It has been stated before that the Illini have found little success in the NFL Draft in years prior. In 2018, the Illini went draftless. In 2017, Dawuane Smoot was selected in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. To say it has been a drought for the Illini is an understatement. Now, in 2019, Illinois has a few guys looking to make the jump to the NFL. One of those that should get plenty of looks is Big Ten Kicker of the Year Chase McLaughlin.
IMPACT ON THE ILLINI
Chase McLaughlin has long been regarded as one of the best kickers in the Big Ten, if not the country. Going a perfect 79-for-79 on extra points in his career and 4-of-6 from beyond 50 yards out in your senior year will do that for anyone.
In fact, over the past two seasons, Chase has been perfect from inside 30 yards (13-for-13) and nearly perfect from 30-39 yards out (7-for-8). The numbers would have been even better by my estimation had the Illini been better at moving the ball. McLaughlin scored 96 of the Illini’s 312 points in 2018, good for just under 31%. The impact will be felt in 2019 with a new kicker under center in Champaign, but it should benefit some team in the NFL.
With 20 made field goals in 2018, McLaughlin is tied for tenth in the country at 80%. He ranks second in 50+ yard makes, showing teams he has the leg for the NFL.
IMPACT IN THE NFL
His ability to hit from inside 30 yards will be covetous to the NFL, while his range will be something teams desire as well. Could his accuracy improve? Sure. Under 70% from 40+ leaves much to be desired. His ceiling is high, however, and as an undrafted free agent, he should be able to compete in most camps around the league.
Only six kickers have been selected in the past three years, so two kickers per year on average tells me that the likelihood of him being drafted is minimal, yet there is always an outside shot. I expect him to end up close to Illinois, whether the Bears take him on as an UDFA, or possibly Minnesota. The NFC North is a real possibility.
Bears fans may be able to rejoice at someone better than Cody Parkey who isn’t named Blewitt.
For vintage inspired, high quality, and well-designed University of Illinois apparel, check out Fourth and Kirby, and look for the TCR Collection while you’re at it!