The 2023 NFL Draft marked the highest a kicker had been taken since 2016, when Michigan's Jake Moody was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 99 overall pick. Moody is just the sixth kicker since 2000 to be selected in the top 100.
Some Niners fans were not thrilled with taking a kicker that early, but general manager John Lynch said that was their one chance to get Moody. Kickers do not have the most flashy position and as a result drafting one with a high value pick can bring skepticism.
Lynch said Moody was not going to be available for them later and the team wanted to secure a player they feel can be a difference maker in the future.
"I can tell you, since then, that a lot of teams have called and said, you know, shortly thereafter they were going there," Lynch said (via KNBR's Murph & Mac show). "And in fact, teams tried to trade up to get in front of us. So, something we feel really good about. Time will tell, as it will with all these guys. But we think he has the makings of a really cornerstone, foundational-type player for years to come for us, and we're proud to have him a part of us."
The Niners had three third-round picks, No. 87, No. 99 and No. 101. With the No. 87 pick they took safety Ji'ayir Brown out of Penn State and picked tight end Cameron Latu from Alabama with No. 101. Since they had three third rounders to use, Lynch and Co. felt they could use one on a kicker.
"We call it a third-round pick," Lynch said. "Really a (compensatory) three, which we kind of see as fourth-round picks. And we felt like that was a really good value," Lynch noted. "We had three of them there. I think that gave us a little luxury to come away with two players that we coveted at positions, offense and defense, and then to be able to add a kicker. It was a luxury we had that maybe everybody else didn't have."
Moody was the first of three kickers selected in the draft and was one of the top kicking prospects heading into the weekend. He was the FBS leader in field goals in 2022 with 29 and ended his college career with an 82.1 field goal percentage and 355 points, the most in school history.
The 49ers had Robbie Gold lining up for kicks from 2017 to 2022 and saw the value a Pro-Bowl and All-Pro kicker can bring to a team. Lynch is hopeful that Moody can be the next Gould-type player for them and discussed how valuable a kicker can be.
"I think you know that if you're taking a kicker that high, believe me, we weren't doing cartwheels over it," Lynch said. "I think we'll be doing cartwheels if he's the guy we think he is because kickers are really important. They score a lot of points. They finish a lot of drives."
The GM continued, saying, "I think this guy will give us an opportunity to extend where we've been able to kick from. I think we'll be able to kick the 55-plus yarders now. I think on the kickoffs, this is a guy who can put 'em into the end zone when we need, kick 'em out of the end zone. We can hang it up there. I think he affords us the opportunity to do a lot of things."
The Niners also have kicker Zane Gonzalez on the team, following a trade this offseason.