Mehlhaff's Future Bright
By Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel - April 26, 2008
View full article ›
The Wisconsin Badgers have sent three kickers into pro football in the last 50 years, but none with the fanfare of Taylor Mehlhaff.
Seven of eight National Football League teams surveyed by the Journal Sentinel said Mehlhaff was the top-rated kicker on their draft board.
"He is by far the best," a special-teams coach for an NFC team said. "If you felt like you had to draft a kicker, I don't see how you could not draft him first. He sort of reminds me of David Akers. About the same size, and pretty good leg strength."
Like Akers, the Philadelphia Eagles' three-time Pro Bowl kicker, Mehlhaff stands about 5 feet 10 inches and is left-footed. Akers entered the NFL as a free agent in 1997 and was cut four times before his career took flight in Philly.
The NFC assistant guessed that Mehlhaff would be selected in the fourth round. An AFC special-teams coach predicted fourth or fifth round, whereas one of his AFC colleagues foresaw Mehlhaff going being taken in the sixth.
"Physically, he looks like a kicker," one of the AFC assistants said. "He's well-toned and well-developed. Good kickoff guy. He won't get much stronger."
Several teams are in need of a kicker, including Kansas City, Denver, Seattle and maybe Baltimore.
The Badgers' last kicker to be drafted by the NFL was Jim Bakken, who went in the seventh round to the Los Angeles Rams in 1962. Later that year, Bakken caught on with the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he played through 1978 (making 63.1% of his field goals) and made the Pro Bowl four times.
Bakken, who played at Madison West, was followed by Gary Kroner, a graduate of Green Bay Premontre who went to the New York Jets in the 19th round of the AFL draft in 1963. He kicked for the Denver Broncos from 1965-'67, making 51.8%.
Another Badger, Florida-born John Hall, made it as a free agent with the Jets in 1997. He kicked six seasons for the Jets and four with Washington, making 74.6%.
Not only did Mehlhaff make 76.9% (Mason Crosby made 75% at Colorado from 2003-'06) but he also improved on kickoffs. After averaging 61.6, 60.9 and 60.8 on kickoffs in his first three seasons, he climbed to 67.7 in '07.
"He can change field position," the NFC coach said. "And there's not a lot of guys like that in the league that you can really say that about.
"Against Washington State (Sept. 1) I got him with a hang time of 4.56 (seconds). I timed it six times. I have no idea what kind of a ball they were using but, man, I've never timed one like that. Ever."
Mehlhaff Stands Out
By Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel - February 25, 2008
View the full article ›
Two former Wisconsin Badgers, kicker Taylor Mehlhaff and wide receiver Paul Hubbard, turned in dramatically different performances over the weekend at the NFL scouting combine.
Mehlhaff fared best among the four kickers at the RCA Dome and now is a strong candidate to be the first drafted.
Hubbard ran and caught the ball so poorly that teams now will have to find excuses in order to select him.
On Friday, Mehlhaff made 14 of 15 field-goal attempts ranging from 30 to 50 yards. His only miss came from the 45 after what one scout said was a poor snap.
"People that need kickers, he'd be the guy right now," a special teams coach for an AFC team said. "He's got a real, real live leg and he's an impressive kid to sit down with. He's got a real good head on him."
Mehlhaff made 21 of 25 attempts in the 2007 season and 50 of 65 (76.9%) in three seasons.
An executive in personnel for another AFC team said Mehlhaff demonstrated excellent explosion, a high trajectory and the strongest leg at the combine.
Mehlhaff was as effective if not more effective on kickoffs than he was on placements for the Badgers, but on five kickoffs Friday one scout said his average distance was a mediocre 62 yards.
A native of Aberdeen, S.D., Mehlhaff always has admired Indianapolis' Adam Vinatieri, a native of nearby Milbank, S.D. In March, he scored 27 on the Wonderlic intelligence test, and was credited with the special-teams coach for being a top athlete.
"He's not a finished product yet," the coach said. "There's some technique things he's got to iron out. He's not the real consistent, end over end, always in the same place guy. But he certainly has things you can't coach."