scott photo 4-27

Packers' JK Scott put only 15 of his 46 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. 

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GREEN BAY — In his first draft as the Green Bay Packers general manager, Brian Gutekunst did something that surprised plenty of those who were eager to scrutinize his every move.

No, he didn’t use his very first selection as GM to draft his Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback’s successor the way his predecessor, Ted Thompson, had by taking a tumbling-down-the-draft-board Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Gutekunst waited until his third draft in charge to dive into those criticism-infested waters, picking Jordan Love last year.

And no, he didn’t get snookered into a foolish trade, like that poor rookie GM from Jacksonville that Kevin Costner’s character fleeces in the 2014 film “Draft Day.”

No, what Gutekunst did was less dramatic but still puzzling. He picked a punter. And a long snapper. In the same draft.

Now, as punter JK Scott, a fifth-round pick from Alabama, and long snapper Hunter Bradley, a seventh-round pick from Mississippi State, enter their fourth pro seasons, it’s worth wondering if those picks were worthwhile. Scott has been up-and-down — his clutch punt in the waning minutes of the Packers’ 2019 season-opening and Matt LaFleur era-starting win at Chicago remains his most memorable high point — and Bradley has had more errant snaps than should be noticeable from football’s least-noticed position.

As a result, both players entered the offseason program with on-the-roster competition — Scott from former Pitt punter Ryan Winslow, and Bradley from ex-Delaware snapper Joe Fortunato. And new special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton put the duo on notice shortly after being hired in March.

“The beauty of it is, I call our room where we are the ‘Truth Room.’ We’re going to tell the truth,” Drayton said when asked about Bradley and Scott during his introductory news conference with reporters. “They both know that they have to be more consistent in the things that we need them to do to be successful.

“They have a prescription that we’ve written for them to work on. ... They’re getting better, and they will be better. And they understand that their backs are against the wall.”

The Packers also brought in a second kicker this offseason, though after restructuring Mason Crosby’s contract — and with Crosby having put together the best back-to-back seasons of his career — it’s not like the franchise’s all-time leading scorer is going anywhere. Nevertheless, the team did add ex-UCLA kicker JJ Molson to the practice squad in late December — though, without any in-game NFL experience, he’s better known for being an eighth-generation descendant of the founder of the Molson beer-brewing company than for his kicking.

The Packers, meanwhile, would like to be known for improved special teams play, something that has long been an issue in Green Bay.

“We’re certainly looking to improve there,” Gutekunst said earlier this offseason. “We’ve got some good young players, certainly on our cover teams. (But) that’s certainly an area we’ll look to address.”

Depth chart

2 | Mason Crosby K — 6-1, 207, Colorado

6 | JK Scott P — 6-6, 208, Alabama

43 | Hunter Bradley LS  — 6-3, 241, Mississippi State

9 | JJ Molson K — 5-11, 180, UCLA

7 | Ryan Winslow P — 6-5, 219, Pittsburgh

Joe Fortunato LS — 6-4, 240, Delaware

Best in class

Evan McPherson, K, Florida

Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy used to differentiate between players with “real confidence” and those who were acting confident to hide their insecurity. When it comes to McPherson, the NFL will find out soon enough if the former Gators standout’s confidence is authentic or not.

After a three-year career in which he made 51 of 60 field-goal attempts (85%) and 149 of 150 extra points (99.3%) — his career field goal accuracy is the best in SEC history — McPherson insists he’s ready for the next level and isn’t afraid of the pressure that will come with it.

“A team should draft me because I’m the top kicker in this draft. I’m going to help a team at the next level,” McPherson told The Draft Network. “As a field goal kicker, we sometimes decide the outcome of a game. That’s very exciting to me. We can win it or lose it. I get a thrill out of that. I enjoy being the deciding factor. I love the pressure that comes with it.”

Best of the rest

Jose Borregales, K, Miami (Fla); Max Duffy, P, Kentucky; Riley Patterson, K, Memphis; James Smith, P, Cincinnati; Pressley Harvin, P, Georgia Tech; Drue Chrisman, P, Ohio State; Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama; Turner Bernard, LS, San Diego State.

Pick to click

Adam Bay, LS, Wisconsin

After four years snapping for place kicks and punts in Madison, Bay is unlikely to be drafted but should have plenty of opportunities to pursue long-snapping at the NFL level as one of the top-rated snappers in this class. He came out of Mesa, Arizona, as the top-rated long-snapping recruit and held the job for UW for all four years, seeing action in all 48 of the Badgers’ games during that time.

He fared well and tested well during the Badgers’ on-campus pro day last month and figures to be a priority free agent for teams looking to upgrade at his position.

History lesson

Other than Crosby, who was a sixth-round pick in 2007 out of Colorado and has been among the game’s best field-goal kickers ever since, the Packers’ history with drafting specialist is abysmal.

Including Scott, the Packers have drafted 12 punters since 1979, when they inexplicably drafted two of them: Utah’s Rick Partridge in the eighth round and South Dakota’s Bill Moats in the 12th round — neither of whom made the team. Two years later, they used a third-round pick on Michigan State’s Ray Stachowicz, who was a colossal disappointment and lasted only two seasons. His flop was only surpassed by then-coach/GM Mike Sherman’s 2004 decision to trade up to draft Ohio State’s B.J. Sander in the third round. Sander fared even worse, spending a year as a backup punter and a year as the primary punter before getting the boot.

Mistakes have been made with kickers, too — even by Pro Football Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, who squandered a third-round pick in 1997 on Penn State kicker Brett Conway. In Wolf’s case, he was smart enough to claim undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Longwell on waivers from San Francisco, and when Conway faltered, Longwell not only assumed the job but held it long enough to become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer before being surpassed by Crosby.


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This article originally ran on madison.com.

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