The luxury of having an automatic kicker at the collegiate and NFL ranks can elevate a team to the next level.
As the player that usually holds the most points scored come the season's close, it is vital to have a talented and accurate leg on your roster, given their propensity to make game-changing or game-deciding plays.
Looking to turn around their kicking room next season — ranked 21st in field goal percentage last season at 79.4 percent in 2020 — the Cincinnati Bengals chose to select Florida Gators placekicker Evan McPherson with the 149th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Does McPherson have what it takes to turn around the inconsistency of the Bengals field goal unit?
From the early-to-mid-2010s, the Florida Gators struggled heavily to knock through field goals on a consistent basis. Playing into heartbreaking losses and growing unrest within the fan base, the kicking game plagued an already stagnant scoring offense for UF.
Turning over a new leaf when Eddy Piñeiro stepped into the mix, Florida has found their widths about them in that department. Continued by McPherson from 2018 to 2020, the Gators have had little worries about missing opportunities in scoring position.
As the epitome of consistency during his time at Florida, McPherson knocked through 85 percent of his field goals in his career and made all but one of his 150 attempted extra points. Kicking with great technique on a leg swing that packs explosiveness at the contact point, McPherson was a legitimate weapon for Dan Mullen’s squad when the offense stalled.
Despite struggling in 2020 down the stretch of the season, the Fort Payne (Ala.) native displayed an automatic nature inside 40 yards, connecting on all 11 kicks from that range.
While his accuracy began to taper off as he approached the high-40s in yardage, McPherson consistently showed his leg was powerful enough to connect from that distance. In fact, in the season opener against Ole Miss, McPherson punched a ball through from 55 yards out to give the Gators a 38-21 lead.
Criticized for his lack of experience kicking in the clutch, McPherson rarely had the opportunity to showcase his ability to hit wall-offs to seal a Gators victory. In the one game he did have that opportunity, McPherson hooked a 51-yard attempt just left of the upright as time expired.
Bouncing back with a stellar pro day performance in March that showcased his impeccable skillset by knocking through 21 of his 22 attempts on the day, including a 60-plus yarder.
As a result, Cincinnati was impressed to a point that special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons used his influence on the draft process to persuade the Bengals to take McPherson in the fifth round, making McPherson the first and only kicker taken in the draft.
Looking to add competition besides last year's incumbent Austin Seibert — following the loss of Randy Bullock — the Bengals expect McPherson to win the job for next season given the capital they expended to bring him in.
The re-acclamation from college to the pro game may be one that takes some time for McPherson in the early portions of camp, but the luxury (or lack thereof) of having to kick in the elements every practice — as Cincinnati does not have an indoor practice facility — could pay dividends for his progression.
All in all, Bengals fans are likely to grow accustomed to hearing McPherson’s name next season as the unrivaled leader of the field goal kicking department.