Many football diehards and statisticians who track the game closely will tell you the importance of a great punter on the game. And while I and most NFL teams would agree that a great punter can have a major influence on the game, most would agree that punters can generally be found anywhere, even outside of the NFL Draft.
However, it what is a rare case that hasn’t been seen in 20 years, we’ll have an expected specialist in this 2013 NFL Draft, as according to Glenn Guilbeau, redshirt sophomore Brad Wing has declared for the Draft.
The last punter to declare early for the NFL Draft was Chris Gardocki in 1991, who was drafted in the 3rd round by the Chicago Bears, played on four NFL teams, and holds the record for most punts without being blocked, with 1,177 punts (his entire career) being the number. He was replaced by the Steelers in 2006 by Daniel Sepulveda.
The 6’3 Australian-born punter Brad Wing has been a dominating force for the LSU team, whether common SEC fans have realized or not. His two season average of 44.6 yards per punt, but even more impressively, he’s had five punts in 2012 alone over 60 yards, including a 69 yard bomb against Arkansas. He also had three 60+ bombs in 2011, including a 73 yard boot in the team’s overtime victory against Alabama in 2011.
Wing has been touted as a future NFL high drafted punter since midway through his freshman season. He has fantastic leg strength, gets fantastic hang time if he’d like, and has been direction with his punts than most strong-legged punters. He’s looked the part of an NFLer since he began punting in LSU.
He’s had his fair share of off the field incidents, including one that has him suspended for the team’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl (a violation of team rules). But we’ve seen Sebastian Janikowski on the Police Blotter multiple times, and it hasn’t impacted his play with the Raiders.
In terms of where the declared Wing could go on draft day, I wouldn’t rule any place out. We’ve seen eight punters/kickers go Top 100 since 1999: Martin and Bill Gramatica, Sebastian Janikowski, Nate Kaeding, Mike Nugent, Bryan Anger, Dustin Colquitt, and BJ Sander.
Wing is a superior punting prospect to Bryan Anger, who went 70th overall to the Jaguars last year. We saw Mike Nugent (who has since been a “bust”) go in the middle of the second round when he was drafted.
If I had to guess, I’d say to expect Wing to come off the board no later than the end of the 4th round, and maybe as high as the mid second. He’s a special punter prospect who teams that feel they don’t have many glaring needs will see Wing as a fantastic value.
It’s not every day you find a punter who can completely swing a game in your favor the way Wing can, and though many fans will mock the team that drafts Brad Wing in the Top 100, they’ll find that playing against Wing will mean substantially longer drives and a frustrating effort to score points.