New Lions K Freese has an accurate leg

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Nate Freese knew there was a chance he would not hear his name called at all over NFL draft's three days. He hadn't been invited to the NFL combine. Kickers -- and punters -- get drafted less frequently than fullbacks.

Yet throughout the three-day madness that is the draft, Freese sat and watched. Every pick. Every round. It's become a tradition for him ever since he had teammates who could potentially hear their names called.

He wanted to hear that, so he watched, even though he was never quite sure if he would hear his own name. In the seventh round, he did, becoming the final pick made by the Detroit Lions and the second straight season the team has drafted a kicker or punter after taking Sam Martin last year.

"I knew some teams were interested but I was expecting, you know, whatever," Freese said. "But I think it's pretty awesome that it happened."

The Lions were in need of a kicker after Jason Hanson retired following the 2012 season and veteran free agent David Akers had an inconsistent 2013, leading to the Lions deciding not to bring him back for another year.

Detroit signed one kicker to a futures contracts -- Giorgio Tavecchio -- but there was always a feeling the Lions would end up either taking a kicker in the draft or finding one as an undrafted free agent.

Now that the team has invested a draft pick in a kicker, there's a good chance Freese becomes Detroit's starter in the fall. He was picked over other kickers because he does something better than most of the other kickers in his class -- he just makes field goals.

"He's kicked outside his whole career," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I think he'd be great in our division. Didn't miss a field goal last year. Think he missed two in 2012, I think.

"Very accurate guy. Very consistent."

Considering the Lions are hoping to find a kicker they can have for a decade or longer without concern -- like Hanson or some of the other more consistent kickers in the NFL, it made sense to grab one with this level of accuracy.

His range is a bit in question -- his long in college was 52 yards, but he said under the right conditions he could hit from around 60 yards -- although that can be improved through a NFL-level strength program over the next season or two.

Plus, kicking in a dome is not something Freese has done often. He played in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where winds often change direction and can alter plans for kickers. Playing for the Eagles, he also didn't receive many opportunities to take longer field goals over the past few seasons.

While he'll work on the range, the Lions anticipate the accuracy transitioning just fine. As long as it does, he's likely to be Detroit's kicker this season and beyond.

"It goes back to training and muscle memory," Freese said. "I like to go out there and do the same thing every time.

"I don't even really have to think about it. Just basically muscle memory."

It's a formula that led him to be one of two kickers selected in the draft -- making the entire watching process even more worth it.