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Why I liked the decision to draft long snapper Camaron Cheeseman

The best long snapper available in the draft and a decade plus of secure special teams play

Let’s talk about late round draft picks

Here’s a take on late-round draft picks from Bleacher Report:

Only 28.2 percent of players drafted in Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7 were retained at the end of their first contract—which is a number that is largely supported by an abundance of fourth-round picks re-upping. Rounds 5, 6 and 7 made up 16.7 percent of the 28.2 percent total.

the Seahawks hit the jackpot when they drafted Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman in consecutive years.

All three players were late-round draft selections.

People often forget John Schneider and Pete Carroll had 10 other selections in Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7 during that two-year span. Where are those other 10 players at right now?

Well, seven have been cut and three remain on the roster in a non-starting role.

This information is brought to you by Arrowhead Pride:

Historic Success Chart

The numbers show us the following outline for finding consistent starters:

6th Round - TE (26%) OL (16%) DL (13%) WR (9%) DB (8%) RB (6%) LB (5%) QB (0%)

7th Round - DB (11%) OL (9%) QB (6%) WR (5%) DL (3%) LB (2%) RB (0%) TE (0%)

The point here is that very few starters are drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds of the draft. Only about 1 in 6 players drafted in the final three rounds ever makes it to a second NFL contract. This is the domain of backups, special teamers, practice squad players and long shots.

Let’s look at Washington has gotten from the 6th round since 2013

2013 - DB Baccari Rambo

2014 - RB Lache Seastrunk

2015 - DB Tevin Mitchell, WR Evan Spencer, S Kyshoen Jarrett

2016 - QB Nate Sudfeld

2017 - WR Robert Davis, OL Chase Roullier

2018 - LB Shaun Dion Hamilton

That’s 9 players over 6 drafts.

  • I see one unqualified success there in Chase Roullier.
  • Kyshoen Jarrett was playing well for the Redskins when his career was cut short by an unfortunate hit that left him with nerve damage.
  • The other 7 players are the typical collection of backups, underperformers, and busts.
  • I’m gonna say that we’ve got an unqualified success rate of 11% (just Roullier) and a qualified success rate of 22.2% (including Kyshoen Jarrett).

This seems to be very much in line with the broader NFL numbers — teams get about a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 success rate with late round draft picks.

What’s the story on drafting long snappers?

Although NFL teams drafting long-snappers isn’t that common, it’s also not unheard of. In fact, there’s been one selected in each of the last six drafts:

In addition, there were two drafted in the 2021 draft this week. The Carolina Panthers drafted Thomas Fletcher and the Washington Football Team drafted Camaron Cheeseman.

Of the six long snappers drafted between 2015 and 2020, four of them are playing in the NFL. Further, the expected longevity for a long-snapper, once he makes a regular season roster, is typically in excess of ten years. For example, Nick Sundberg, Washington’s most recent long-snapper, played 12 consecutive seasons, the final 11 with Washington. The previous Washington long-snapper was Ethan Albright, who had a 15-year career, spending 9 seasons with the Redskins, from 2001-2009.

I’ve written about this idea before, but the average age of the top-9 highest paid long snappers in the league in 2020 was 33, and the oldest of the group was 40.

Basically, once a long-snapper makes the team, he stays...and stays...and stays.

From 3 April 2021:

Camaron Cheeseman: top target as Washington’s next long snapper?

While many fans flippantly remark that long snappers are “a dime a dozen”, this is largely untrue — and far less true than, say, running backs. There are only 32 long snappers in the NFL — one per team. Once they get the job, they tend to stay for a decade or more. This means that there are only about 3 long snapper jobs opening up in the NFL on average in any given year. Teams can and should he highly selective about who they choose.

The importance of long snappers

Fans often think of the long snapper the way they think of other offensive linemen — as one of the “big uglies” that tip the scales at 300 pounds (plus). But long snappers are really much more like linebackers — they are special teams aces who, after snapping the ball to the punter, have to run 40 yards downfield as fast as they can and try to make a tackle on the return man.

This specialist position is also a stressful job requiring precision and a lot of coolness under pressure. Everyone focuses on the field goal kicker and the holder when a team lines up for a last-second 3-point attempt, but the entire operation of the kick begins with, and depends upon, the long-snapper doing his job. The ball, like in the Goldilocks story, can’t be too low or too high — it must be ‘just right’.

Remember, a long snapper needs to be able to snap the ball in more ways than a typical center. A long snapper needs to be able to snap the ball to different players lining up at a variety of spots relative to the snapper. The list includes a punter lined up 10 yards or so directly behind the snapper, a punt protector (on a fake punt) standing up a few yards behind the snapper and off to one side, and a field goal holder (usually the punter) who is kneeling on the ground several yards behind and to the side.

Professional long snappers practice endlessly to make sure the snap arrives at the right height, with the right velocity, and even with the laces in the optimum position for the guy receiving the snap to handle it cleanly.

A poor snap on a punt can result in a bad punt, a block, or even a defensive touchdown.

A bad snap on a field goal attempt can directly cost the team points on the scoreboard. NFL history is filled with examples of games lost at least partly due to the lack of a quality long snapper, including playoff games significantly impacted by poor snap attempts on special teams.

An elite long snapper definitely won’t single-handedly win you games, but a bad long snapper can absolutely be a big reason why you lose games.

Former Washington long-snapper, Nick Sundberg has spoken publicly in the past about the constant practice and work he puts in to be able to deliver the snap perfectly every time — the right speed, the right height, and with the laces just so. Redskins fans celebrated most of Tress Way’s punts in recent years as works of art, but every one of those beautiful kicks started with the long snapper.

To prepare each week, Sundberg watches tape like any other player, spending hours in the film room alongside Redskins assistant special teams coach Bradford Banta, who spent the majority of his 11 years in the NFL as a long snapper. Sundberg needs to not only know how his upcoming opponent will try to block a punt or kick, but also the individual tendencies of players who will try to cross in front of him or pick him.

Beyond film, however, Sundberg’s preparation strays from the rest of the team. His practices are an exercise in simple repetition, snapping over and over and over again, often as many as 200 times per day.

“I can’t even guess offhand how many times he snaps over the course of the week,” [the placekicker] said, “but it’s a lot.”

Sundberg often judges his snaps by split-seconds and inches. If a punt snap hits Way in the chest, for example, it’s too high. If it’s at his knees, it’s too low. If it’s on his right hip, it should be on his left hip.

On field goals and extra points, Sundberg’s snap should reach Way’s hands with the laces already pointing straight up. This saves the holder the split-second adjustment of spinning the ball around to put the laces out, which gives Forbath a split-second longer to see the ball upon his approach.

“He is definitely a perfectionist,” Way said. “It’s nice because my job depends on him. Whenever you have a perfectionist that you’re working with, you’re usually pretty comfortable because you know that guy’s going to work really hard.”

Because of the importance of the unit efficiency (the punter is the holder for field goals) the three specialists work together continuously to ensure smooth operation and flawless timing that allows them to perform in all sorts of weather, field conditions and game situations.

For all these reasons, the long snapper is an integral part of any NFL team.

Drafting a long snapper is not a “wasted” pick; it is an investment in the next decade for your team

Long snappers are dedicated professionals and specialists who practice hours per day doing one thing — snapping the ball — in a variety of circumstances. While fans tend to be very aware of the kicker and punter on the team, and a high value placed on those positions because of their importance to field position and scoring, long snappers, by contrast, get little respect. Most fans seem to think it is an auxiliary skill that can be assigned to the backup center.

That’s a galaxy removed from the truth of it. Long snappers are integral, and getting the right guy today means stability for as many as the next dozen years.

At 6’4” and 235 pounds coming out of college, Camaron Cheeseman has the prototypical size and was rated by most people who rate long snappers as the #1 prospect, slightly ahead of the smaller Crimson Tide long snapper, Thomas Fletcher, who was drafted this weekend by the Carolina Panthers.

From Ethan Albright, who carried Washington from the last millennium to this, to Nick Sundberg, who was the team’s 2019 nominee for the Walter Peyton Man of the Year award, to young Camaron Cheeseman, the Football Team is likely to see 3 men play for thirty years and three team names.

That seems like good use of a sixth round pick to me. If I was going to doubt it for a moment, I would just start reciting names: Lache Seastrunk, Baccari Rambo, Evan Spenser, Tevin Mitchell....