The New England Patriots have decided to part ways with Stephen Gostkowski earlier this offseason and will now have to find a new place kicker for the first time since 2006. While there are still some cheap veteran options available on the free agency market — including Gostkowski’s final injury replacement of the 2019 season, Nick Folk — the expectation is that the team will look towards the draft or rookie free agency to find a new long-term option at the position.
One of the better ones available is Georgia Southern’s Tyler Bass, so let’s take a closer look at him.
Name: Tyler Bass
School: Georgia Southern (redshirt senior)
Opening day age: 23
2019 stats: 13 games; 20 of 28 field goals (71.4%, 2 blocks); 36 of 36 extra points (100%); 72 kickoffs, 55 touchbacks, 1 out of bounds; 2 tackles; 1 passing attempt, 1 completion, 7 yards
Size: 5104, 185 lbs, 8.75 hand size, 29.5 arm length
Workout numbers: N/A
Expected round: 7th-Priority UDFA
Patriots pre-draft meeting: Scouting combine
Strengths: Bass has a strong natural leg and is able to use it well: he is a foundationally sound kicker that has a nice follow-through motion and is capable of putting a good trajectory on his kicks not just on field goal or extra point attempts but also in the kickoff game. Speaking of which, he also offers the desired versatility of being able to successfully work in both areas. Furthermore, he has a good intermediate range between the 30- and 50-yard lines and has proven himself capable of kicking well from both hash-marks.
Weaknesses: While his high-trajectory kicks allow him to regularly put the ball out of the blocking units’ reach, Bass may struggle to drive the kicks through the upside from longer distances: he is no safe bet from beyond the 50-yard line. Furthermore, his accuracy may be a red flag considering that his field goal percentage decreased from 90.5% in 2018 to a mere 71.4% the following season. On top of that, he may be a wild card in inclement weather: he has kicked in relatively good conditions throughout his career, and has yet to prove he will be dependable when asked to kick in the oftentimes difficult environments he might regularly encounter in the NFL.
What would be his role? Bass’ role would be pretty straight forward if he indeed was either drafted by the Patriots or signed as a rookie free agent: he would be the team’s place kicker and as such the heir to the aforementioned Stephen Gostkowski. He would be primarily asked to do field goal and point-after kicks, but could also perform kickoffs if New England wants the job to move away from punter Jake Bailey again.
How many downs can he play? One, although he would fill a rather prominent role in the Patriots’ kicking game operation and be on the field for around 40% of special teams snaps any given week.
What is his special teams value? Quite big, of course. As New England’s place kicker, Bass would attempt field goals and extra points and also be a candidate to serve as the Patriots’ kickoff specialist — a role previously held by place kickers in New England, but one that went to punter Jake Bailey in 2019 after Gostkowski’s season-ending injury — and onside kicker.
Does he have positional versatility? Bass has experience performing both place kicks and kickoffs, and projects well in that role. His versatility goes beyond that part of his game, however: he also has attempted five punts during his time at Georgia Southern for an average of 48.0 yards per kick. Furthermore, the 23-year-old has registered 11 career tackles as well as one 7-yard passing attempt and a run for -4 yards.
Will his role change from Year One to Year Two? There is little room for an increased role unless Bass would not perform kickoffs in Year One and be handed those responsibilities in his second season. Other than that, his overall performance in regards to range and accuracy might end up being the biggest change between the 2020 and the 2021 seasons.
Which current Patriots will he have to beat out? Unless New England opts to bring more than one kicker in to compete for Gostkowski’s former job, Bass would essentially run for the job unopposed. That said, it seems likely that another veteran or a second rookie will join the team as an emergency options in case Bass does not meet expectations.
Why the Patriots? After Gostkowski’s release, the Patriots are in dire need of a new place kicker and Bass is one of the better options available in this year’s draft — especially if the team does not want to spend a mid-round selection on Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia, who is projected to be the top player available at the position in this year’s draft. Bass would be a solid lower-round/undrafted option that has the necessary tools to find success in the NFL as both a place kicker and kickoff specialist. His punting experience albeit limited is a positive as well.
Why not the Patriots? While it seems almost certain that New England will go after a kicker in this year’s draft, the team might opt to invest in the safest prospect — and that appears to be the aforementioned Rodrigo Blankenship as opposed to Bass. Add the fact that he has had some issues in bad weather and saw his field goal success rate go down between the 2018 and 2019 seasons and you can see why the Patriots might prefer looking elsewhere for a new kicker.
Verdict: While he may not be the highest-profile kicker in this year’s draft, Tyler Bass certainly is among the top options available and therefore likely a target for the Patriots. His solid success in the short and intermediate range as well as the ability to successfully work as a kickoff specialist make him a player who might turn into a solid replacement option for Stephen Gostkowski further down the line.