49ers drafted kicker Jake Moody because he’s Mr. Calm. Now he gets to show it

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49ers drafted kicker Jake Moody because he’s Mr. Calm. Now he gets to show it

San Francisco 49ers rookie Jake Moody got the blown-kick treatment last week in Cleveland.

When you miss a big attempt like Moody did, you’re expected to stick around and talk about it with reporters. Moody answered an initial round of questions after the game, then had to wait by his locker for another wave of reporters — those attending Kyle Shanahan’s news conference in a nearby room — to come in and ask him the same questions.

It’s a tedious, patience-testing process that some kickers can’t handle, especially when they’re in a rut and the postgame sessions become routine. Some mysteriously vanish from the locker room — poof! — by the time reporters are admitted. Some snap.

“Oh my gosh, c’mon, that’s like six questions,” then-Cleveland Browns kicker Cade York said in August after missing a potentially game-winning field goal in the preseason finale. “Of course I wanted to freakin’ put it through. That’s enough, dude.”

Moody? He was stoic, solid. That’s who he is at his core. He’s a hard guy to rattle, which is why he became a favorite of Jim Harbaugh at bad-weather, high-pressure Michigan and why the 49ers selected him with a third-round pick.

Receiver Ronnie Bell, Moody’s Michigan teammate, made it a point to pull general manager John Lynch aside during Thursday’s practice and reassure him the kicker would handle his Week 6 misses well. After all, Bell watched and admired Moody’s business-like approach for five seasons at Michigan. He even gave the kicker a vote for team captain last year.

“Just the way he carried himself,” Bell said. “I thought he was someone the young guys really should pay attention to and look up to. I think calm is the word. He’s a cool, calm dude. He’s never too high, never too low. It’s never like, ‘hoo-rah, hoo-rah!’ but he’s always working really, really hard, taking care of his business.”

That Moody had his first true NFL stumble in Cleveland seems appropriate.

A year ago, the Browns were the first team to draft a kicker, York, whom they took in the fourth round, with the 124th pick. At that point, it was the earliest a team had taken a kicker since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ disastrous stint with Roberto Aguayo, a second-rounder in 2016. (Moody, taken 99th, has since surpassed York as the earliest post-Aguayo kicker.)

You may have noticed that veteran Dustin Hopkins, not York, was kicking for the Browns last Sunday. They cut York after a rocky rookie season and an even rockier 2023 preseason in which he was 4-of-8 on field goals. He’s now on the Tennessee Titans practice squad.

Drafted kickers since 2016

KickerDraftDrafted teamFGM-FGA as rookie

2016, 2nd (59)

Buccaneers

22-31

2017, 5th (153)

Bengals

26-31

2017, 7th (224)

Browns

15-20

2017, 7th (233)

Panthers

38-42

2018, 5th (167)

Vikings

17-21

2018, 7th (229)

Dolphins

18-20

2019, 5th (145)

Buccaneers

27-35

2019, 5th (170)

Browns

25-29

2020, 5th (159)

Patriots

no attempts

2020, 6th (188)

Bills

28-34

2020, 7th (248)

Rams

10-13

2021, 5th (149)

Bengals

28-33

2022, 4th (124)

Browns

24-32

2023, 3rd (99)

49ers

10-12

2023, 4th (112)

Patriots

8-12

2023, 6th (207)

Packers

8-9

Rookie kickers usually aren’t as shaky as Aguayo, who made 71 percent of his field goals in 2016, or York, who made 75 percent last season. But York’s short stint is typical. Only two of the 13 kickers drafted between 2016 and 2022, the Miami Dolphins’ Jason Sanders and Buffalo Bills’ Tyler Bass, are still on the team that selected them.

No, rookie kickers don’t get a lot of rope no matter the round in which they’re selected. And sometimes that brings its own risk.

Just ask the Minnesota Vikings. They cut 2018 fifth-round pick Daniel Carlson two games into his rookie season after he went 1-for-4 on field goals. The Las Vegas Raiders snapped him up, and he was 16-of-17 for the rest of his rookie season, setting their club record with a 94 percent conversion rate. Carlson is still a Raider. He was a second-team All-Pro pick in 2021 and made the first team last season.

Harrison Butker has a similar story. The Carolina Panthers decided to lean on veteran Graham Gano early in 2017 and put Butker on the practice squad. The Kansas City Chiefs grabbed him when their kicker, Cairo Santos, got injured and Butker hit a game-winner in his first outing. He was 90.5 percent on field goals as a rookie.

The Chiefs had made the playoffs the previous two seasons and had high expectations when Butker was signed in late September that year. In that way, his situation was a bit like Moody’s this season.

Moody, however, has more pressure. Butker was a seventh-round pick who ended up kicking for a team that didn’t draft him. He was found money for the Chiefs, a bonus. Moody was a third-round pick. He also is replacing a kicker, Robbie Gould, known for making clutch kicks and is playing for a veteran-laden team whose stated goal is to get the No. 1 seed, a bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The last time the 49ers accomplished that, in 2019, Gould made game-winning kicks in Week 14 (New Orleans Saints) and 16 (Los Angeles Rams). Moody’s already missed a kick that would have given his team the inside track for the No. 1 seed. The misfire underscores the weight the 49ers have placed on the rookie this season.


Given the expectations for the 49ers’ season, the margin for error for Jake Moody is very small. (Scott Galvin / USA Today)

Still, the team is convinced Moody is more Butker than York. And there’s no sign a quick hook is coming. Moody, after all, made his first nine field goals and has yet to miss a point-after attempt.

“That was a decision for the now and for the future,” Lynch said on KNBR radio this week of taking a kicker with a second-day pick. “And Jake is going to be a really good player for us for a long time. We’ve got full confidence that he’s going to respond.”

So far, Moody has responded with his signature calm.

He spent the 49ers’ off day on the golf course. And he was at his locker Thursday to field more questions about Sunday’s game.

Long snapper Taybor Pepper, who spends as much time with Moody as anyone, noted the kicker snapped back into his routine very quickly and has had a strong week of practice.

“I think that’s why we took him in the third round,” Pepper said. “I know everyone’s been talking about that. But there are reasons why. And I think part of that is his mental makeup — being able to handle (misses) like water off a duck’s back, being able to move on to the next rep. He’s awesome. I love his attitude, the way he comes in and works every day. I’m confident in him for sure.”

Monday Moody gets a chance to prove that all that confidence in him is warranted. He’ll be kicking indoors instead of on the shores of Lake Erie, which ought to help.

Then again, he’s also had an extra day to think about the Cleveland outing and the 49ers have to win to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 1 seed. Oh, and his how-will-he-respond game happens to be on national television.

No pressure, rook.

(Top photo: Kirk Irwin / Associated Press)


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