When Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer reviews film of college kickers, he isn't only looking to see if they can kick the ball through the uprights.
A successful kick is certainly an important part of the evaluation, but three other crucial elements are also tracked: timing, elevation and accuracy.
The timing is about how fast a kicker is able to complete his motion when attempting a field goal, and it starts from the moment the snap is made to when the foot connects with the ball. Priefer wants the sequence completed in a razor-thin range of 1.27-1.32 seconds.
The elevation is about how high the ball is kicked and whether it consistently soars above the wall of arms from the massive defensive linemen a few yards away. Priefer's measurement for that is much more simple: "high enough."
The accuracy … well, that doesn't need much explaining.
Cade York checked each of those boxes for Priefer. He, as well as the Browns, saw immense potential in York from three consistent seasons at LSU, so they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft — the highest any kicker had been drafted since 2016.
"I think everybody wanted him," he said in a "Browns Breakdowns" video. "I think it was an easy sell. I spent a lot of time with Cade at the combine and went down to LSU and worked him out. I took him to dinner and got to know him a little bit. He's only 21, and he's a very mature young man. He's a confident, young guy, and we're excited he's here as a Cleveland Brown."
York converted 81.8 percent of field goals and 15-of-19 kicks from 50 yards or longer at LSU and was a Second Team All-SEC selection in 2021. His longest field-goal, a 57-yarder that was the longest in program history, was a game-winner kicked in foggy conditions.
Everything about York's kicking motion and confidence appealed to Priefer, who believes both those traits will help him be successful in the difficult weather conditions kickers routinely face in Cleveland. His leg strength is powerful enough to minimize the force wind can have on a ball in the air, and his confidence is high enough for him to feel good about kicking under any circumstances.
"He's going to want it down the middle because he's a perfectionist, which I love about him," Priefer said, "but at the end of the day, if it's between the pipes, that's all we care about."
York has taken plenty of reps in front of Priefer since he's been drafted, and a sizable chunk of them have taken place at FirstEnergy Stadium. During a practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, York converted on a 58-yard field goal that likely would've been good from 60 or more yards.
The ball pops off his foot when the technique is perfect, which is why Priefer doesn't plan on forcing him to change anything about his kick motion during his time with the Browns. Sure, he'll have a few pieces of advice about that area as he learns more about him, but his job is mostly about making York comfortable and confident — which is just as important as technique.
"I told him at the combine, 'If we draft you, I'm not going to change who you are,'" Priefer said. "I will help you refine the technique, and whatever changes have to be made are up to him … His mental part, to me, is all about giving him confidence."
Priefer doesn't expect a need to do much with York when it comes to that, either. York built his confidence over years of nailing kicks in massive SEC stadiums, and it shows in not only his stats, but the ultra-smooth technique Priefer fell in love with when he watched his film.
York believes he'll bring that to Cleveland, and everything Priefer has learned about him has affirmed that even more — one checkmark on the evaluation sheet at a time.
"We're going to utilize that strength of him being confident to make sure he's comfortable," he said. "Never over-confident, but confident enough to say, 'I'm going to make that kick' every time he goes out there."
Check out photos of fourth-round rookie K Cade York