While top picks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson are getting the most attention and LB Oren Burks may be pressed into starting duty due to Jake Ryan’s injury, no member of the Green Bay Packers 2018 draft class will likely have a more immediate impact on the team than punter JK Scott.
The Packers drafted Scott out of Alabama in the fifth round with the 172nd overall choice. This was the first time the Packers drafted a punter since the ill-fated selection of B.J. Sander in the third round back in 2004. Sander was a big disappointment and lasted just one season with the Packers before finding himself out of the NFL permanently.
But the early signs point to Scott being different. The Denver native finished his college career with a gross average of 45.6 yards and a net average of 43.1. In 54 kicks as a senior, opponents totaled just 36 return yards against Scott. Twenty-seven of his punts were placed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line last year while he had only four touchbacks. Scott was named to at least one All-American team in three of his four seasons with the Crimson Tide.
A few days after drafting Scott, the Packers released last year’s punter, Justin Vogel. The team hasn’t brought in any other challengers. The job is Scott’s to lose.
Despite the pressure, Scott appears equal to the task. Fans watching practice have been awed by the hang time and distance on his kicks and have responded to his consistently good performances.
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook has also been impressed with his new punter both on and off the field. “There’s no question that he’s got a big gift there in his leg, but for the most part he’s been fairly consistent, which is sometimes not the case with a young guy,” Zook told the team’s official Web site. “Once again, when we get under pressure and get out into game situations, I like his attitude.”
Scott’s attitude has always been positive. He is always looking for ways to improve various aspects of his game.
“I’m going to turn over every single stone I can to try to get better. I’m really competing against myself. I have a certain potential inside of me so far as punting goes and I just want to maximize that,” Scott told Packers.com after practice last week. “There are things that I’m doing right now that are geared towards even getting better. Even between now until the end of the season, my goal is to continue to improve, not only hang time but operation and location and all of those things.”
Because of his 6’6″ frame, Scott has a long stride. Some scouts were a bit concerned that may mean he needs more time to get his kicks off and could lead to more blocks. In college, he had one punt blocked in each of the past three seasons. But Scott has a strategy to deal with that issue.
“For me, it’s important I get into a rhythm being fast enough and being smooth enough, getting the ball off at the right spot, so that there’s no chance they can block it,” Scott said. “Because I’m not going to be speeding up if I see the rush. I don’t see them.”
The pressure of playing in the NFL isn’t an issue for this rookie. Scott is no stranger to pressure situations after four years at Alabama. He has punted in front of large crowds and in some of the biggest games in college football including three BCS National Championship Games in his four-year NCAA career.
While Scott grew up in Colorado, his family is originally from Wisconsin and he spent many summers visiting family in America’s Dairyland.
“We were big Packers fans growing up,” Scott explained during a conference call with the media after he was drafted. “This is crazy because like we have probably 10 Cheeseheads at home. It’s crazy how this happened.”
The Packers are hoping that Scott can deliver consistent excellence for the team’s special teams as a rookie. If the early returns are any indication, Scott is already well on his way to meeting or even exceeding those expectations.