Nine specialists took to the playing surface in Indianapolis to show their skills at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, including Anthony Fera of the Texas Longhorns. Prior to the Scouting Combine, Fera competed at the East-West Shrine Game (St. Petersburg, FL) and Senior Bowl (Mobile, AL).
Fera played his first two seasons of eligibility at Penn State before transferring to Texas to kick and punt. The leg strength to play in the pros is there, as he has adequate kicking ability to play at the next level. NFL teams are always in the market for specialists that can reliably put the ball between the uprights, which was Fera’ calling card at Texas. Every football coach in America would judge a kicker on a single criteria: do I trust him? Trust is unscientific, and a pass/fail in that category that is granted by a coach as much as it is earned by a player. Both the player and coach know that the kicker is the single most replaceable player on the entire roster (even the punter typically has holding duties), and the single most critical part of their performance is graded incredibly subjectively. Being a kicker in the NFL can be a tough career.
Not every aspect of a kicker’s job will be graded subjectively. NFL teams grade their kickers on objective criteria when it comes to the kickoff. Based on the playcall, there are standardized baselines that kickers or punters must achieve, or they will be downgraded. Fera’s biggest weakness is his kickoff distance. He doesn’t drive the football and does not show an exceptional ability to place it. This is where talent evaluators will dock him points. Team executives and evaluators are not coaches, and will be looking for the players with the most ability. They will look at Fera’s field goal percentage (90.9%) from the 2013 season as a positive, but will punish him for overall leg strength.
Fera was also an accomplished punter for Texas, featuring the same weaknesses as on kickoffs. This versatility is something coaches will consider when pairing down a roster in the fall to the final 53, but when evaluators are in charge in the spring, it is harder to get noticed for doing more. It’s much easier to be exceptional this time of year than to be balanced.
Think about Justin Tucker when he was at the combine two years ago. He had a more exceptional skill set, and ended up being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. He has won the Super Bowl and been to a Pro Bowl in just two years in the league.
Anthony Fera is a fringe roster player in the NFL who is not likely to get drafted, but he might be the top kicker in the class (the punters are stronger than the kickers this year). Regardless, he will be in camp with an NFL team, and his value to his team will be higher when he is on a roster than it is now before the draft.