New Lions punter Sam Martin could give leg up to kicking game
3:14 AM, May 7, 2013
By Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press Sports Writer
The Lions took punter Sam Martin in the fifth round of last month’s draft with the expectation that he’ll steady what has arguably been their most unsettled position the last few years.
Though most of the league’s top punters were drafted coming out of college, recent history suggests that drafting a specialist is no guarantee of present or future success.
NFL teams selected 10 punters in Rounds 3-7 of the five drafts before this year. Some, such as Thomas Morstead and Bryan Anger, have been among the best in the league. Others, such as Durant Brooks (2008) and Brent Bowden (2010), had brief, forgettable careers.
Morstead, fellow 2009 picks Kevin Huber of Cincinnati and Pat McAfee of Indianapolis, Atlanta’s Matt Bosher (2011) and Anger, a third-round pick by Jacksonville last year (when Lions special-teams coach John Bonamego was in the same position with the Jaguars), all ranked in the top half of the league in net punting last year.
But so did Britton Colquitt, Brett Kern and Chris Jones, three players who got their start as undrafted free agents in the last five years.
Anger and Carolina’s Brad Nortman, the two punters drafted last year, had different results as rookies. Anger tied for seventh with a 40.8-yard net average; Nortman tied for 33rd with a 36.5-yard net, about a yard less than Nick Harris, the punter the Lions opted not to retain.
Martin, who was drafted 10 picks after the Vikings took Jeff Locke, is a former soccer player who picked up punting for the first time four years ago.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz cautioned after the draft, “Let’s not turn him into Ray Guy yet,” but the organization is high on his future.
“If you look across the league, guys that gross near 50 yards are becoming more and more common,” Schwartz said. “Jacksonville drafted their kid last year, (and he finished seventh in) the NFL in gross punting. They drafted him in the third round. That live leg was important for them. They didn’t win very many games, but for what they were doing he went in, was able to do it right away.
“So a live leg is important. He’s young. He was a soccer player before. He’s got placekicking experience and punting experience. But we’re going to see him as a punter. Good athlete, all-around guy, and that’s important for a punter, too, with some of the stuff you ask him to do like holding and stuff like that. ... We’re excited about him.”
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