There has been one question that I've been wondering since the NFL draft. I've been busy and haven't really been able to look to find an answer to this question. I was wondering if anyone else happened to know:
How much risk is there in drafting a kicker in the NFL?
Obviously this question relates the drafting of Henery and whether he was worth a 4th round pick (excluding the whole Akers factor). Some people believe that the 4th round is fundamentally too early to take kicker - even one projected to be the best. To me, it seems like 5th is the ideal time to take a top kicker, but I have no evidence to back this up.
By the 4th and 5th rounds, teams begin to draft higher risk players, especially injury-riddled players (see: Ingram, Cornelius). Teams can expect that there will be busts in these rounds but hope they find talent in this. Thus, I feel that if there is little risk with a kicker and he is known to be a top kicker, it is not inappropriate to draft a kicker at this time.
So again, what is the risk with Henery? I'm not trying to make an argument, but would really like to know the success rates of high rating kicking prospects. I know the last kicker taken early was Janokowski, whose done well in his career. Obviously, Nugent is the standard of kicking busts- taken in the 2nd round and underachieved. I haven't really followed Nugent but it seems that this is mostly the fact that he almost certainly could not live up to a 2nd round pick. He missed a couple big playoff kicks but is still in the NFL.
Why don't kickers pan out in the NFL? Is it mostly character issues- guys who get big contracts and stop working on their game? There are psychological factors where kickers who are even good in the NFL lose confidence and lose their game. I don't want to discount kicking- its a difficult task but it should be easy to scout. We've seen Henery outside at all ranges. He can put a football between the goal posts. In the NFL its the same ball, same field (some hash mark differences...), same goal posts. Henery doesn't have to learn complex schemes or plays and doesn't really have to deal with the changing speed of the game (except by kicking it quick enough and over blockers). The Eagles have also seen him clutch situations nailing kicks. (He hasn't handled kickoffs but I'm not too worried about him picking that up).
So, does anyone know how kickers drafted in the early rounds have fared in the NFL compared to later round kickers? Are there any other instances of "busts" where a high prospect could not perform well in the NFL?