Pro Bowler Details Difference Between 49ers’ Jake Moody & Previous Highest-Drafted Kicker

San Francisco 49ers, Jake Moody

Getty Future San Francisco 49ers kicker Jake Moody booting for the Michigan Wolverines.

After weeks of anticipation, fans of the San Francisco 49ers were finally afforded a chance to see Jake Moody in action with the third round pick out of Michigan booted a few balls in a white number four jersey during rookie mini-camp.

But to some, like fellow Wolverine Jay Feely, watching the Lou Groza Award winner is nothing new, as he’s been a fan of the Kornblue Kicking five-star recruit since he landed in An Arbour all the way back in 2018. Discussing what makes Moody special in an interview with Jordan Elliott of Niners Nation, Feely explained the difference between San Francisco’s new kicker and the highest-drafted kicker before him, Roberto Aguayo, and left an impression that should make Niners fans very hopeful about the future.

“I think kicking is the hardest position for teams to evaluate, and the biggest reason for that is they don’t have people who are qualified that know what they are looking for,” Feely said. “They don’t have guys that have kicked who understand what form translates into success.

“They don’t really know what they are looking for, you look at numbers, you look at performance, but like a quarterback they know the traits they are looking for that will translate into success. Kickers, I don’t think most NFL teams and most front offices know what they’re looking for. When I look at guys, like [Roberto] Aguayo is a perfect example, Tampa Bay moves up to take him, I was very critical of that pick because I didn’t like his form, I didn’t like some of the things he did, and I didn’t think they would translate well into success and they ended up not.

“Jake [Moody] is the opposite. Like I look at Jake, he has excellent form, its repeatable form, he’s been in high pressure situations throughout his career at Michigan. Tight games, tough games, game winners, bad weather, good weather, he’s played in front of 112,000 people every week at Michigan.”

Going by Feely’s criteria, Moody really does have a lot going for him, as he was a five-year starter at Michigan, played in every imaginable weather condition, and was relied on in high-pressure situations against some of the best teams in the nation in front of 112,000 fans. Still, in the opinion of Feely, Moody isn’t a lock to take over for Robbie Gould as the 49ers’ new placekicker, as the player they traded for prior to the draft, Zane Gonzalez, is pretty good too and could ultimately pull out the win in a fair competition.

Zane Gonzalez Isn’t Out of the Kicking Competition

Asked to evaluate Gonzalez’s potential as a player, Feely complimented the veteran journeyman and asserted that he could theoretically win the starting job this fall, even if Moody mostly likely has the edge if things are close.

“Zane is a talented veteran kicker who has been around and has been through a lot. When he is at his best, he is as good as anybody in the NFL. Jake is going to have to go out there and outperform him and if it’s equal they’re going to go with the draft pick,” Feely said.

“I think both Kyle [Shanahan] and John [Lynch] they want to win right now, and so if there is a competition and Zane is much better then I think they are going to look at keeping the guy who they think is going to help them win right now this year. I know Zane has been around so he’s going to understand I have to be much better than Moody to have a chance at winning this job, because they did invest in him and they used a third round pick on him so they are invested in Jake Moody.”

Initially signing with the Lions in 2021, Gonzalez had his breakout season with the Carolina Panthers after being claimed off of Detroit’s practice squad. Though he wasn’t able to back it up in 2022, as he was placed on IR with a quad injury that cost the entire season, Gonzalez was the favorite to be Carolina’s kicker of the future before Eddy Pineiro took his spot and could produce similar results for San Francisco this summer.

Jay Feely Approves of the San Francisco 49ers’ Draft Strategy

When discussing Moody, fans and pundits alike often include the qualifier “third round pick,” signifying that even if he’s a successful performer, his value will be judged differently because of where he was picked in the NFL draft.

Feely understands this and offers up a slightly more pro-kicker take on the situation, suggesting that adding a special teamer who could become a decade-long contributor might just be more valuable than adding a depth player at cornerback or wide receiver.

“The big thing they have to understand is the 49ers didn’t have a fourth round pick this year,” Feely noted. “So if they are going to take a kicker, he’s not going to be there in the fifth round. I talked to four or five special teams coaches and there was a couple of them who wanted to take him in the fifth but they knew he wouldn’t be there in the fifth and they weren’t sure if their teams would take him in the fourth.

“So I think the 49ers were looking at it saying hey this is a guy we think can be our kicker for the next decade, he’s by far the best kicker in the draft, if we want to get him and we need a kicker, then we need to take him now in the third round. If you get a guy that has a six or seven year career in the third round, thats a very successful pick.

“You can go get a sixth or seventh corner, or a fifth receiver who may help you a little bit, but Jake Moody is going to help you a lot throughout the year if he makes that transition successfully.”

Did the 49ers pass over players with higher positional value to draft Moody at pick 99? Yes; players like Kelee Ringo, Blake Freeland, and Nick Herbig were all still on the board at pick 99, and each could have theoretically played a role for the 49ers in 2023. Still, it’s clear John Lynch really liked Moody, and with pick 99, he got his man.

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