PHOENIX — Legatron is headed to Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns made Zane Gonzalez the second kicker selected in the 2017 NFL draft, choosing the former Sun Devil during the seventh round (224th overall pick) on Saturday. The Cincinnati Bengals took Memphis kicker Jake Elliott earlier in the fifth round.
Gonzalez is the first specialist drafted out of Arizona State since punter Mike Black was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round (181st overall pick) of the 1983 draft. The 6-foot Texas native also became the first ASU placekicker selected since Mike Mercer was drafted during the 15th round of the 1961 draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
As a senior, Gonzalez became the NCAA’s all-time highest-scoring kicker, setting the record for most field goals made during the Sun Devils’ 23-20 win over UCLA. He went on to earn the Lou Groza Award (given to college football’s top kicker) to cap a record-setting year during which he hit 23 of 25 field-goal attempts.
Dubbed “Legatron,” Gonzalez displayed impressive range by making 7 of 9 from 50 yards away or farther in 2016. He also booted 75 percent of kickoffs for touchbacks over the past two years.
Throughout the draft process, scouts and peers have hinted at Gonzalez’s apparent NFL potential.
Pro Football Focus’s Gordon McGuinness said Gonzalez has the potential to be a great kicker at the pro level. During the Senior Bowl, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said one scout told him Gonzalez is the highest-graded kicker they evaluated in over 20 years.
According to a scouting report by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Gonzalez is a “[s]elf-made, four-year starter who has steadily increased his kickoff distance and range as a field goal kicker. As the most prolific field goal kicker in FBS history, Gonzalez has a good chance of being drafted and becoming an instant starter.”
Gonzalez also drew favorable NFL comparisons. McGuinness lobbied him into the same breath as Baltimore Ravens All-Pro specialist Justin Tucker, while Zierlein compared him to Washington’s Dustin Hopkins.
In Cleveland, Gonzalez will compete with Corey Parkey and Brett Maher for the starting gig entering the new season.