K Nate Freese (Boston College) - Round 7, Pick No. 229
The Lions closed out their 2014 NFL Draft class by filling a need at kicker. Following the retirement of Jason Hanson last year, David Akers was tabbed as his replacement, but that experiment lasted only one season. With the Lions again in need of a replacement at the position, they decided to go ahead and spend a draft pick on Boston College kicker Nate Freese in the seventh round.
Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 192 pounds
2010: 22/25 FG (long of 49), 24/25 XP
2011: 10/16 FG (long of 52), 26/27 XP
2012: 18/20 FG (long of 45), 24/24 XP, 6 punts, 33.0 avg. (long of 43)
2013: 20/20 FG (long of 52), 40/41 XP, 75 punts, 41.7 avg. (long of 67)
As Boston College's kicker for four years, Freese set the school record for career field goals (70). He also set the school record for career points (324).
What the experts are saying
Freese finished his career 70 out of 81 on field goals, and he went 20-for-20 on the season. The media voted him as a First Team All-ACC selection, while the coaches voted him Second Team All-ACC. He was a perfect 6-for-6 on kicks from 40 yards out or more, and he successfully kicked both field goal attempts at home in November from that yardage. That's key for kickers who can adapt to cold weather. The only extra point he missed was against Maryland, but that was blocked so the blame can't be placed on the kicker. His career field goal percentage is the best in the ACC since 2000, and he ranks seventh best in the nation over that same time period.
Lean, small-framed, quick-footed placekicker served as a jack-of-all-trades in college and possesses enough leg talent to compete for a job.
STRENGTHS: Highly accurate kicker who also handled kickoff and punting duties as a senior. Finished sixth in the FBS in 2013 with an average of 64.16 yards per kickoff, and was fifth with 51 touchbacks. Provides versatility as an emergency option at punter.
WEAKNESSES: Small (5-11, 192) and will bring very little as a last line of defense. Will need to prove leg strength from 50+ to stand out in an NFL camp. Rugby-style punter.
Freese is coming off a breakout season as he connected on all 20 of his field goal attempts last year and improved on his kickoffs. That fact that he took over the punting duties and did an adequate job in that role makes last year's performance that much more impressive.
Outlook for 2014
Freese will compete with Giorgio Tavecchio for the Lions' starting kicker job in training camp. Either player could earn the starting job, but Freese is definitely the favorite right now considering the Lions liked him enough to spend a draft pick on him. If he wins the competition, Freese will become the Lions' starting kicker, and he could serve as the kickoff specialist as well.