Usually, the NFL Draft is for a lot of skill players and basically no one else. There are some tackles and other offensive linemen in there too; a few even go first overall. But rarely, if ever, are there any special team players in the draft even though the Oakland Raiders did take Sebastian Janikowski in the first round back in 2000. However, no one has taken a kicker that high before or since. Only Roberto Aguayo has even come close, and he was in the second round. So when the Cleveland Browns used a seventh-round pick on Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, some fans raised an eyebrow. But have no fear, Dawg Pound. That eyebrow should be one of intrigue, not of worry.
Going In-Zane: The Cleveland Browns and Zane Gonzalez
Starting Him Early
In 2013, Gonzalez signed with Arizona State Sun Devils. In addition to majoring in communication, Gonzalez also kicked for ASU from 2013-2016. As a freshman, Gonzalez played every single game and made 25 non-PAT field goals. Speaking of PATs, Gonzalez made good on all 68 of them throughout the season. At the end of the season, Gonzalez earned All-Pac 12 honors for his kicking abilities. At that point, the seeds of the Zane Gonzalez college legend were sown.
Becoming “The In-Zane One”
As a sophomore, Gonzalez’s stellar work continued. In his second-year campaign, he went 81.5 percent on field goals, a slight drop from his inaugural season. As a junior, Gonzalez was a slight bit pedestrian (compared to his other work). He converted 26 of his 34 field goals at a 76.5 percent mark. But just when teams thought that they had him figured out, Gonzalez exploded during his final year as a Sun Devil.
During his senior campaign, Gonzalez made sure that every NFL kicking scout knew his name. Going 23 of 25 on field goals (95%) and missing only one PAT on the season, Gonzalez truly went…in-Zane. By the end of the season, Gonzalez held a plethora of NCAA records, and he won the 2016 Lou Groza Award for his outstanding kicking abilities. When he declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, Gonzalez had collected the all-time record for NCAA field goals with 96. Perhaps most amazing, Gonzalez holds the record for most 50-yard field goals made in a college game with three, including an amazing 59-yarder against Colorado. If that’s not a testament to his tremendous leg accuracy and strength, I’m not exactly sure what is.
Was He Worth The Pick?
All things considered, is this really even a question? In case you still have your doubts, let’s weigh the pros and cons. First off, Zane Gonzalez is an incredible college talent in his own right. Could he have been there as an undrafted free agent? Well, sure. However, it’s not very often that a kicker with the potential to become like Justin Tucker comes around. Hue Jackson saw the opportunity to take the “sure thing” now in Gonzalez, rather than worry about the kicker situation later. Speaking of that situation, Gonzalez is an immediate improvement to the special teams room. Not only is he as good as Cody Parkey, but he will likely start over him come week one of the season. All told, Gonzalez is an incredible talent with crazy potential. By the time this season rolls around, he should be driving the fans at FirstEnergy Stadium…totally in-Zane.