The writing may be on the wall for veteran New England Patriots kicker Nick Folk. The Patriots added competition by drafting former Maryland kicker Chad Ryland with the No. 112 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Before the last season began, the Patriots signed Folk to a two-year extension worth $5 million. Folk was largely effective throughout the 2022 campaign, converting 32-of-37 field goal attempts. It did represent a slight step back from his excellent showings in 2020 and 2021, but Folk’s 86.5% made-kick percentage still ranked 13th in the league (minimum qualifiers, 20 attempted kicks). Folk also went an acceptable 32-of-35 on extra points.
This past season, Folk set a new record for the most consecutive successful field goals from 50 yards or less. Folk shattered the previous record of 56 and extended his historic streak to 64 before a midseason misfire versus the Cleveland Browns. Consistency from under 50 yards typically keeps you employed as an NFL kicker. Yet, the Patriots entered the draft thinking of a succession plan. It could make sense given Folk is slated for his age-39 season in 2023.
Head coach Bill Belichick made Ryland the second kicker drafted, just 13 picks after the San Francisco 49ers took Jake Moody. Ryland’s draft status makes him the heavy favorite to claim the starting job. Kickers are rarely drafted, and when they are, they make 53-man rosters. Folk may be sacrificed during cut-down day as a result, as even someone as unpredictable as Belichick can’t possibly justify carrying two kickers.
Ryland transferred to Maryland from Eastern Michigan ahead of the 2022 campaign. He was seeking an opportunity to kick on a bigger stage while pursuing his NFL dreams. Ryland left Maryland with the program’s single-season highest field goal percentage (82.6%) record.
Like Folk, Ryland was generally consistent from short distances. The Lebanon, Pennsylvania native went a perfect 9-for-9 from 40 yards or less at Maryland. However, Ryland must improve from 40-plus after going 10-of-14 (71.4%) on such attempts. Ryland did make three field goals from 50 yards or- ore against Michigan and Michigan State.
Ryland earned an invite to this year’s Senior Bowl, indicating Ryland was viewed as a consensus top-ranking kicker by the majority of 32 teams throughout the pre-draft process. The Patriots met with Ryalnd and watched him kick in Mobile. A handful of franchises also traveled to College Park to watch Ryland perform at Maryland’s Pro Day. You guessed it, the Patriots were in attendance. They showed consistent interest in Ryland’s services, which speaks volumes regarding how they view his long-term potential.
The Patriots may view Folk as an aging asset that’s running out of gas. From Week 11 onward, Folk only converted 80.6% of his attempts over the course of New England’s final eight regular-season contests.
Ryland would have to be awful to concede this positional battle to Folk. Folk has been generally excellent since joining the Patriots, but football is a cutthroat business—it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Ascending talents are always attempting to take a veteran’s job, and Ryland appears poised to take Folk’s.
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 29, 2023