On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their second fourth-round selection in the 2022 draft, number 133 overall, to select Georgia punter Jake Camarda, representing the highest pick they had invested in the position since 1988. Camarda was worth that investment to the Buccaneers because they believe he can seriously impact the team's fortunes on special teams in multiple ways.
Vice President of Player Personnel John Spytek referred to Camarda as a 'two-phase' player, meaning he excels at both punts and kickoffs, and also noted his surprising athleticism for a punter.
"He's just another really good football player, a really talented athlete," said Spytek. "He's 6-1, 190 [pounds], he ran a 4.56 40 [at the Combine]. He can really do it all – he's a punter, he's a kickoff guy and was actually Georgia's emergency kicker as well. You expect him to be a two-phase guy in the NFL. He does both of those things at a very high level."
Camarda averaged 45.8 yards per punt over four seasons with the Bulldogs, including a 46.7-yard mark on 144 punts over his final three seasons. The Georgia native showed off both his leg strength and his touch by hitting 67 punts of over 50 yards and 17 of over 60 yards but also downing 70 punts inside the 20.
"As a punter, he really can do everything you're looking for at the position," said Spytek. "He's got a huge leg. He's got what we call 'easy power' – a really easy leg swing and the ball just jumps off his foot. He can kick the ball a long way but he can also hang it. What you don't want is the 60-yard punt with the low hang time because those just get run back straight into your face. You want the 60-yard punt with the five second-plus hang time to give your guys a chance to cover the kick, and now you can flip the field. He can do that. And he's a great pooch punter as well. He's got a great ability to hang the ball up and get it down inside the 10-yard line."
Spytek and Bucs Director of College Scouting Mike Biehl saw an eye-opening example of that flip-the-field ability when they attended the SEC Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama in December. Camarda blasted a 64-yard punt that rolled out of bounds at the Alabama six-yard line and finished the game with an average of 52.5 yards on four punts, with three downed inside the 20.
"He's been a really good punter for a long time and he had a great year as a senior," said Spytek as he described Camarda's big kick in a big moment. "It was unbelievable. It was just way up in the air toward the sideline, rolled out near the goal line. They went from being backed up to backing Alabama way up, which is what you're looking for when you're looking for a punter."
As Spytek noted, Camarda also handled kickoffs for the Bulldogs and was a serious field-position weapon in that regard, as well. During his collegiate career, Camarda kickoff 102 times and hit 71 of them for touchbacks, with another 16 resulting in fair catches. His easy power allows him to produce touchbacks almost on command, but alternately he can produce even better field position with another strategy.
"He's a great kickoff guy," said Spytek. "He's an easy touchback guy if you want to do that but he really has a great ability to do what we would call a 'mortar kick.' You try to hang the ball down to the one or two-yard line, really hang it up there so the coverage team can get down there and make tackles inside the 20. He's got the ability to put one out of the back of the end zone, so if we don't want a return, great. And if we want to try to pin them back and let our guys cover, he can do that too."
Camarda is the second punter drafted in the fourth round in team history, joining Michigan's Monte Robbins in 1988. He is the first punter drafted in any round by Tampa Bay since Brent Bowden in 2010. The Buccaneers made that rare investment because of the multiple ways Camarda can affect a game, and also simply because they think he's a good football player.
"He's got all the talent in the world that you're looking for from an athletic standpoint," said Spytek. "We'll expect him to come in here and compete and get better and be a good player."