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Rams’ approach to new kicker seems much wiser than NFC West foe 49ers’

Do NFL rule changes create a sense of regret for San Francisco?

NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Both the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers were in the market for new kickers ahead of the 2023 season, but the teams diverged in the approach they took during the NFL Draft.

The 49ers, already with limited draft capital after their aggressive trade up for Trey Lance in 2021 and after acquiring RB Christian McCaffrey mid-season last year, spent a third round draft pick on Michigan’s Jake Moody.’s Lance Zierlein wrote in Moody’s scouting report that the young kicker is reliable within 40-yards but struggles with consistency from long range. Zierlein also noted that Moody is adept at kickoffs, though recent NFL rule changes should significantly devalue that skillset at the position. On a one-year trial basis, any fair catch on a kickoff would spot the ball on the 25-yard line similar to a touchback. The NFL cites player safety as the driving force behind the change.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

If San Francisco selected Moody as high as the third round in part because of his kickoff abilities, there’s a good chance they are facing a sense of regret heading into training camp. The 49ers used the 99th overall selection on their new specialist. At picks #77 and #89 Los Angeles chose EDGE Byron Young and iDL Kobie Turner, and both should carve out roles as LA embraces the youth movement on defense. While a top-100 selection would play meaningful snaps on LA’s need-laden roster, it’d much tougher for young players to break through San Francisco’s depth chart.

The Rams took a much different approach to filling their kicking void left by Matt Gay’s free agency departure to the Indianapolis Colts: Los Angeles signed two priority undrafted free agents, NC State’s Christopher Dunn and Oklahoma State’s Tanner Brown, and will hold a competition over the preseason. LA has found mixed success through the draft at kicker. In 2012 they drafted Greg Zurlein of Missouri Western in the sixth round who made a big-time kick in 2018 en route to a Super Bowl, but their seventh round selection in 2020—Sam Sloman—struggled out of the gate and was cut mid-season.

Time will tell if the 49ers’ decision to spend premium draft capital on a kicker will prove fruitful, and all eyes will be on the Rams’ training camp competition to see if either Dunn or Brown emerge as a competent replacement for Gay. The careers of these kickers will be closely tied together, and these outcomes could shape the fate of the NFC West over the next few seasons.

NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images