Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bengals Draft Local Punter; This Makes Them Stupid

Allow me to go back in time to April 26, 2009, day two of the NFL draft. And allow me to paraphrase a guy wearing a fancy suit:

"With the sixth pick of the fifth round, the Cincinnati Bengals select Kevin Huber, punter, University of Cincinnati."

The world barely noticed. It was understandable. It had all the ingredients of Who Cares: A team nobody cares about, selecting a mammal who plays a position nobody knows about, drafted in a round that is generally insignificant.

Typically this would've been insignificant with casual (and probably some diehard) Bengals fans, as well.

But Kevin Huber played collegiate football in this city. He was a Bearcat. And the Bearcats were good last year. So everybody is convinced it was a great pick (or at least a wise move).

Let me tell you, it's a lousy move. And I think I'd have a better chance of convincing you had Huber gone to Utah or Michigan State or anywhere else on this goddamn planet besides UC. But, still, allow me to try...

The Bengals' punter for the last couple of seasons was a human being named Kyle Larson. He wasn't particularly good; in fact, he was subpar. But in all his subpar-ness, I'm almost certain his ability to kick (and accurately place) an oblong object was never the determining factor in a Bengals loss (or win). Translation: Superstar punter or not, the Bengals would've stunk up the joint in '07 and '08.

Two things before continuing:

1. Punting is important. I know this. I may be an idiot -- I received a D+ in 4th grade social studies -- but I'm an expert on the subject of punting. I even have a "Punt Like Ray Guy" instructional video tape in my VCR (not true)! Anyway, I'm not discrediting the import of punting and/or special teams. I need you to believe me. Really, I do. Punting is important. Okay? Okay.

2. Larson needed to be replaced. There are 32 punters in the entire league, and teams cannot put up with lousy kicking year in and year out.

Let's focus on No. 2 for a second.

Yes, Larson needed to be replaced. Everybody agrees. But that's also when people start lying.

Whenever I voice my displeasure over the Kevin Huber selection (which is often, for some reason), Bengals fans always respond by telling me it was a smart move, and that they needed an upgrade at punter. What they really mean is, "Huber went to UC, and I want him to cheer for the hometown guy."

Admit it, you justified the Huber selection solely because he played at the local university. Because really, if you open your eyes, it was a bone-headed decision orchestrated by the folks who have perfected bone-headed decisions.

And why do I say these things about a guy who might end up having a spectacular career?



The Bengals needed a punter this offseason, but "punter" was not one of their "needs," if that makes any sense. Facts: (a.) The Bengals have holes everywhere; (b.) Punters are a dime-a-dozen.

Without looking, I'm going to guess Kyle Larson averaged around 40 yards per punt last season; I'll assume this placed him among the five or ten worst in the league. I'm also going to guess that the gentleman who finished No. 5 overall in punting averaged something like 44 yards per punt. See what I'm saying?

One guy is considered great, while the other is a bum. But the difference between the two isn't jaw-dropping. Hell, it's damn near negligible (depending on your definition of negligible, of course).

The great teams wouldn't necessarily take a hit in the Win column with Larson around, just as a lousy team wouldn't receive an enormous boost from a perennial Pro Bowler. It's a nice asset -- especially in the postseason -- but it's still just a punter.

So, while I agree that Larson had to go...and I agree that Huber will (probably) provide a marginal upgrade...I can't stop thinking the Bengals wasted a pick. Wasted. It's not that Huber won't be serviceable (or even better than decent), it's that the Bengals could've found a similarly talented punter in the college free agency pool.

And with that fifth round pick the Bengals could've drafted an unknown black from a tiny Division II school -- a low-risk-high-reward roll of the dice. We sit it every year. This black would've had a lot to prove. But he had the potential. He could run fast and hit hard (or make people miss, or whatever). And this black, albeit a project, could've turned into a true difference maker (even though he would probably get cut in training camp).

In other words: I'd rather take a position player with a slim chance of becoming special, as opposed to a punter who will almost certainly be average (and replaceable).

Punters are like women: Find yourself a decent one and go about your life. And if you stumble upon a great one, even better. But it's rarely an intelligent decision to spend too much time searching for one.

-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)


Matt said...

While I normally agree with you on everything I think you are not giving enough credit to the importance of a punter. You can't go just off of yards/punt. Huber was the best punter in the nation last year because of his ability to pin teams deep which significantly limits their offensive plan and gives our defense a huge advantage. Personally I think specialties are drafted too late in the NFL.

But then again I'm not a GM (or owner pretending to be a GM), and I'm a Bearcats fan, so my view is uninformed and biased.

Twin Killing dot Com said...


I'm sure Huber will be a fine player. But will be an elite NFL punter? Probably not. He'll likely be league average, which is fine. But you can always find a league-average punter.

I'd rather have seen them snag James Casey or Cornelius Ingram, two excellent pass-catching tight ends. Sure, they drafted Chase Coffman, but why not (try to) sure up the position? The Pats did this a few years ago when they drafted David Thomas and Garrett Mills in early rounds despite already having Ben Watson and Daniel Graham on the roster. The Bengals are an offensive team, and Palmer can always use weapons.

Or why not find a raw pass-rushing specialist? The Bengals just have too many holes too spend a fifth round pick on a punter.

Anyway, fella, drop me an email... Brad@TwinKilling.com