Could San Francisco 49ers Draft Choice Bring a Change to the Kicking Game?


The San Francisco 49ers have been seen as innovators in recent history. Bill Walsh‘s influence on the offensive side of the ball and the family tree of coaches who went on to do great things is well-known. The year prior to the salary cap, the team used a great amount of creativity to make sure the team on the field and the team of the future would be competitive, which leads to another possible “innovation”: the extra roster spot.

Huh? You may ask. Of course the 49ers aren’t going to go to Roger Goodell and ask for an additional spot on the team. But the drafting of Bradley Pinion may signal a change in the kicking game. The hybrid kicker.

Drafted as a punter, Pinion stands 6′ 5″ and weighs 229 pounds. He was taken in the fifth round, which is considered early for most prospects in the kicking game. Most importantly, he not only handled punts at Clemson, but he also was the kick-off specialist.

The techniques used in kicking as opposed to punting are obviously different. Most punters are the emergency kickers and vice-versa, but teams always work out replacement kickers or punters if there is an injury to their own. So what would happen if a punter were able to kick-off and also handle field goals? The aforementioned extra roster spot.

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The negative would be that the kicking jobs would dwindle. But isn’t the game trying to discourage kicking it through the uprights anyway? They just moved back the extra point, so you never know what changes are in store for the future. But the possibility of having an extra linebacker, wide receiver, or maybe another running back, just seems ideal.

Phil Dawson is a very reliable kicker, just as Andy Lee was in the punting game. This year will most likely see Dawson handling all extra points and field goals. Being able to rest on kick-offs will likely help him stay healthy throughout the year. But if Pinion can show a strong and accurate leg, perhaps the future will see him handling both duties and giving the team more flexibility.

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49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses
49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses /

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  • So what happens if he gets hurt? Good question. Maybe you find a second or third string quarterback who can also handle emergency kicking duties. Many players in the NFL have experience playing different positions whether in high school or college. The 49ers themselves have drafted several wide receivers that were former quarterbacks. They even picked up a former quarterback this year, Blake Bell, who was drafted as a tight end.  He may serve as the third-string quarterback this year if another isn’t signed.

    There have been many players utilized on the both sides of the ball in recent years. The 49ers have often sent out defensive lineman to serve as lead blockers on offense. Several players do double duty while performing on special teams as well as their normal position. Isn’t it time to push a strong leg to perform both kicking duties?

    It’s possible that the hybrid kicker will never be a permanent solution for an NFL team. But if the 49ers have him practice kicking it through the uprights, they could be seen, yet again, as an innovator in the game of football.

    Next: Will Carlos Hyde Emerge as a Star?