By Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills shouldn't have to worry about their place-kicking duties for the next several years, former NFL kicker Michael Husted said.
The Bills used a sixth-round draft choice on Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins. Husted, a coach and consultant who specializes in grooming young kickers, shared his thoughts on the move with the Press Coverage blog.
Husted kicked for nine seasons in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs. He now runs Husted Kicking, which offers performance and recruiting consultation and operates youth camps for aspiring kickers and punters.
What were your thoughts on Buffalo drafting Dustin Hopkins?
Michael Husted: "I was really impressed with his college career at Florida State. Everybody knew that he and Caleb Sturgis out of Florida would be the two guys that would most likely be drafted. I didn't really know where exactly. There were rumors the 49ers would draft a young guy to groom for the future even though they signed Phil Dawson. I think if [Hopkins] would have been around in the seventh round they would have done that.
"But I think that Buffalo is not a surprise. Lindell has had a great career there, but you've got a totally new coaching staff. Some people might say, 'They're looking at rebuilding for the future.' Lindell might be considered in the twilight of his career, and it's time to get a young to come in and grow with the team and system. Dustin's got a real strong leg, so he should be able to manage the conditions in Buffalo."
What does this mean for Rian Lindell?
MH: "It's going to be a wide-open opportunity. You've always got to look at the salary-cap number. He's going to have a high cap figure compared to Dustin. That's going to be taken into consideration. I think it's going to be a challenge for Lindell. The Bills aren't going to waste a sixth-round pick just to take a look at a guy. Dustin's going to have a legitimate shot to compete and earn a spot with the team."
What is it about Hopkins that set himself apart from the other kickers in this year's draft class?
MH: "You look at his percentage. I think he was just really, really consistent throughout is career. When you have a guy with a really strong leg and who can be consistent like him, they're not a dime a dozen. You get a lot of guys with maybe a strong leg but not a good percentage, but teams are going to take a look at those guys because of the big leg. But Dustin brings a lot to the table. From what I understand he's a big character guy, a good locker-room guy, a hard worker.
"You have to look at all those variables and, especially in a kicker, have someone who's going to fit into the system and get along with everybody and do his job when it's time."
Hopkins told reporters Saturday he hasn't really kicked in cold weather before. What kind of transition will it be for him to kick for Buffalo?
MH: "I don't think the cold is as significant as the wind. The ball's not going to travel as far in cold weather, but if you make good contact and have good technique, that's going to get the job done. Realistically, it's only in the last quarter of the season where you start getting that cold weather. I don't see that being a big issue for Dustin."
What, if anything, concerns you about Hopkins?
MH: "Nothing that I've seen or read. I don't want to take anything away from Rian Lindell, but if you look at it from a business perspective, you're looking toward the future, and Dustin's an excellent kicker. I think it's a good pick by the Bills."
What must a successful college kicker concern himself with when trying to become a successful NFL kicker?
MH: "They can't over-think it. They don't want to overanalyze anything. I think a lot of times the pressure and the expectations get to people too much. He should just approach it like, 'I'm just going to do what I've been doing the last four years in college, and then I should be fine.'
"He's kicked at Florida State, so it's not like he hasn't kicked in front of big crowds. He's kicked in the Swamp. He's been in big games. I think it's all what these guys put upon themselves that makes the difference, and I think he has a really level head. He'll be fine.
"You look at a team like the Vikings that drafted Blair Walsh last year even though they had Ryan Longwell, who had been phenomenally accurate for them. But they just felt like it was time to make a change in that position. With the success of Blair Walsh last year, I think you have some other teams that say, 'Well, they did it. Maybe it's time for a changing of our guard and know that we have that position set for the next several years.' "
tagged2013 draft | Dustin Hopkins | Rian Lindell