Carolina Panthers

NFL draft: Top 5 specialists

N.C. State's Wil Baumann (36) punts during the second half of the Wolfpack’s 24-17 victory over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2104.
N.C. State's Wil Baumann (36) punts during the second half of the Wolfpack’s 24-17 victory over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2104. ehyman@newsobserver.com

The Observer’s top 5 specialists available in the 2015 NFL draft:

1. Kyle Loomis

College: Portland State

Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 221

Projected round: 6th

Comment: Consensus All-American after averaging 46 yards per punt the past two years. Also can kick off.

2. Justin Manton

College: Louisiana-Monroe

Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 196

Projected round: 6th

Comment: Can handle all three jobs in the kicking game, although was inconsistent on longer field goals.

3. Trevor Pardula

College: Kansas

Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 227

Projected round: 7th

Comment: Former soccer player averaged 44 yards a punt in two seasons with Jayhawks.

4. Wil Baumann

College: N.C. State

Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 187

Projected round: Undrafted free agent

Comment: Four-year starter averaged an ACC-leading 45.8 yards per punt as a senior.

5. Spencer Roth

College: Baylor

Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 227

Projected round: Undrafted free agent

Comment: Left Baylor ranked No. 2 in school history with 43.7 punting average.

Panthers’ perspective

The Panthers aren’t in the market for specialists. They locked up kicker Graham Gano with a long-term contract last offseason, and plan to do the same for punter Brad Nortman, whose rookie deal expires after this season. Carolina addressed its coverage and return teams, which struggled in 2014, by bringing back Ted Ginn Jr. and signing several special teams aces.

Local connection

Clemson punter Bradley Pinion, who played at Northwest Cabarrus High, joined a short list of specialists who have left school early to enter the draft (Sebastian Janikowski, Chris Gardocki). Pinion was fifth in the ACC with a 42.6-yard average last season. He also kicked off, hitting 102 touchbacks in 178 career kickoffs. Pinion played basketball three years in high school, and was the goalkeeper for the soccer team.

Sleeper

Tom Obarski, who played at Concordia-St. Paul in Minnesota, twice broke the Division II record for longest field goal, hitting from 56 and 59 yards. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl by making a 49-yarder. The Bengals and Dolphins reportedly have shown interst in Obarski, whose two brothers kicked at small colleges.

Worth noting

Loomis signed with Oregon State out of high school, and averaged 41.3 yards a punt as a freshman. But he left school to join the Army, and was with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg. He served four years, then returned to Oregon and enrolled at Portland State. He’ll turn 28 a month into his rookie season. ... Baumann, a Wilmington native, set N.C. State records for career punts and total punting yards. He ranked fifth nationally in 2014 in punting average, and showed distance (20 punts of at least 50 yards) and touch (22 punts downed inside the 20).

Joseph Person

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