Statistically speaking, Gano had another productive season in 2016 -- his fourth as Carolina's full-time starter -- but a tough start and even tougher, albeit injury-related, finish prompted the Panthers to draft a kicker for the first time in franchise history. Seventh-rounder Harrison Butker, the leading scorer in Georgia Tech's 124-year football history and coming off a season in which he led the ACC in field goal percentage, will compete with Gano this summer. As the Charlotte Observer reported, Gano's 2016 season began with frustration, when he missed a 50-yard FG in the final seconds that would have won the Super Bowl 50 rematch in Denver. He recovered to put himself in position to record his highest FG percentage since 2013, but late in the season injury finally caught up with him. In the three games leading up to his Week 17 1 for 4 performance at Tampa Bay, Gano played with a broken bone in his plant foot -- an injury that had bothered him well before the bone snapped in half on a Week 14 kickoff against the Chargers. Gano had surgery in mid-January and has been medically cleared, but fantasy owners need to watch the competition this preseason before committing here.
Graham Gano 2016 Outlook
As CBSSports.com recently noted, Gano has established himself as one of the better kickers in the league. He converted 30 of 36 field goal attempts and 56 of 59 extra point tries for a franchise record and career high 146 points last year -- due in part to playing alongside an offense run by NFL MVP Cam Newton, who propelled the Panthers to impressive scoring totals. Newton's ability to keep the offense moving was a major factor in Gano ranking second in points in the NFL behind New England's Stephen Gostkowski (151). Can he continue that run? It's not a reach to believe he can. Gano has converted at least 80 percent of his field goal attempts each of the last four seasons and has attempted 35 or more field goals each of the last two. CBS notes that he's a little spotty from 50-plus yards, but that shouldn't keep you from rolling with him as your primary kicker this season.
Graham Gano 2015 Outlook
In response to the new 33-yard PAT attempt, Gano offered the following response via Twitter: “Should have changed the extra point to a 50 yard field goal. That would have been more interesting.” He was joking, but point taken. Gano was 6-for-6 on field goals of 50 yards or longer in 2013, and he’s 12-of-17 from that distance since 2011. Gano is also adept at the 32- to 33-yard range established by moving the point-after snap from the two to the 15-yard line. He is 5-for-5 from that distance for his career. He is 19-for-21 from 30 to 39 yards the past three years at Carolina. “Thirty to 40-yard field goals should be made, but I’m sure if you move it back there will be guys that miss them here and there,” Gano told the Panthers’ official website. “I expect to make every kick, and that’s not something that will change. Nothing will change mentally or form wise.” And given his long-distance ability, Gano will remain a worthy daily game prospect.