Justin Manton is being considered for both roles by NFL teams, even though the “jury is out” on whether he will emerge as a placekicker or punter. He is one of those rare kickers who made the watch lists for both the Lou Groza Award (top placekicker) and Ray Guy Award (top punter), but did not finish in the running for either.
Manton has good definition in his calves, along with a strong torso and lower body. He’s become a clutch kicker, one who is confident kicking from either hash mark. He shows strong hip snap, but there are times where he violently attacks the ball and needs to be more consistent in his approach and movement.
Last season, his punting average was 1.22-1.24 with his get-off time with a hang time generally in the 4.3-second range, but it improved significantly (4.6 second) when trying to pin his opponent inside the 20-yard line. He’s not much of a distance kicker and I feel that he will not fare well as a placekicker as a result. His kickoffs also seem to be too inconsistent, with his junior campaign providing the only true value there.
Where most of Manton’s inconsistencies lie is that he is not able to get quick elevation on field goals (eight blocks and made just 7-of-16 attempts past the 40-yard line), an area in which he must improve in the NFL. He does not have the booming leg to make 55- to 60-yard kicks or send kickoffs into the end zone with regularity. He has been the regular kickoff specialist since his freshman year, but has had 140-of-231 attempts returned.
Rarely are NFL players called upon to handle all kicking chores and while he’s had better success as a punter, he does have inconsistent hang-time and punt depth. He will back-step with his right foot or add a full step after receiving the snap, leading to longer (1.25-1.35 second) touch-to-toe time. While he is average when punting directionally, he is better pinning opponents when kicking from his 40 than from the other side of mid-field. He can get a hand on a returner if needed, but lacks the strength to bring him down.
There are times when Manton is technically sound and can consistently put the ball through the uprights. He does not have to strain or over-kick to make long field goals, but just lacks any sort of accuracy in this area. He will never show that leg strength off as a kickoff specialist and he could be a roster hindrance if unable to perform those duties in the NFL.
The bottom line is, that while Manton had a solid senior season and made some big kicks when they mattered most, his struggles on kickoffs and field goals in the past are a concern, however. Look for him to be drafted by a team that has open competition at placekicker, kickoff specialist and punter as see if he can emerge as a handler for one of those duties.
Justin Manton Scouting Combine measurables
32 1/2-inch arm length
8 3/4-inch hands
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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