Johnny Townsend is no Marquette King. His leg may not be as strong as King’s, and he doesn’t have the flair that made King a favorite of some fans – and irritated some members of the Raiders organization, who eventually decided to move on from him.
But when King was let go earlier this offseason, the Raiders had to eventually hire a new punter, and they did that in the NFL draft this past weekend by selecting former Florida standout Johnny Townsend in the fifth round with the 173rd overall choice.
Certainly, Townsend may have some growing pains. It’s a big jump even from the talent-rich SEC to the NFL. In fact, the scouting report on Townsend by NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein notes that while Townsend has a strong leg, he’ll need to learn to get his punts higher, for more hang time, because his punts often had a lower arc, allowing returners to get some long returns.
But, Townsend is the all-time leading punter for both Florida and the SEC, and this past season he averaged 47.5 yards per punt, the second-best mark in major college football. In 2016 he was No. 1 with a 47.9-yard average when he was first-team All-America.
Townsend, 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, also played safety in high school and is the first punter drafted by the Raiders since Shane Lechler.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie says he loves “the kid” and knows him through Townsend’s younger brother, who was at Tennesse with McKenzie’s son.
“I know the family very well,” McKenzie told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I know what he (Johnny) is made of. He does a great job of directional punting. He’s a great holder. Great little athlete. I think he’s got a lot of intangibles to be one of the best punters in years to come.”
After being drafted, Townsend said it’s “an unbelievable opportunity” to be drafted by the Raiders and to follow such standouts as Lechler and King.
“I’m going to have to bring my ‘A game’ throughout this whole process,” he said. “Just having the opportunity presented to me is unbelievable and I’m just going to take it and run with it.”