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Can Joshua Karty, Ethan Evans evoke memories of Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker?

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By: JB Scott

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Few college kickers were as reliable as Karty over the last two years. Will his game translate to the NFL?

When it comes to the Los Angeles Rams’ 2024 draft class, the pairing of former Florida State teammates Jared Verse and Braden Fiske with the first two selections has created a lot of headlines. One of their later selections, kicker Joshua Karty, is also reunited with someone he has a lot of familiarity with: punter Ethan Evans.

Karty is a graduate of Western Alamance High School in North Carolina. Evans attended high school just an hour and a half away at North Surry in Mt. Airy. After getting picked by the Rams in the sixth round last month, Karty said he’s known Evans for 5-6 years and the two had trained together in Charlotte “all the time”. Evans was drafted by LA in the seventh round of last year’s draft. He has a booming leg and an unusually large frame for a punter at 6-3, 231 lbs.

The Rams desperately need Karty to stabilize the kicker position for their team, especially after Los Angeles watched Brett Maher and Lucas Havrisik miss 16 combined field goal and extra point attempts in the first season following Matt Gay’s free agent departure to the Indianapolis Colts.

Gay, of course, was the kicker who sent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (his former team) and Tom Brady packing in the division round of the 2021 playoffs en route to a victory in Super Bowl LVI. Gay made another kick in the NFC Championship game a week later against the San Francisco 49ers to take a three point lead with less than two minutes on the clock. The Rams have been directionless at kicker since Gay left in 2022.

After a rough debut, Karty found his footing in 2022-2023

Karty joined Stanford in 2020 but didn’t see any notable activity during his freshman campaign. As a sophomore he made all 27 of his extra point attempts but struggled on field goals—making just 10 of 15. The encouraging aspect was that Karty converted all of his attempts within 39 yards, made three of four from 49 yards in, but struggled from 50+ and missed four of his five kicks.

But kickers’ legs tend to strengthen as they get older, and on the surface that development seems to be taking place for Karty. In his junior season he nailed all 15 of his kicks under 49 yards—including 10 between 40-49 yards—and converted all three of his kicks outside of 50 yards. His longest attempt that season was made from 61, and he also had makes from 54 and 53.

As a senior Stanford continued to show confidence in Karty’s leg from distance and rewarded him with more long attempts. He again was nearly automatic from within 49 yards and missed just one of his 20 attempts from that range. In terms of the kicks longer than 50 yards, Karty wasn’t as effective on the surface as his 2022 season but still went four of seven including his season-long of 56-yards.

All-in-all, during his last two collegiate seasons Karty made 34 of 35 kicks from inside 49 yards and was seven of 10 from beyond 50 yards. He missed only a single point after attempt in three seasons, though the college rules differ from that of the professional game.

Karty made the NC All-Decade high school team littered with NFL talent

HighSchoolOT put together a 2010’s high school All-Decade team. The list is based purely on high school accomplishments and does not take into account college or professional success. To be considered, players had to play in at least one part of a 2010 calendar year. There are seven spots for each position group.

Karty made the list at kicker with the following profile:

K/P —​​​​​​​ Josh Karty, Western Alamance (class of 2020): The top-ranked kicker in the country managed to make kickoffs a highlight — particularly the one that hit the top of the left goalpost in a playoff game at Jacksonville his senior year. In all, 220 of his career 285 kickoffs were touchbacks. His senior year, he also punted and averaged 44.8 yards per kick. For his career, he made 32 of 42 field goals with a long of 52. Has signed to play at Stanford next fall.

While looking for Karty, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of NFL talent that filled the list. It’s good company for the Rams’ new kicker to be in.

Todd Gurley, RB

Former first round pick by the Rams in 2015; AP Offensive Player of the year in 2011.

Pharoh Cooper, Athlete

Former Rams WR/returner and 4th round draft selection; First-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 2017

Eric Ebron, Athlete

Former NFL TE and pass catcher of QB Matthew Stafford during their days with the Detroit Lions

Sam Howell, QB

Joined the NFC West this offseason when Seattle Seahawks acquired via trade with the Washington Commanders

Bradley Pinion, P

Another specialist that made the roster, and it’s encouraging that he’s carved out a long professional career. Now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

Landon Dickerson, OL

DJ Humphries, OL

Harold Landry, DL

Tyquan Lewis, DL

Jaire Alexander, DB

Jermaine Pratt, DB

Will Grier, QB

Mike Hughes, Athlete

Hendon Hooker, QB

Nyheim Hines, Athlete

Can Karty and Evans form a duo worth remembering?

It was somewhat head scratching last offseason when the Rams moved on from veterans at kicker, punter, and long snapper and pivoted to a clean slate at the specialist positions. However, we’ve seen the team in a similar position before on special teams, and last time around they found players that filled their roles for the next decade.

In 2012 the team released veteran kicker Josh Brown after drafting Missouri State’s Greg Zuerlein in the sixth round. Initially this was viewed as a cost savings move in a rebuilding effort by a new head coach and GM, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. The team also signed punter Johnny Hekker from Oregon State upon conclusion of the draft as an UDFA. The two basically took turns going to the Pro Bowl for the next decade and formed one of the more formidable special teams duos in the NFL over their time. Both individuals played key roles in helping LA to the 2018 Super Bowl where they fell short to the New England Patriots. While Zuerlein moved on soon after, Hekker stuck around through the Rams’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.

Is it fair to ask Ethan Evans and Joshua Karty to become the next version of Zuerlein and Hekker? Probably not. Would it be a great story if the young duo can help usher in stability to a Rams’ special teams unit that has been among the worst in the NFL over the last two to three years? Of course, and it would be even better considering these two grew up playing high school football less than two hours apart from each other.