At first glance, the Green Bay Packers' decision to spend a third-round draft pick on Ohio State punter B.J. Sander might seem like risky business.
Year to year, only a punter or two are selected in the entire NFL Draft, and the only other time the Packers have selected a punter as early as the third round was in 1981, when they acquired Ray Stachowicz of Michigan State with the 62nd overall pick.
But Josh Bidwell's departure via free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason makes punter one of the team's few positions of need. If cornerback Mike McKenzie returns, the Packers could return starters at all 22 positions in 2004 -- 23 positions if you include kicker Ryan Longwell.
Thus, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman saw punter as an area worth addressing in the draft.
"I figure that we possibly drafted a starter at that position, a very valuable position to help our field position," Sherman said. "I don't look at it as overly risky. I look at it as risky if I didn't take him."
The Packers already have former Cincinnati Bengal Travis Dorsch and former Australian rules footballer Nathan Chapman on the roster, but having spent a third-round pick on Sander, they're assuming he can win the job in training camp.
As a senior at Ohio State, Sander won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter with a 41.0-yard net average and 39 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
Packers coaches said they liked Sander's all-around ability and his mechanics, specifically his low drop point, which is must to make solid contact in the windy conditions of Lambeau Field. They also like the fact that Sander is left-footed, which should make fielding his kicks tough on opposing return men.
"Being left-footed puts a different spin on the ball," Sherman said. "I think he can be a dangerous punter in Lambeau Field ... I've always been enamored with left-footed punters because I know how hard it is to field those punts coming off that foot."
Another plus regarding Sander is his comfort kicking in poor weather conditions, which are commonplace in Green Bay the latter part of each season.
The Packers attended Sander's pre-draft workout at Ohio State on a cold and windy day in March and left impressed by his performance.
"I've only been here one year, but it was colder out there than any day we've had here at Lambeau Field," special teams coach John Bonamego said. "I mean, it was in the low 30s, maybe high 20s and probably 15-20 mph winds and he had a really good workout in those conditions. So, that pretty much convinced me that he could do it."
Packers' History Drafting Punters (year, player, round (overall pick)):
1974: Randy Walker, Northwestern (La.) State - 12 (298)
1979: Rick Partridge, Utah - 8 (208)
1979: Bill Moats, South Dakota - 12 (318)
1981: Ray Stachowicz, Michigan State - 3 (62)
1983: Bucky Scribner, Kansas - 11 (299)
1985: Jim Meyer, Arizona State - 12 (323)
1987: Bill Smith, Missouri - 7 (191)
1989: Brian Shulman, Auburn - 8 (206)
1990: Kirk Maggio, UCLA - 12 (325)
1991: Jeff Fite, Memphis State - 5 (135)
1999: Josh Bidwell, Oregon - 4 (133)
2004: B.J. Sander, Ohio State - 3 (87)