A day-by-day Broncos player breakdown is something we've been doing since our days at BroncoTalk nearly a decade ago. This year the tradition continues as we look at the Denver Broncos roster heading into the 2015 season in our 90-in-90 series. Today we will be "kicking it off" with kicker Connor Barth.
This time last year, we all thought the Broncos were set with one of the best kickers in the league, Matt Prater. Then the news of his suspension related to alcohol use came crashing down, and the Broncos traded for Brandon McManus. McManus played the 4 games that Prater was suspended for, then luckily for the Lions, the Broncos cut Matt Prater. McManus played through week 11, in which he was ranked as the second worst kicker in the NFL in terms of field goal percentage. The Broncos then cut their second kicker of the season, and signed free agent Connor Barth.
Name: Connor Barth
Height: 5-11 Weight: 200 lbs
Age: 29 Experience: 8
College: North Carolina
Barth is easily more accurate than both McManus and Prater, making 15 of 16 attempts last season. However, he was not so good at kickoffs, having zero touchbacks in the games he kicked off in - so the Broncos re-signed McManus as a kickoff specialist. Also keep in mind that the Broncos owe Britton Colquitt $3.9 million, making him the second highest paid punter in the NFL.
The Good: Barth is incredibly accurate in the range he was allowed to kick in last season. The longest field goal he attempted and made with the Broncos was 50 yards, and based on his stats his range is around average. He only missed one field goal last season from the 40-50 range, making his percentage one of the best in the league. Compared to McManus, who was 9/13, Barth is solid. Especially considering that the new extra points will be kicked from 33 yards; Barth was perfect from this range and McManus was 2/3.
The highlight of last season for Barth, and the game that he was donned "Barth Vader," was against San Diego when he went 5 for 5 and tied a team single-game record for field goals. This led to the NFL naming him the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for December.
The Bad: Barth is abysmal at kickoffs, based on touchbacks. He attempted 8 kickoffs in his first game and none of them went for touchbacks. McManus on the other hand, went 64/91 of his kickoffs going for touchbacks. Because of this, Barth is soley used for field goals and extra points, which crowds the Broncos' roster and the wallet with kickers and punters.
Quotable: The NFL announced that they would change the PAT from the 15-yard line rather than the 2, which might concern some teams with less accurate kickers (like the Broncos before they signed Barth). This new change didn't seem to phase Barth, expressing what he thought would really make it more challenging to kick extra points:
"Narrowing the uprights would make it a lot more challenging than moving the extra point... Most guys can hit 33-yarders in their sleep... It'll probably change the percentages a little bit, but we're all pretty good kickers, and I still think we'll be in the high 90 percent range on extra points from the 15," he said. "I think they're just trying to find something to change."
Later on twitter he added:
Whelp the value of the kicking position just went up! Thanks @nfl for the rule change!— Connor Barth (@contbarth) May 19, 2015
Roster Status: As Joe Mahoney suggested last season, the Broncos could get away with cutting one of McManus, Barth, or Colquitt. McManus has proven that he is capable of punting, as he was the place kicker and punter in college. This would allow the Broncos to release Colquitt along with the $4 million he comes with. For now, it seems like Barth is safe, as the Broncos can continue using him as a reliable field goal maker.