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Patriots draft preview 2023: New England could be in the specialists market

New England re-signed Joe Cardona and added punter Corliss Waitman in free agency, but more moves might be in the pipeline.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Entering the offseason, the New England Patriots had some serious question marks regarding their specialists position. Fast forward to now, and the Patriots have since made Joe Cardona the highest-paid long snapper in football and signed punter Corliss Waitman after they released Jake Bailey.

The offseason moves does not assure New England is done tinkering with this unit, however. Besides Cardona, they still have long snapper Tucker Addington under contract. Elsewhere, Waitman is no lock to make the roster and at the kicker position, Nick Folk is 38 years old and is entering the final year of his contract. His production also seemed to slip in the second-half of last season.

Pair all that with the fact that New England typically carries multiple punters and kickers in training camp and it would be no surprise if they add at either, or both, positions in the draft or undrafted free agency. They also need to address who will handle kickoff duties.

So, let’s wrap up our positional draft breakdowns with the specialists.

Patriots positional draft preview: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive line | Defensive line | Edge/Linebackers | Cornerbacks | Safeties


Jake Moody (Michigan): Moody is the top kicker available and perhaps the best fit for the Patriots. He earned the 2021 Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in the nation and knocked through 48 of his 52 attempts from within 50 yards over the last two seasons. He was also a perfect 148-of-148 on extra points throughout his career.

New England got to work with Moody on their East-West Shrine Bowl roster and the kicker earned the game’s MVP award after going 4-for-4 on field goals — including two from 51 yards. Also coming from Michigan, he has experience kicking in cold weather which is usually something New England prefers at the position. He’ll likely be the first kicker off the board.

Chad Ryland (Maryland): If the Patriots don’t want to invest a potential fourth- or fifth-round pick in Moody, Ryland could be another fit. After spending four years Eastern Michigan, he transferred to Maryland last season and went 19-of-23 field goals on field goals, including a perfect 9-for-9 from under 40 yards. He kicked at the Senior Bowl and reportedly has drawn interest from the Patriots.

Christopher Dunn (N.C. State): Dunn had an up-and-down collegiate career accuracy-wise, but put it together in his fifth-season for the Wolfpack. He made 28 of his 29 field-goal attempts and was named first-team Associated Press All-American, All-ACC selection, and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker in 2022.

Other kicking options include Jack Podlesny (Georgia), B.T. Potter (Clemson), and Andre Szmyt (Syracuse), who kicked in a dome but also at the Shrine Bowl.


Oklahoma Spring Game Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Michael Turk (Oklahoma): New England got to work with Moody at the Shrine Bowl, and they also worked with one of the top punters out in Vegas. Turk’s college career had stops at Lafayette, Arizona State, and most recently Oklahoma. He succeeded everywhere and went averaging 47.4 yards on his 176 punts at the FBS level, just shy of Colorado State’s Ryan Stonehouse’s 47.8 FBS record.

Senior Bowl punters Adam Korsak and Bryce Baringer are also both candidates to be drafted.

Adam Korsak (Rutgers): Korsak is the reigning Ray Guy Award winner as the best punter in the nation. In five years as Rutgers, the Australia product set the NCAA record for punting yards in a career with 15,318. His list of accomplishments is long, including a streak of 150 consecutive punts without a touchback that dated back to 2019.

Bryce Baringer (Michigan State): Baringer comes with a powerful leg. He led the nation last season averaging 49 yards per punt while his career average of 46 yards per attempt is the best in Big Ten history and sixth-most in NCAA history among qualified punters. Baringer ended his Spartans career with First-Team All-American honors.

Other punters to potential watch include Brad Robbins (Michigan), Paxton Brooks (Tennessee), and Ethan Evans (Wingate), who was another Shrine Bowl participant.

Long snappers

As discussed above, New England made Joe Cardona the highest-paid long snapper in football earlier this offseason and still has Tucker Addington on the roster. Long snapper would be a surprise addition, but this is Bill Belichick we’re talking about.

Chris Stoll (Penn State): Stoll is the most logical fit here. He won the Patrick Mannelly Award as the best long snapper in college football and was the Patriots’ long snapper at the Shrine Bowl.

The only other long snapper who is projected to be drafted is Alex Ward (UCF), who snapped at the Senior Bowl along with Robert Soderholm (VMI). Matt Hembrough (Oklahoma State) was the other Shrine Bowl long snapper.