No. 5: Can Punter Bradley Pinion Finally Justify Being Drafted?
Heads surely turned when former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke picked former Clemson punter Bradley Pinion in Round 5 of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Pinion was the first specialist selected during that year’s draft, and the choice made some sense.
At least on paper.
The Niners employed perennial Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee before that, eventually trading the expensive veteran to the Cleveland Browns that offseason. Pinion was a cheaper alternative and had the collegiate leg to back it up.
Yet the problem was Pinion’s NFL-level punting proved to be anything but what Lee offered. True, some attempts showed off his cannon-like leg. But it was equally frustrating to see Pinion regularly shank punts, costing a bad 49ers team crucial field position that year.
2016 was slightly better. Pinion averaged 44.0 yards per punt on a league-leading 100 attempts — up from the 43.6 mark he had his rookie season.
In comparison though, Lee averaged 49.1 last year.
Pinion’s 2016 mark ranked 25th among all punters, certainly not justifying the draft pick.
San Francisco hopes that all changes this season with Pinion finally living up to the expectation level he developed in college.