Ed. note—This is the final installment in a nine-part series previewing the 2006 NFL draft. This story features punters and kickers.
This year's crop of punters and kickers is headed by Colorado punter John Torp. He's one of only three punters who has a chance to be selected in next week's NFL draft. There are no kickers who are likely to be drafted.
Torp, 6-1, 202, Averaged 46 yards per punt the last two seasons. He's very consistent and had four punts of 60 yards or longer last season. Torp can flip the field and was outstanding at this year's Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he was horrible at the scouting combine a few weeks later, and that performance probably took him out of any contention to be a first-day draft pick. He's likely to be selected in the fifth round, at the earliest.
Ryan Plackemeier, 6-3, 249, of Wake Forest averaged 47.2 yards per punt on 67 attempts last season. He has great hang time, terrific distance and was the best punter at the combine. His directional abilities, however, are marginal. He could go as high as the sixth round.
Steve Weatherford, 6-0, 191, also did the kickoff chores for Illinois. He was the highest-rated punter going into last season but saw his stock fall due to a bad senior campaign. He has a lot of ability and nailed a 79-yard punt as a junior. Weatherford averaged 61 yards on kickoffs last season and can knock his punts out of bounds inside the 10 with regularity. He's likely to be signed as a free agent.
Josh Huston, 6-1, 209, replaced Mike Nugent at Ohio State last season, after Nugent was selected by the Jets in the second round of last year's draft. Huston turned in a solid performance in his only season of action. He converted 78.6 percent of his field goal attempts, including five of eight from outside 40 yards. His longest FG was from 47 yards, he had two field goal attempts blocked and averaged 63 yards per kickoff. Huston will be undrafted.
Punter/kicker Sam Paulescu, 5-11, 191, is the sleeper of this year's crop. Paulescu has a big leg and was credited last season for having won several games for Oregon State. He had a long punt of 69 yards as a junior and booted a 57-yard field goal in junior college. Paulescu lacks hang time on his punts and is rough around the edges in both departments. He has upside but he's scatter-legged and can only hope some team will sign him for his jack-of-all-trades quality.