The Cincinnati Bengals were the only NFL team to draft a kicker in the 2021 NFL Draft. While this seemed like a somewhat insignificant bit of trivia at the time, it turned into a big deal right off the bat in Week 1 of the NFL season. The big-legged rookie played a major role in the Bengals opening game 27-24 overtime upset against the Minnesota Vikings. After the final whistle blew, the Bengals social media let the other NFL teams know about their big-time draft day move.
The Cincinnati Bengals had a strong 2021 NFL Draft
The Cincinnati Bengals picked 10 players in the 2021 NFL Draft. As a young team trying to build a team from the depths of the NFL, the organization kept all 10 players in one capacity or another.
Third-round edge rusher Joseph Ossai and seventh-round defensive end Wyatt Hubert are out with a knee and a pectoral injury, respectively. Ossai is done for the season, while Hubert is eligible to return after six weeks.
Two of the Bengals’ three fourth-rounders, defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and offensive tackle D’Antee Smith, both made the team but didn’t dress Sunday.
Sixth-round center Trey Hill dressed but didn’t play and second-round guard Jackson Carman sixth-round running back Chris Evans made their NFL debuts on special team. Fourth-round edge rusher Cameron Sample rotated in on the line. He played 25 defensive snaps but didn’t make much of an impact.
Two rookies were difference-makers for the Bengals during their surprise OT win over the Vikings.
The No. 5 overall pick in the draft, LSU wide receiverJa’Marrr Chase, struggled with drops in the preseason but completely put that behind him in Week 1. The explosive playmaker made five catches on seven targets for 101 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown catch right before halftime.
The other Cincy hero was Evan McPherson. The former Florida Gator placekicker was the only kicker drafted in 2021. Against Minnesota, McPherson was 3-of-3 on extra points and hit a 53-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. He also had the game-winning, 34-yard kick in overtime.
The Bengals felt pretty good about taking a kicker in the draft, and they let everyone know about it on social media.
The Bengals Twitter account went wild after the team’s dramatic win
After a 4-11 season where the franchise QB went out for the year with a knee injury, the Bengals are well within their right to be excited after an upset victory over the Vikings. The NFC North squad was a three-point favorite and should have controlled the game.
However, Joe Burrow and the Bengals shocked the Vikes and jumped out to a 21-7 lead by the early third quarter. Kirk Cousins and company ultimately tied the game on a last-second field goal, but after a full, back and forth overtime period, the Bengals finally prevailed.
When McPherson’s kick went through the uprights, Bengals’ Twitter went wild.
The social media account started the celebration by tweeting out the racy play on words,” “BIG KICK ENERGY! @McPherson_Evan for the WIN.”
The account followed that up by rubbing it in to the rest of the NFL that they had the foresight to draft a kicker in 2021. The following tweet proclaimed, “THAT’S WHY YOU DRAFT A KICKER.”
The tweets were exuberant, but the organization may have made a good point in their excitement. In 2021, a reliable kicker is more crucial than ever.
NFL Kickers are key in 2021
From 1994 to 2014, NFL kickers were 98% accurate or better on extra points. In 2015, the league moved the point after from the two-yard line to the 15. This significantly dropped extra point rates down to 94.2% in the 2015 season.
In the ensuing six seasons, the rate has hovered around 93%-94%. Last season, the success rate for kickers on point-after tries was just 93.0%, the lowest percentage since 1979.
Field goals have stayed relatively consistent in recent years, although 2019’s 81.6% was a major outlier and the worst percentage in a decade.
From 2003 to 2020, almost a quarter of all NFL games (22.7%) come down to a field goal or less, per Action Network. Since 2015, the number of close games has been even higher (23.35%).
The point is, being a kicker has never been more challenging or more important to NFL teams. If your team has a good one, you may take him for granted. If not, you know the frustration and pain that a bad kicker can cause a team and a fan base.
The Cincinnati Bengals seem to understand this necessity of the modern NFL, and, after McPherson’s big kick, they wanted everyone to know it.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference