Why the Dolphins drafted a kicker who missed 10 of 35 college kicks

Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders at rookie mini-camp. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Everyone knows Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi hand-selected kicker Jason Sanders in the seventh round.

So Rizzi came to a recent news conference prepared to explain why a player who missed 29 percent of his college chances could be worthy of being one of only two kickers drafted in April.

“The first thing is when I go in and evaluate, when we look at the kicker position, the number one thing you’re looking at is the kicker, the talent, the ability,” Rizzi said. “A lot of people don’t want to hear this but really, when you look at a college placekicker, one of the last things I look at is field goal percentage; and there’s a reason for that.”

Rizzi explained that in college, the snapping and holding just isn’t as consistent as it is at the NFL level. Rizzi then went on to outline how Stephen Gostkowski (76 percent), Matt Bryant (72 percent), Mason Crosby (74 percent), Phil Dawson (74 percent) and Robbie Gould (63 percent) were much better in the pros than in college.

“Between those five guys, they have over 70 years of NFL experience,” Rizzi said.

Sanders has connected on 111 of 112 career extra points. And as a junior at New Mexico, Sanders was outstanding, making 12 of 13 field goals.

Miami needs Rizzi to be right. Because local boy Cody Parkey was a juggernaut last season for Miami, connecting on 21 of 23 field goals and 26 of 29 extra points, landing a gargantuan free agent deal to take his talents to the Windy City.

Miami will enter organized team activities with a battle at kicker between Sanders and undrafted rookie free agent Greg Joseph of Florida Atlantic and American Heritage in Delray Beach.

Joseph made 57 of 82 field goal tries at FAU, for 69.5 percent, less than Sanders’ 71.4 percent. Both kickers have strong legs.

“I’m not going to say it’s number one; but obviously you want a guy who … I call it an NFL leg,” Rizzi said. “It’s probably easier to take a guy with great leg strength and get him a little bit more in tune or fixed or technique-wise on field goals than it is to go the other way. It’s much harder. You can’t teach leg strength. You can teach a guy technique. You can teach a guy to get better certainly at accuracy and things like that.”

Sanders says he views himself as in an “open competition” with Joseph. Rizzi went out of his way to bring Joseph into the conversation, too.

“He has to work and fine-tune some stuff with the field goal; but he’s another guy that when you guys see him kick, you’ll be very, very impressed with his leg strength,” he said.

Jay Ajayi sued for allegedly trashing mansion, per report

Miami Dolphins’ Minkah Fitzpatrick: Goal is ‘legendary player in the NFL’

Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: I don’t need another quarterback!

Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: DeVante Parker approaching offseason with purpose

10 Reasons why the Miami Dolphins won’t stink as much as sports books think

Get our articles sent right to your Facebook feed by clicking here