Browns New Kicker: Answering Browns Fans' Biggest Questions About Dustin Hopkins

What do Browns fans need to know most about new starting kicker Dustin Hopkins?

New Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins has Cleveland fans asking plenty of questions.
New Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins has Cleveland fans asking plenty of questions. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns fans' prayers were answered yesterday when the team installed a new starting kicker by trading for Dustin Hopkins and waiving 2022 draft bust Cade York.

But celebrations around Cleveland were also punctuated with some genuine concerns and questions. Is Hopkins defienitely an upgrade from York? Was it worth trading a draft pick rather than just signing a free agent? If the Chargers were getting rid of Hopkins anyway, is he someone we should be excited about?

These are all fair questions, so let's look at answers to some of the biggest questions Browns fans have about Hopkins.

What You Need to Know About the Browns New Kicker Dustin Hopkins

Is Dustin Hopkins better than Cade York?

Yes, next question.

Seriously though, let's take a little look:

Cade York made just 75.0% of his field goals in his 2022 rookie season, then just 50.0% in the 2023 preseason.

Hopkins has never finished any of his eight NFL seasons with less than 79.4% made, and his career average is 84.8%. He's also made 94.4% of his career extra-point attempts, which is right in line with York's 94.6%.

Not all field goal attempts are created equally, of course, but Pro Football Focus' kicking grades also heavily favor Hopkins.

In field goal grade, York ranked just 32nd among 45 graded kickers. In kickoff grade York ranked 52nd of 63. Hopkins ranked 18th for both field goals and kickoffs.

The knock on Hopkins is his kicking from distance, going just 50.0% (15 of 30) for his career. York, though, was just one make over 50% (4 of 7) last year, so even in Hopkins' weakest area it's not much of a step back.

Why didn't the Chargers want Dustin Hopkins?

So the question, then, is why Hopkins was available on the cheap? Should we be worried that L.A. didn't want him? Probably not.

The Chargers moved Hopkins because they had decided to roll with Cameron Dicker as their starter, and there aren't many kickers you'd want to roster over Dicker.

As a rookie in 2022 Dicker led the NFL in field goal percentage (95.5%), and PFF had him ranked 7th on field goals and 6th on kickoffs.

So yeah, you're not cutting a 23-year-old who might already be one of the best kickers in the league. That Hopkins was even given a chance to compete speaks to how much the Chargers respect his work.

Was it worth trading a draft pick for Dustin Hopkins?

Hopkins was going to be released, right? So was it worth spending draft capital to trade for him rather than signing a free-agent kicker?

With more than four years on NFL experience under his belt, Hopkins would've become an unrestricted free agent if he was released. That means he'd have been able to sign wherever he wanted, and there are a lot of teams looking for a new kicker right now. There's a good chance the Browns wouldn't have been able to sign him, or that we would've had to pay more than the $2.4 million he's owed this year (and 3.0 in 2024) if we did.

We also saw two other kicker trades made before the roster deadline, with both Wil Lutz (from New Orleans to Denver) and Nick Folk (from New England to Tennessee) being moved. A seventh-round pick is the going rate, with Lutz being traded for a 2024 seventh and Folk being traded for a 2025 seventh.

So sending a 2025 seventh-round pick for Hopkins is absolutely a fair price, especially considering how big a need the Browns had at the position.

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