Getting to Know: Taylor Mehlhaff

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The new kid in town.

via media.scout.com

With the 178th overall pick in the 6th round the New Orleans Saints selected Wisconsin K Taylor Mehlhaff. To many Saints fans, including myself, this was a surprising pick. He was one of only two kickers selected this year, and with so many other options out there I have to wonder why we couldn't possibly have waited until the free agency period following the draft to address our kicking needs. I am going to assume that Payton and company saw something in this kid and knew he would get picked up by another team. I'm just going to assume that. I'm also going to assume he didn't see the same things in Mehlhaff that he saw in Olindo Mare.

The Saints grabbed the Badger for many of the same reasons they acquired Mare last year. He has a strong leg and can be a specialist on kickoffs. Long distance isn't a problem. He's good in inclement weather and wind, from kicking in Camp Randall Stadium, so the dome should be no problem.

Mehlhaff...

But anytime you have an opportunity to kick an indoor stadium and take the wind element out of the stadium, it's a plus for sure. -Badgers Blog

Because he is left footed, he will need extra practice with the special teams, and some adjustments will need to be made. Physically he is small but is a pretty good tackler. He has been criticized for his slow approach, and will need to work on it. He has been compared to John Kasay and Ryan Longwell. Mehlhaff is coming off a great senior season, where he greatly improved on getting more height on his kicks, a problem Mare had last year. It should be noted, he has never had a kick blocked.

Off the field he is no character issues. Mehlhaff is an all around athlete, something coaches love in their kickers. He lettered all four years of high school in football, hockey and track. All this means he is very competitive. This summer we may very well have a battle for the starting job. Mehlhaff's natural competitiveness will be in full gear.

I think it's a great opportunity. No matter where you go you're going to have to compete no matter what. [Martin] Gramatica I know is a very solid field-goal kicker. I don't know much about him kickoff-wise.

I'm very confident in my kickoffs and my kicking in general. I'm going to go down there will all the intentions in the world to compete with him and win the job. We'll see what happens. I know he came in at the end of the year for them and went like 5-of-5 or 6-or-6. He ended the year well, he kicked well for them. There's going to be good competition for sure.- Badgers Blog

But that would only be if Mehlhaff really makes a great impression.

Payton said the Saints aren't eager to replace Gramatica, but they wanted to bring in some serious competition for him. So they spent more time than usual scouting the top available kickers.

Even if Mehlhaff doesn't beat out Gramatica, he could stick as a kickoff specialist -- or who knows, maybe even a wedge-buster. - Times-Pic

The best news of all: The last kicker the Saints ever drafted was in 1982. It was Morten Anderson.

 

Name School Position Hometown DOB Ht. Wt. 40-Yard Bench Press
Taylor Mehlhaff Wisconson K Aberdeen, SD 8/25/85 5'11" 185 4.95 13

 

Year GP FGM FGA LG XPM XPA
2004 12 0 0 0 0 0
2005 13 14 20 46 56 58
2006 13 15 20 52 47 47
2007 13 21 25 51 42 43
Totals 51 50 65 52 145 148

The experts at NFL.com and NFL Draft Countdown , respectively, chime in...

The Good...

Positives: Has a small frame, but shows good muscle tone, firm midsection and good thigh and calf development...Very poised under pressure, showing great confidence in his ability to kick for distance and in poor weather conditions...Has tunnel vision on the field, blocking out all distractions...Durable athlete with no health issues...While not used in this capacity at Wisconsin, he is a former prep quarterback with the arm strength to air the ball out with good accuracy on fakes and trick plays...Shows good speed and urgency getting downfield to help the kickoff coverage unit (nine career tackles)...Has the quickness, balance, agility and leg flexibility to put full force behind his kicks from either hash...Hits the ball with a quick stride, showing steady acceleration and trajectory on his attempts...Has very good mechanics to handle multiple kicking chores, connecting with the ball with very good pop on contact during kickoffs, field goals and extra points...Has shown marked improvement getting his kickoffs to sail through the end zone (123-of-287 attempts resulted in touchbacks, 42.86%)...Not used for punting duties, but shows the ability to field snaps with ease and can adjust to the off-target snap...Drives the ball deep on kickoffs, even when making attempts into the wind...Shows very good strength on contact with the ball, driving it deep and with very good hang time...Consistently gets the ball into the end zone on kickoffs and has the range to make field goals from the 50-yard area...In 2007, he showed quicker steps to the ball, as he starts his motion earlier than he had in the past...Has good snap-to-toe timing (1.29 second on field goals/1.21 on PATs)...The ball can explode off his foot and improved his trajectory over the years (hang time was as low as 3.84 seconds earlier in his career, but his kickoffs averaged 4.28-4.54 seconds in 2007)...The ball jumps off his foot with good rise on field goals/PATs...Generates good lift on contact...Puts some air under his kickoffs and is not prone to kicking line drives...Has generally good accuracy on his field goals (76.92% overall, 56% from 40-yards or longer)...Has the ability to kick off toward the corners or let the ball sail out of the end zone...Can kick from both hashes effectively...Has adapted well to the swirling winds at Wisconsin's Camp Randall stadium and should not have any problems kicking into the wind...Makes proper adjustments in his approach to the ball based on field and weather conditions...Poised and in control in pressure situations, showing confidence and concentration coming through in the clutch...Lacks size, but is a tough open-field tackler who will square up, wrap and secure with good pop on contact...Has the athletic ability to break down and tackle in space (former defensive back in high school)...Has the loose hips to recover when he's juked by a returner and is not afraid to stick his hat into the pile.

Strengths:
Has a very strong leg....He is accustomed to kicking in poor conditions...Able to hit from 50+ yards...Consistent...Never had a FGA or PAT blocked...Also provides a lot of value on kickoffs..Decent athlete..Hard worker...Made major strides as a senior.

The Bad...

Negatives: Did not always get great height on his kickoffs, but as a senior, his hang time greatly improved from the previous season (4.54-second average in 2007, compared to 3.84 in 2005)...Needs to show a bit more quickness on his approach on field goals and conversions (bit deliberate in the past), but is much quicker when he uses a 2 1/2-step approach (note-he has never had a field goal or extra point blocked. The missed PAT in the 2007 UNLV was due to a muffed snap)...Might need some time to work with his holder and snapper at the next level, as he is a left-footed, soccer style kicker and the trio need to get comfortable with the kicker's approach and timing.

Weaknesses:
Needs to work on speeding up his approach...A little too mechanical at times...Has been known to get flustered in big situations in the past...Is left footed which will require some adjustment from his teammates...Was his 2007 season just a fluke?

NFL.com Q&A...

Growing up, who was your favorite NFL player and why?
Brett Favre has always been my favorite player. I just love the emotion he plays with and he's always so animated after every TD pass.
In college, what player hit you the hardest? Who was the recipient of your best hit?
As a kicker, I didn't take any big hits, but I did put a nice little hit on Ted Ginn Jr. on a kickoff my freshman year.
What TV-show marathon will keep you on the couch all day?
I could sit around and watch both friends and Entrourage all day.
What are the five most-played songs in your iPod? What's the one song you hope nobody ever finds out is in your iPod?
I have a song from the Rent soundtack.
What is one thing your teammates don't know about you?
Not all of my teammates know the amount of time and effort I put into my kicking because the majority of it takes place in the offseason. I've put so much time to be where I am at today.
What reality TV show would you like to be on and why?
MTV's Inferno because I would love competing in all those unique challenges and traveling all over the world.
What's your proudest moment in football? Proudest moment off the field?
Leading my team to the state championship game my senior year of high school as a QB. They thing I'm most proud of off the field is seeing how happy and proud my parents are of me and my accomplishments.
When you play Madden, what team do you use? Do you put yourself on the team?
I really don't play video games.
Who has been the biggest influence on your football career and how?
I'd have to say my parents. They've always been there for me and believed in me. They saw the big picture and knew that all my hard work would pay off someday.
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