It's a luxury most NFL teams cannot afford. But the Buffalo Bills may be willing to set aside an extra roster spot for a kickoff specialist this year.
The reason—the booming kickoffs of 7th round draft pick John Potter.
The third-from-the-last pick in the April NFL Draft, Potter made a name for himself in his four year career at Western Michigan as a long-range kickoff specialist. But he went into the draft not expecting to hear his name called.
"It's an honor. It's really special to be drafted as a kicker," Potter said on The John Murphy Show Monday night. "This year there's a record number—four. So it's special to have an opportunity to be able to compete for a job."
"I was definitely assuming I was going to be a free agent. I got a call from Chan Gailey telling me that they were selecting me. I was shocked, but it's been an unbelievable experience."
That experience includes three kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks in the Bills preseason opener against the Redskins last week. Potter nailed 43-percent of his kickoffs in college into the end zone, forcing touchbacks. But with the NFL kickoff moved up to the 35-yard line, he knows he's expected to better that mark.
"I think Coach DeHaven wants to see 70-percent, up there, but my goal is 100-percent," he says. Potter was asked if a 70-percent touchback rate is a realistic goal.
"It definitely is, especially when you get some indoor games. You should be able to hit it out the back of the end zone every time."
The 22-year old native of Michigan was an effective field goal kicker in his college career. And his Bills coaches say they already see improvement on his placement kicks over the last few months.
"I've seen him kick the ball out of the back of the end zone—I like that," says Special Teams Coordinator Bruce DeHaven. "The thing I really like is that when we were working in Orchard Park, in the OTAs, it looked like he was about a 65-percent field goal kicker at best. He struggled at times. But when we came down here, and the lights went on, we got the fans in the stadium in front of the team, the guy's nearly perfect. I've really been impressed. His field goal kicking is far better than what it was in the spring, and what I had seen on film when he was in college."