A rookie kicker may not be best option for a team with Super Bowl dreams

Harrison Butker, a seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, may have to face some pressure-packed moments while filling in for Cairo Santos. Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Picture this: The Kansas City Chiefs in January are a 40-yard field goal away from winning the AFC Championship Game and advancing to the Super Bowl for the first time in 48 years.

They would feel better about their chances to make that kick if Cairo Santos was the one trying it -- not rookie Harrison Butker.

Santos, who was placed on the injured reserve list on Tuesday, may be able to return later in the season and make that theoretical kick for the Chiefs. But there’s been no assurances from the Chiefs he will return. And whatever the injury, they are concerned enough that he will miss at least the next eight weeks.

At a minimum, Santos will miss some big regular-season games, including those against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys.

Santos doesn’t have great range, a point mentioned by special-teams coordinator Dave Toub over the summer. But from inside 50 yards, Santos is as close to money as any kicker the Chiefs have had. His career field goal percentage of 84.8 is the best in Chiefs history.

The Chiefs will go with Butker, who was signed off the Carolina Panthers' practice squad, as his replacement. The seventh-round draft pick of the Panthers, Butker was 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points during the preseason. Among his field goals was a 51-yarder.

In four collegiate seasons at Georgia Tech, Butker made 71.7 percent of his field goal attempts. He improved that to 88.2 last season.

Not that all rookies are the same, but kicking is a pressure-packed job for a young player. Santos showed he could handle the stress by overcoming a rough start as a rookie.

But not all rookies can. That’s why it’s vital for the Chiefs that Santos takes as many of their important kicks as possible.