Last season, only two punters and two kickers were drafted, which is on par with the yearly average.
“My first thought is I want to get drafted," Mandell said. "But if that doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. There have been guys who have sat through free agency for a few years.”
Former Auburn place-kicker Cody Parkey also is optimistic about the possibility of being drafted, but is prepared for the free agency route.
“It’s one of those positions where most of the time you do have to go through free agency, and that’s something I already have in the back of my mind,” Parkey said. “If I can compete well enough to get drafted, awesome. But if that doesn’t happen, I’d love to get picked up in free agency and compete for a job.”
The Senior Bowl gives the two an advantage over the competition as there is only one punter and one kicker per team. Mandell and Parkey are the guys for the South squad.
Mandell said it is a “lot less pressure” being the only punter.
“Knowing that these guys picked me to come out here and represent the South team,” Mandell said, “I mean it puts a pretty good weight on you as far as having something to prove to them. But I know that if I go out there and do my job and punt like Cody Mandell, I’ll be all right.”
Parkey said he is approaching the week like any other game at Auburn.
“It’s a pretty prestigious honor to get invited without a doubt,” Parkey said. “There’s a lot of pressure. Just like any other game, I’m treating it like I would any game at Auburn. Just mentally and physically preparing for it and getting ready for the game.”
Mandell has spent the week holding on place-kicks for Parkey. One scout watching Senior Bowl workouts said there’s no denying Mandell’s leg strength, but holding is the one area he needs to improve upon. Holding on field goals is sometimes part of a punter’s job description in the NFL. The scout didn't want his name used because he was not authorized to speak publicly for his organization.
Mandell didn’t get a ton of practice at it during games at Alabama, as quarterback AJ McCarron was the primary holder.
Mandell felt he didn’t have a good practice on the first day of workouts, but a scout told him to not worry about it too much.
“I was talking to Chargers scout and he said, ‘If the NFL came out here and just judged you off this week, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs,’” Mandell said. “They want to see how you bounce back, so I have to go out there and keep killing it.”
Depending on the wind, Parkey said he could hit kicks of 60 or more yards. But he wants to be more consistent on the longer kicks. On the season, he made 15 of 21 field-goal attempts, but just 1 of 4 kicks of 50 yards or longer.
“I need to work on being more accurate on the longer field goals,” Parkey said. “A lot of the kickers in the NFL seem to make 40- and 50-yard kicks fairly consistently so I need to get better in that area.”