I hate all the mock draft crap that is out there concerning the NFL Draft. If I have to see Mel Kiper Jr's head on ESPN one more time I swear I am going to lose it. Just have the draft, already!
That said, the draft will occur this weekend, and we could see a handful of Boilermakers join Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal as recent selections.
This week I'll try to do a profile on each of the possible Purdue draftees and their chances. It is different from a mock draft, because I am not trying to guess what team is going to do with the 167th pick if the 166th is traded to the Toronto Argonauts in front of them. It is more of a final send off for guys that put in 4-5 years of hard work in West Lafayette.
First up is the only Boilermaker who was invited to the NFL combine; Carson Wiggs.
The Man With The Bionic Leg
To be a kicker invited to the NFL combine you have to be something special. Carson received that invite in February and came to Indianapolis to showcase his skills. No, he was not asked to kick form Monument Circle through the open window at Lucas Oil Stadium, but I think most Purdue fans agree that he might be able to give that a try.
While accuracy was an issue at times, there is no question that Carson had a live leg. He has kicked the five longest field goals in Purdue history, including a record 59-yarder that still hit the back of the net in the 2009 season opener against Toledo. A 67-yarder against a very light rush also found the back of the net in last year's spring game, and it would have broken the NFL record by four yards. Put him in Denver with a wind at his back and 70 yards is a realistic try.
This past season Carson was 39 of 40 on PATs and 19 of 25 on field goals with one block. That moved him to 56 of 76 for his career, and he had a major role in the 2009 upset of No. 7 Ohio State by hitting on four field goals there, including a 55-yarder. His shortest miss was a 31-yarder this year, but that was blocked at Rice in what would have been the game-winner.
Most of his kicking marks are short of only Travis Dorsch in program history, who was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals ten years ago. Dorsch was drafted as a punter, however, and that is a position which could get Wiggs some interest. Wiggs was more consistent than Dorsch was, and he has some other intangibles that may help.
While at Purdue the Boilers converted at least five onside kicks with Wiggs as the kickoff specialist, including two in this year's bowl game against Western Michigan. One of those he even recovered himself.
Wigs had a pretty solid performance at this year's Senior Bowl, even without the Perfect Storm of blogging hero Kevin Ballinger and Cody Webster as his partners in crime:
"Carson has a natural, fluid kick, which made it easy for us to build chemistry quickly," former Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman, the holder on Wiggs' kicks, said. "His ability to focus under pressure really stood out to me. Every opportunity he had to perform in front of scouts, he had the confidence and focus to dominate, which he did."
During the week of practice leading up to Saturday's game, Wiggs also received high praise for his kickoff ability, frequently booting touchbacks five yards deep into the end zone against heavy winds.
"The coaches said they were impressed with my leg strength," Wiggs said. "It's good to work with guys at the next level and get the professional point of view. I learned a lot."
Wiggs was one of the top performers of the Senior Bowl, hitting three field goals from 27, 32, and 28 yards in addition to kicking two extra points in the North team's 23-13 victory. Nortman said Wiggs was one of the top performers during the week of practice leading up to Saturday's game.
Overall, I think you'll hear Carson's name called on the third day in one of the later rounds. He has the leg to be a kickoff specialist that regularly finds the end zone, and in close games his ability to hit from 65 yards cannot be overestimated. Among regular kickers in the NFL last year Dave Rayner, Shaun Suisham, Graham Gano, Josh Brown, and Billy Cundiff struggled the most. The Bills used three kickers, while the Ravens and Chargers each used two.
The Browns are also a possible destination, as they had the fewest touchbacks in the NFL by far with only 10. The Rams had 15, and the Jets had 17. Of course, in the case of the Rams and Browns, you have to actually score to kick off and get touchbacks. The Colts could also be a destination, since Adam Vinatieri is not getting any younger.
Unfortunately, kickers are not often drafted. There are generally only one or two drafted each year, and the jobs are pretty scarce. If he's not drafted, Wiggs will definitely get a look as a free agent somewhere.