Kicking Around Ideas

Dallas Cowboys kicker David Buehler has one of the most powerful legs in the entire NFL.

But in his second season — his first as the team's placekicker — he hit just 75 percent (24 of 32) field goals and had the misfortune of missing two (of 44) extra points.

It is widely believed that Buehler will get some competition for the placekicking job after having none for most of camp last season. Whether that's a veteran or rookie remains to be seen, but has identified five kickers who are under consideration by the Cowboys, either as potential draft choices or as candidates to be signed as undrafted free agents.

Considering the number of positions that could use an upgrade, it seems unlikely the Cowboys will spend a high draft pick on a kicker, and considering the fact that no more than one or two kickers get drafted every year, it certainly is possible that the team won't draft another kicker at all. But it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Alex Henery of Nebraska is considered by many to be the best kicker in the nation, and certainly is the best combination kicker and punter. Henery has a cannon of a leg, and not only boasts great accuracy — he hit 193 of 194 extra points and 74 of 80 field goal attempts (92.5 percent) in his career, including 18 of 19 in his senior season … and the one miss was a blocked 51-yarder — but also has a lot of lift, getting the ball up and out of reach of would-be blockers very quickly. Even on long field goals — he connected from 50 or more yards in each of his four seasons as the Cornhuskers' kicker, including a career-long 57-yarder as a sophomore — the height on his kicks is among the best in the nation. Henery appears an unlikely candidate to challenge Buehler, as he is expected to be the first kicker drafted, maybe in the middle rounds.

If Henery is the top kicking prospect in the draft, Kai Forbath of UCLA is very close behind. Forbath hit 102 of 104 extra points in his career and 85 of 101 career field goal attempts (84.2 percent). He won the Lou Groza Award — given annually to the nation's best kicker — as a junior and finished as the second-leading scorer in UCLA history with 357 points. Forbath shares two NCAA records after kicking at least two field goals in 27 games and at least three in 13.

The next kicker the Cowboys have studied would walk in to Valley Ranch with a national championship ring: Wes Byrum of Auburn certainly was overshadowed by teammates Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, but it was Byrum who hit the championship-winning field goal in the Tigers' victory over Oregon. Byrum is another who boasts extraordinary excellence on short kicks — he hit 182 of 183 extra points in his career with the Tigers and 60 of 80 (75 percent) field goals — but doesn't have quite the power and range that Henery and Forbath do; in two of his four seasons, he failed to hit a field goal from 50 yards. Byrum finished his college career as Auburn's all-time scoring leader.

Jake Rogers of Cincinnati is a big (6-2, 213) kicker with a big leg. A four-year starter for the Bearcats, Rogers was a shade behind the accuracy of the first three — he converted 181 of 186 extra points and 51 of 75 field goals (68 percent) in his career — but he developed a reputation as a solid kicker in bad weather. Considering the Cowboys play most of their games in excellent conditions — either the warm fall air or indoors if the weather dictates that the roof of Cowboys Stadium is closed — it appears unlikely that Rogers would be the team's target.

Boise State's Kyle Brotzman is known best to most college football fans as the guy who famously missed two field goals in the Broncos' surprising loss to Nevada, the game that quite possibly cost Boise State a chance to play for the national title. Like Rogers, Brotzman played a lot of his college games in cold, sometimes-windy conditions. He converted 238 of 239 career extra points and drilled 67 of 92 career field goals (72.8 percent) — including at least one of 50 yards or more every season (he connected from a career-long 51 yards in his freshman and junior seasons), but Brotzman is viewed as more of a line drive kicker whose kicks don't get high in the air as some of the other candidates on this list.

Each of these kickers has considerable talent. But there are only 32 teams in the NFL, and many will keep their 2010 kickers, so the chance is good that not even five rookies will find an NFL job next year (or whenever games are next played). But these five will be strongly considered by several teams, including the Cowboys.

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