-year veteran. They recently signed Mike Dragosavich and talked to Thomas Morstead at the Senior Bowl in January.
Dragosavich went to North Dakota State and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots following the 2008 NFL Draft. He was released by the Patriots on June 5 last year, picked up by the Cleveland Browns and placed on their practice squad on December 26, was signed to a 2009 contract when Cleveland's season ended, and subsequently released on February 9th. The Colts claimed him off waivers on February 11.
Thomas Morstead prepares to punt at the Senior Bowl
He impressed scouts — including Scout.com's Ed Thompson — with his leg strength at last year's Senior Bowl and averaged 59 yards on his three punts in the game itself. He was the 15th-ranked punter according to Scout heading into last year's draft, which explains why he went undrafted.
At shade over 6-feet-5 and weighing in at 212 pounds, it's not surprising that Dragosavich was originally recruited as a wide receiver out of high school. As punters go, he is fairly new to the position and only punted the ball 57 times in 2006 and 2007.
There is no doubting the fact that he has a strong leg, which is something that you can't teach, but he also is inexperienced when it comes to the finer points of the position — directional punting, hang time, and placing the ball inside the 20.
The Colts have a new special teams coach, so he may be able to teach Dragosavich some of the skills he needs to be effective at the NFL level, but the fact that he may often punt the ball past the already suspect coverage units for Indianapolis is cause for concern.
Morstead played at SMU and punted 166 times during his college career for an average of 43.4 yards. In his senior season alone, he kicked the ball more than Dragosavich in his junior and senior seasons combined with 59 punts for an average of 41.8 yards.
He also served as SMU's place kicker, making 37 of 53 attempts for a 69.8 percent average. In this year's Senior Bowl, he punted seven times for an average of 43.3 yards, but he did drop two of those punts inside the 20.
He is currently ranked as 272nd overall and is the third-ranked player at his position. At his overall ranking, he grades out as an undrafted free agent — as most punters do — but the Colts might be wise to spend one of the compensatory selections that they are sure to get at the end of the draft to make sure they have access to his services.
Conventional wisdom says to sign both men and let them fight it out for the starting job, as competition tends to bring out the best in players. Dragosavich has the advantage of already being on the roster, If the Colts end up brining both players into camp, the smart money is on Morstead winning the job. He is more polished, has more experience, and a better understanding of the "finer points" of punting.
However, Indianapolis would be well served by taking a look at the two men in front of Morstead in this year's rankings: Kevin Huber of Cincinnati and Chris Miller of Ball State. Huber averaged 49 yards on four punts at this year's Senior Bowl, dropping one inside the 20 with one touchback. Miller has averaged 45 yards per punt the past two years and has 102 punts in that timeframe, so he would also be more experienced than Dragosavich.