Deep Kicking Class To Challenge Crosby

The Packers had the worst field-goal efficiency in the league in 2012, with Mason Crosby hitting 21-of-33. Florida's Caleb Sturgis and Florida State's Dustin Hopkins are the top prospects but the list runs much deeper.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy on Wednesday confirmed what Packer Report reported last week: The team would bring in a kicker to challenge incumbent Mason Crosby.

"I think competition's good, definitely," McCarthy told reporters at the league's spring meetings in Phoenix. "I don't think you can look past any past performance throughout your team and think that competition's (not) going to help regardless of how they performed the year before. I mean, I think that's definitely something that we'll look at."

The Packers had the worst success rate in the league on field goals this past season. Crosby connected on 21-of-33 field goals, just 63.7 percent. His 2-of-9 accuracy from 50-plus yards weighed down that number, but he also was only 5-of-7 from between 30 and 39 yards. Crosby missed 12-of-24 field-goal attempts at one point before hitting his final four, including playoffs.

A source who's an expert on kickers wondered if Crosby had been injured and had tinkered with his technique — either purposely or inadvertently — to compensate. One minor change potentially could lead to another and another before a kicker's technique is totally out of whack and his confidence suffers.

"Some of the kicks he missed last year, I've never seen a professional kicker miss by that much," he said.

Crosby is under contract for three more seasons, with cap numbers of $3.15 million, $3.4 million and $3.55 million, according to a source with access to salary data. His base salary of $2.4 million in 2013 is tied for eighth-most among specialists.

That's a lot of money, obviously, for a below-average kicker. This is considered a strong class for kickers. Two and perhaps three will be drafted, and several others will be worth a look in camp. Here is a pecking order, based on conversations with kicking guru and NFL special teams coordinator Gary Zauner (, a scout and our observations.

1. Caleb Sturgis, Florida (5-10): Was 24-of-28 (85.7 percent) with a long of 51 as a senior. Was 8-of-9 from 40-plus. Hit from 58 at pro day. He's the most NFL-ready kicker in the class.

2. Dustin Hopkins, Florida State (6-1): Was 25-of-30 (83.3 percent) with long of 56 as a senior. Hit 5-of-6 from 50-plus. Hit from 58 at pro day. The ball explodes off his foot but he's not as polished as Sturgis.

3. Brett Maher, Nebraska (6-0): Was 20-of-27 (74.1 percent) with long of 54 as a senior, including 13-of-15 from inside of 40. Also a solid punter. Hit from 60 at pro day.

4. Brandon McManus, Temple (6-3): Hit 14-of-17 (82.4 percent) as senior, with long of 50. Two of his three misses came from inside of 30. He wasn't selected to the Scouting Combine, though he should have been, Zauner said. A capable punter, too.

5. Brett Baer (Louisiana-Lafayette (5-11): Was 20-of-23 (87.0 percent) with long of 52 as senior. Won the New Orleans Bowl with a 50-yarder as time expired to cap a junior year in which he went 18-of-20. A capable punter, too.

6. Jeremy Shelley, Alabama (5-10): Hit 11-of-11 as senior with long of just 38. In one of Zauner's camps, he won a kicking competition by going 12-for-12 up to 60 yards.

7. Anthony Cantele, Kansas State (5-10): Converted 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) as senior with long of 42. Did hit from 54 as junior. He doesn't have a strong leg but is extremely accurate.

8. Zach Brown, Portland State (6-0): Hit 24-of-27 in 2011 and had six career makes from 50-plus. Was 4-of-7 this year before knee injury.

9. Dan Conroy, Michigan State (5-10): Hit 23-of-32 (71.9 percent) as senior, including 3-of-3 from 50. Hit from 60 at pro day.

10. Matt Weller, Ohio (6-0): Hit 23-of-31 (74.2 percent) as senior, with long of 49. Just 7-of-12 between 30 and 39 yards.

Not listed is Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp, who is considered a punter by most talent evaluators. However, he's a quality kicker and led the NCAA in touchbacks. Another option is John Potter, a seventh-round pick by Buffalo in 2012. He spent part of the season as the Bills' kickoff specialist but was released due to a sports hernia.

Don't get caught up in leg strength, Zauner said. He called punter Tim Masthay a potential "secret weapon" on kickoffs to fill that void, if necessary. "I guarantee you he can kickoff," Zauner said. Don't get caught up in accuracy, either. As Zauner pointed out, Minnesota's Blair Walsh went 21-of-35 as a senior but went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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