Mr. Irrelevant – Suddenly Relevant?

AP

As the last pick in the 2009 NFL draft – otherwise known as Mr. Irrelevant - most didn't expect much from rookie kicker Ryan Succop, drafted by Kansas City this April. But apparently the Chiefs are expecting quite a bit from Succop.

Tuesday the Chiefs released Succop's only competition, Connor Barth, who kicked for the team last year. Barth's release came as a surprise, especially after he hit 10 of 12 field goals last season and proved to be the best of several placekickers the Chiefs used during training camp, preseason and the regular season.

There is some recent history with handing the job to a rookie kicker that may make some Chiefs fans nervous. In 2007, after selecting him in the fifth round of the NFL draft, Kansas City handed the placekicking duties to Justin Medlock.

Considered the most accurate kicker in the draft that year, Medlock had a fine training camp despite the lack of competition for his position, but struggled in preseason, hitting three of six kicks. In a Week 1 game against the Houston Texans, Medlock badly missed a 30-yard chip shot to open the game.

He was placed on Kansas City's practice squad afterwards and later released. After a brief stint with the St. Louis Rams, he wound up in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.

Is there reason to compare Medlock and Succop? If the Chiefs' new regime has done their homework, probably not. After Medlock was released, news came out in the Kansas City Star that apparently the franchise really hadn't put much effort into scouting the kicker. According to former Chiefs' placekicker Lawrence Tynes, only one person in the organization even knew Medlock, and former special teams coach Mike Priefer hadn't even seen him kick in person.

The reputation that General Manager Scott Pioli brought with him from New England suggests the Chiefs won't come close to making a similar mistake with Succop. But after the Medlock debacle, it may be difficult for some fans not to groan a little if Succop struggles early.

The Chiefs also may have the history of special teams coach Steve Hoffman on their side. As the kicking coach in Dallas from 1989 to 1998, he recruited several rookie kickers who found success quickly, with Chris Boniol, Richie Cunningham and Billy Cundiff setting the best examples.

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