LINCOLN — Rob Roche's personal opinion is that Brett Maher will go somewhere in the late rounds of the NFL draft — that his strong leg, good workouts and high ceiling will entice somebody or other next weekend.
But the New Jersey-based agent said the future of the former Nebraska kicker is hardly riding on it, and uses one of his own clients to make that point.
Justin Tucker watched seven rounds go by last year without one NFL team wanting to waste a pick on him. The former University of Texas kicker settled for signing later with Baltimore, and went on to make 30 of 33 field goals and have a playoff game-winner as the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
“I kind of expected him to go free agent last year, and we knew where he wanted to go,” said Roche, head of RSR Sports Management. “It worked out perfectly because we got him where he wanted to be.”
Roche said it's never easy to forecast how many kickers will get drafted, and this year is no different.
Four were picked last April, and this class has the depth and potential to be about the same. But only one kicker was drafted in 2011 — Nebraska's Alex Henery by Philadelphia in the fourth round — and none the year before.
Overall, 22 kickers have been selected in the last 10 drafts. But half of the NFL's 32 teams haven't taken one in that time.
That's where the guessing game comes into play for Maher, the two-time All-Big Ten kicker who followed Henery at NU.
“There are teams that obviously you can tell (might draft a kicker) based upon their performance of last year,” Roche said. “But there's always that one or two teams that you don't think about sometimes that will make a switch.”
NFLDraftScout.com and DraftCountdown.com have Maher ranked behind Dustin Hopkins of Florida State and Caleb Sturgis of Florida with the seven-round, three-day draft starting Thursday. NFLDraftScout.com has Maher and the three kickers ranked just below him projected as either seventh-round picks or free-agent signees.
“I do believe, based on how he's worked out, that he gets drafted,” Roche said.
Roche said a handful of teams have visited Lincoln in recent weeks to work out Maher. Those have gone well, and come on the heels of Maher being at the NFL Combine in February and kicking a 60-yard field goal during NU's pro day last month.
“We've had some good workouts with teams that will be drafting guys,” Roche said. “We're not going to say who, but teams that we probably think are going to draft a guy.”
Two other things Roche likes about Maher is that he's the only one of the top three prospects who has kicked in bad weather and the only one who handled both the place-kicking and punting duties for his college team.
Maher had 243 leg swings last season with field goals (27), extra points (59), kickoffs (96) and punts (61). At the NFL level, the experience as a punter will only be a bonus to some team.
“You let that kid focus on just field goals and kickoffs, you're going to have another Justin Tucker, another top guy in the league,” Roche said.
Roche also said it can't hurt that several former Nebraska kickers (Henery, Josh Brown, Kris Brown) and punters (Sam Koch, Kyle Larson) have had success in the NFL in recent years. Roche also represents Josh Brown and had Larson as a client.
However it works, Roche feels good that Maher will make the most of whatever chance he gets.
“He's a gamer,” Roche said. “He's a cool customer.”
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