Camp Battles: Dallas K
Revived Gramatica will try to hold off talented rookie
Three rookie kickers were selected on day two of the 2007 NFL Draft, but of that trio Nick Folk might have landed in the best spot. Should he win the Cowboys kicking job, the former Arizona kicker could earn a place among the top 10 to 15 fantasy kickers for 2007. He'd be expected to score 100-plus points, and he'd have a spotlight on him as large as the star in the middle of Texas Stadium.
But to get there Folk will have to beat out veteran Martin Gramatica -- the dance-around kicker once thought to be expired only to resurrect his career in Big D last season. It will be one of the most enjoyable camp battles to watch this August, even if it involves a couple of kickers.
Why Gramatica will keep the job: The Cowboys scored the fourth most points in the NFL last season (26.6 per game) and the team's decision to swap Mike Vanderjagt for Gramatica played a role in that (Gramatica proved more reliable from long distances). In limited duty Gramatica scored 44 points and missed just two attempts. As a veteran, Gramatica can be relied upon to win games late in the fourth quarter or in overtime, and at 31 he is still relatively young as far as the life expectancy of an NFL kicker. With the Cowboys competing for a possible Super Bowl bid, the last thing the team can afford to have is a shaky rookie kicker who loses games by missing makeable kicks.
Why Folk will win it: NFL teams do not draft kickers unless they hope that player will win the job in camp. Otherwise, why waste a precious pick? As well as Gramatica did for Dallas in 2006, many do not believe he can sustain that level of play. After all, while in Indianapolis in 2004, Gramatica made just 57.9 percent of his attempts, and the year before in Tampa Bay he made a paltry 61.5 percent. Rough numbers. Folk is a good bet to make it at the NFL level. He has excellent leg strength, which gives him a commanding lead over Gramatica for Dallas' kickoff duties. And while Folk struggled from long distances in college, especially early on in his career, scouts believe they can correct those issues (thought process: you can teach accuracy easier than you can build leg strength). Also, Folk reportedly made a 62-yard kick during the Wildcats' 2006 spring game, which showed he is capable from long distances.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Folk Has Gramatica ever been a fantasy superstar? Only three times has he eclipsed the 100-point total (a mark 23 NFL kickers surpassed in 2006). Folk is an unknown, but his upside outweighs the limited potential Gramatica offers the Cowboys and fantasy owners.
The worst situation, of course, would be for Dallas to keep both kickers, and use Folk for kickoffs and long attempts, while keeping Gramatica for attempts from within 40 yards. If such a decision is made, fantasy owners best avoid both players.
Mike Beacom is the senior editor of Pro Fantasy Sports