Sam Ficken had a very good season as a field goal specialist, especially from long range, but continued to suffer from low trajectory on his kicks (four blocks in 2014, nine for his career) and prior to 2014, he had made just 6-of-15 attempts from 40 yards or longer. He also line-drived too many of his kickoffs and nothing gets a special teams coordinator to pull his hair out like a bad kickoff artist.
Ficken did manage to set the school season-record for field goals made (24) last season and his 54 three-pointers as a Nittany Lion is second on the school all-time record chart. His 100 points scored in 2014 rank fifth-best by a PSU kicker in a campaign and he closed out fourth overall in school history with 271 points.
Ficken is an athletic kicker, but his ball flight can be painfully low on both his field goals and kickoffs. He has the leg strength to drive the ball well and it jumps off his foot very well, but his hang-times rest between 3.7-3.8 seconds on his kickoffs. He hits a clean ball that rotates slowly on his field goals, but his low trajectory is what is going to be hard for him to correct in time to make an impression in training camp without a total “redo” of his mechanics this off-season.
Ficken’s average field goal snap-to-toe time remains in the high 1.35-to-1.40-second area as a senior, leading to his career-high four blocked kicks on three-point tries. He shows just adequate leg extension and flexibility, but drives the ball with good explosion. He has to realize that in order to succeed at the needs to improve the rise of his placements and the hang time on his kickoffs.
The Nittany Lion proved to be very accurate from either hash on intermediate field goal tries (20-of-23 from under 29 yards and 19-of-26 from 30-to-39 yards). He has enough strength in his legs to power through the longer field goal tries (just not able to get the height quick enough to prevent the block).
Until Ficken can consistently get enough lift on his field goals to reduce the blocks he’s had during his career, his selection on draft day is doubtful. He has enough leg strength, but seems to lack explosion behind his kickoff attempts (averaged 60.97 yards distance, but had four returned for touchdowns and just 66 touchbacks on 197 tries the last three seasons). Even with his slower kick times, he is cool under pressure and is good at blocking out field distractions.
Ficken appears to be capable of lending support on the coverage team, but he needs to do a better job of wrapping, rather than colliding with the returner (seven returners were able to gain at least another ten yards after bouncing off his tackle attempts the last two years). The pop and drive he displays in his kicking approach is just too inconsistent.
Sam Ficken Scouting Combine measurables
31-inch arm length
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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