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Could ASU’s Zane Gonzalez be a second-round pick?

Arizona State place kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) kicks a field goal against California during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

With the NFL Draft a little more than two weeks away, we’re entering crunch time in terms of team preparation for the three-day event which will unfold in Philadelphia.

As one peruses the team needs for each NFL franchise, he or she would be hard-pressed to find a team that “needs” a kicker. Sure, you’ve got to have one, and yes, there were many ineffective kickers in the league last year. Yet, teams are reticent to use draft picks on that particular position.

In fact, since 2010, only 11 kickers have been drafted by NFL teams. Only four were selected higher than the sixth round and one, Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo, was picked higher than the third round. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers famously (perhaps foolishly) traded up to get Aguayo with the 59th overall pick in the 2016 draft and he massively disappointed.

Normally, that might scare a team off from picking a kicker as part of its draft class, but it’s also not every year a kicker as good as Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State comes around.

The consensus All-American left Tempe as the NCAA record holder in field goals made (96) and is the fourth-leading scorer in college football history with 494 points, which is first among kickers. It’s not only the fact that Gonzalez made a lot of kicks, but the range in which he made them from that has scouts drooling. As a senior, Gonzalez went 7-of-9 on field goal attempts of 50 or more yards and had a 59-yarder against Colorado.

It’s thought that Gonzalez will get drafted, but where? Will the Aguayo experiment of 2016 scare teams off?

SB Nation published an article Tuesday entitled 6 NFL draft predictions that will surprise you early. In it, they predict Gonzalez, like Aguayo, will be a second-round pick, citing information a prominent NFL Draft analyst shared during the Senior Bowl in January.

During the broadcast, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah reported that a scout of more than 20 years said Gonzalez has the highest grade of any kicker he’s ever scouted — yes, even higher than Roberto Aguayo, who was a second-round pick last year.

In addition to impressing during Senior Bowl workouts, Gonzalez booted three field goals in the game, tying a record.

Regardless of where he goes, Gonzalez could be the only Sun Devil to hear his name called later this month. Arizona State has had at least one player picked in every draft of the Pac-10/Pac-12 era, with the exception of 2013.

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