When Michael Dickson and JK Scott came off the board, with the latter the pick before, the Oakland Raiders seemingly had no avenue left for punter in the NFL Draft. Yet, while the Packers were in the process of selecting Scott at 172 overall, the Silver & Black were on the phone with the specialist they wanted — Florida’s Johnny Townsend.
“Hey Johnny, you want to be a Raider?” head coach Jon Gruden asked the punter as the team prepped to select him 173rd overall. “We need a punter and I know (special teams coach) Rich Bisaccia came down there and worked you out. You are going to be a great Raider.
“Is it okay for you to come across the country or are you gonna get home sick?”
After a brief conversation with general manager Reggie McKenzie, Townsend is equally as fired up as Gruden.
“I’m ready to go to work and I’m very excited about what we’re going to do,” Townsend said.
The nation’s leader in gross-punting average (47.5 and 47.9) the last two seasons, the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder exhibits a similar powerful leg his drafted counterparts have. However, unlike Dickson or Scott (who placed over 50 percent of their boots inside the opponent’s 20), Townsend dropped only 42 percent in the same territory.
More of boomer than a placement tactician, Townsend relying on his powerful leg boasts eye-opening gross. However, his penchant for over-kicking his coverage units and lack of hang time allow for return yardage and a porous net average. A punt that travels over 50 yards is useless when they are no gunners in sight to impede a returns progress.
Yet, Townsend lands in favorable circumstances in Oakland. The resident punter remained undrafted rookie Colby Wadman until last Saturday. They will on an equal playing field. Moreover, Raiders special teams boss Rich Bisaccia is adept at directing both a sound kick squad and coverage units. A big leg cannot be taught, but hang time and technical skills can.
Oh and here’s the kicker (pun intended. The Raiders also reportedly inked Florida big-legged kicker Eddy Pineiro as an UDFA. Why is that important? Townsend held Pinero’s kicks. That is a definite leg up in the special teams competition