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2018 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 5 Specialists

Daniel Carlson

Daniel Carlson

The 2018 NFL Draft is set for April 26-28, so you still have time to get ready with the Athlon Sports 2018 Draft Guide. With 526 players ranked and needs outlined for every NFL team, it has everything you need.

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Here’s a sneak peek at our top three specialists in this year's NFL Draft:

1. Michael Dickson (P)


STRONG POINTS: An Aussie import and reigning Ray Guy Award winner as college football’s best punter, Dickson declared for the draft after finishing his UT career on a high note — a Texas Bowl MVP performance in which he pinned Missouri inside the 20 on 10 of his 11 punts. He’s long, athletic and a technician when it comes to his drops; mishits were few and far between over his three seasons. He has the ability to hit for hang time but more often goes for length, consistently flipping the field. His approach is quick and efficient; he never had a punt blocked in college.

WEAK POINTS: He’s still coming along as a directional kicker, as Dickson is more about distance than direction at this point. He did not handle kickoff duties at Texas and is unproven in that capacity.

SUMMARY: He’s one of the better punting prospects to come out in recent years. Still relatively new to the craft, he has some upside left, plus the natural talent to be among the top half of the league’s punters.

FINAL GRADE: 4th/5th round

2. JK Scott (P)

COLLEGE: Alabama

STRONG POINTS: Scott (above, right) is a long-lever punter who is capable of flipping the field with distance but takes a more nuanced approach. He booms high, unreturnable punts, forcing fair catches and going for net rather than pure distance. He also has a variety of kicks and was the best in college football at pinning opponents deep in their own territory. He had only four touchbacks as a senior. He also handled kickoff duties full time for the first time last season, and he was a solid directional kicker. He held for field goals and showed good hands when adjusting to bad snaps.

WEAK POINTS: He’s far too slow with his approach. He had too many punts blocked, allowing one each of the last three seasons, and that was with superior athletes protecting him.

SUMMARY: He needs to speed up his approach, or he’s not going to survive in the NFL. But if he does, Scott has the leg and the understanding of the craft to stick around for a while.

FINAL GRADE: 5th/6th round

3. Daniel Carlson (K)


Athlon Sports' 2018 NFL Draft magazine delivers 526 player rankings, 224 player capsules, mock drafts, NFL team needs and more. Click here to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

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Carlson is a big kicker with the leg to match. When his swing is right, the ball explodes off his foot. He provided a weapon from deep for Auburn; his 13 field goals of 50-plus yards were six more than any other kicker had over the past four seasons, and he was one of only three kickers to hit better than 60 percent from beyond 50 during that span (minimum eight attempts). He hit 88.6 percent from inside 50 over the past three seasons. He handled kickoffs and typically was able to blast the ball into or through the end zone. 

WEAK POINTS: Carlson is coming off a relatively disappointing senior year (and also missed a short kick in the Senior Bowl), and his size might be working against him as far as repeating his approach and swing. His kickoffs tended to be line drives aimed for distance, while many NFL teams now want their kickoffs to pin opponents and force a return.

SUMMARY: Carlson is capable of getting three points where other kickers can’t, but teams will have to decide whether they can live with some inconsistency.

FINAL GRADE: 6th/7th round