Illinois senior Derek Dimke is considered by many analysts to be among the top-5 prospects at his position leading up to this week’s NFL draft.
If Dimke played quarterback, safety or almost anywhere on the field, he would be guaranteed to hear his name being called at some point over the three-day draft, which begins on Thursday. But because Dimke is a kicker, there’s a chance he may go undrafted despite being one of the premier college players at his position.
Such is a life of a kicker, and Dimke gets it.
“For a kicker, it’s a little bit different than other positions,” Dimke said by phone on Sunday. “There’s a lot of great kickers out there, and there’s only one kicker on a team. It’s a matter of performing at the right place and at the right time and being patient.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen (in the draft). I’ve talked to a lot of teams. A lot of teams have showed interest, and I’m getting positive feedback.”
What has attracted teams to Dimke is his kicking accuracy from every distance. He was 39-of-46 in field goals and 89-of-89 in extra points during his three seasons starting for the Illini. He was 15-of-17 from 30-39 yards, 10-of-13 from 40-49 yards and 2-of-3 from 50 yards and beyond. His career long was 52 yards as a junior against Missouri.
Dimke is ranked the No.1 kicker by ESPN Scouts Inc. and is considered the fourth –best kicker in the draft by ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
There haven’t been many kickers or punters selected in recent NFL drafts. Three punters and zero kickers were drafted in 2010. Last season, Nebraska kicker Alex Henery was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami punter Matt Bosher was taken in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons.
Even if Dimke isn’t chosen in the draft, he could very well wind up on an NFL team. Kickers and punters often go undrafted and earn spots on NFL rosters after signing on as free agents. Just last season, Ryan Donahue, who starred at Iowa and St. Rita High School in Chicago, signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent and made the team. Even one of Dimke’s mentors, Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, began his career as a free agent.
“My goal is to just make it to a camp and be able to be given a chance,” said Dimke, who participated in the NFL draft combine. “Whether that’s being drafted or through free agency, it doesn’t matter to me. I want a team to give me a chance and show what I can do.
“I’ve gotten a lot of advice from a lot of kickers, guys who have been through this process. They’ve all given me the same advice: Be patient, wait for your opportunity and make the kicks you’re supposed to make. Kicking isn’t complicated. Either you’re making the kicks you’re supposed to make or you’re not.”