With the NFL Draft at the end of the month, this is the time when various publications for the event are released. Two of the better guides, Dane Brugler’s 2017 NFL Draft Guide and Nolan Narwocki’s NFL Draft 2017 Preview, include their rankings of the top snappers.
Brugler has Cole Mazza (Alabama) as the top snapper, followed by Colin Holba (Louisville), Bradley Northnagel (California), Anthony Kukwa (Lake Erie) and Scott Daly (Notre Dame). Narwocki has Holba, Northnagel, Nolan Dowling (Western Kentucky), Mazza, Mark Amann (San Jose State) and Billy Shipman (Cal Poly State).
With the NFL Draft approaching at the end of the month, teams are continuing to tinker with their rosters. Two snappers from the 2015 Draft class, Joe Fortunato from Delaware and client Derek Hart from James Madison, each signed their first NFL contracts.
Fortunato signed with the Colts and Hart signed with the Packers. Both performed well in free agent specialist camps the past few months. Both attended the Zauner Free Agent Specialist’s Combine in Arizona and Hart also attended the Husted Kicking Pro Camp in Alabama.
As expected, the NFL approved a new rule that prohibits a player from crossing the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block an extra point or field goal attempt. Under the amended rule, a player can run forward and leap as long as he does not cross the line of scrimmage or land on players.
Another rule proposal that would protect snappers for at least one second after a snap did not obtain approval.
This week, the NFL will consider a number of proposed playing rule changes, two of which implicate long snappers. The first proposal would provide additional protection for the snapper on kick plays. Specifically, the rule would prevent a defensive player from initiating contact with the snapper until one second after the snap.
The second proposal would address a common issue last season when teams would time snaps to leap over the snapper to block a field goal or extra point. The current rule makes leaping over the snapper illegal only when the defender lands on a player. The proposal would ban the play entirely.
It is expected that the second rule proposal will pass and eliminate the leaping over the snapper play.
As free agency enters a second week there have been some more long snapper signings. Veteran Jon Condo has resigned with the Raiders, while Garrison Sanborn did not remain unemployed long. The Bucs signed the veteran snapper who had been with Buffalo but was not resigned. Andrew East was also signed by the Rams.
Thomas Gafford, Brett Goode, Justin Drescher and Andrew DePaola are the remaining unsigned veteran free agents.
Patrick Mannelly remains of the best long snappers in NFL history and Windy City Gridiron recently published an excellent and comprehensive interview with Mannelly.
Entitled “The Life of the Long Snapper” the story by Jack M. Silverstein does an excellent job reviewing some of the well-known and not so well-known aspects of Mannelly’s 16 year career with the Bears.
There have been a few more long snapper signings this past week as veteran free agency is nearly a week old. As usual, snappers tend to stay with their clubs. So, it is no surprise that unrestricted free agents Mike Windt (Chargers), John Denney (Dolphins) and Tanner Purdum (Jets) have all rejoined their teams. Windt signed a four-year deal, while Denney and Purdum inked one-year contracts.
Remaining unrestricted free agents are Thomas Gafford, Brett Goode, Justin Drescher, Jon Condo and Andrew DePaola. DePaola was a restricted free agent but became an unrestricted free agent after Tampa Bay did not tender him a contract to retain his rights.