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2020 NFL draft: How does Justin Rohrwasser fit the Patriots special teams?

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Related: Patriots pick K Justin Rohrwasser with the 159th overall selection

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Marshall at Southern Miss Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bill Belichick has been using the fifth round to lock his special teams draft picks and this year was no different as he ended up taking Marshall University kicker Justin Rohrwasser. With the Patriots electing to let 14-year kicker Stephen Gostkowski walk this off-season, kicker became a big need for the Patriots to address in the draft since it’s cheaper than signing a free agent. Rohrwasser became Marshall’s primary place kicker his junior year and had a strong showing as a senior. He nailed 18 of 21 field goal attempts, with a career-long of 53 yards, and went 35-for-36 on extra points, which earned him the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year award.

The first thing to note about Rohrwasser is leg strength. He has the strength to boom 50+ yard field goals, which he showcased in his pro day by nailing a field goal from as deep as 58. As a fifth-round selection, Belichick’s essentially anointing him as the team’s place kicker for at least this season. He’ll not only handle the main kicking duties for field goals, but will likely handle kickoffs as well. With Foxborough hosting some very frigid winter conditions, that leg strength will be necessary to drive the ball either into the end zone or a directional kick near the goal line to force a weak return.

The selection of Rohrwasser shores up the specialist roster spots, as he’ll join long snapper Joe Cardona and punter Jake Bailey as part of the field goal operation unit. Bailey will likely just work on punts and holding for Rohrwasser on field goals as the latter will likely take over on kickoffs. We’ll see this year if Belichick elects to just blast the ball for touchbacks or if he’ll try to coach up Rohrwasser to be able to make those sky-high kicks that land near the goal line and near the sideline to force weak returns.

As a place kicker, I would expect his likely range to be about 55 yards in ideal conditions although I believe in a “Gotta Have It” situation they’d be willing to go as deep as 60. Obviously the decision for what the team is comfortable with is going to change week-by-week with the weather and how Rohrwasser is kicking the ball in warm-ups. The Patriots are hoping he can lock down the kicker spot for another potential 10 years and continue the good luck on place kickers that started in 1996.

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