Teams getting a kick out of draft's best leg

Although kickers are often looked at as lesser members of the team, their ability to create field position should not be overlooked. A superb punter can be a defense's best friend, regularly pinning opponents deep in their own territory and forcing them to drive the length of the field. One punter's consistently booming efforts have given him a leg up on his draft-day competition.

Daniel Sepulveda (6-foot-2, 228 pounds) established himself as an elite kicking prospect during his four years as a starter at Baylor University. During that time, he punted 277 times for 12,531 yards, an average of 45.24 yards per attempt. He had 94 kicks of 50 or more yards and pinned his opponents inside their own 20-yard line 88 times. His career-best punt traveled 78 yards, a feat he accomplished twice.

Sepulveda became the first-ever two-time Ray Guy Award winner as the nation's top collegiate punter (2004 and 2006) and earned consensus All-American honors following the 2006 season. His punting proficiency earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he showcased his powerful left leg.

"I'm pretty happy with my performance, really," said Sepulveda from Mobile. "At the end of the day all I'm worried about is doing the best I can and leaving it at that."

His best was more than good enough during Senior Bowl week. He had consistently stellar hang times and looked skilled when asked to execute pooch punts and directional kicks. During the game, he punted seven times for 311 yards (44.4-yard average) with a long of 60 yards.

Just as important as his on-the-field performance was the impression he made off of it. He is a personable, high-character individual and was eager to express that to any teams interested in meeting with him.

"I feel like the better a team gets to know me the more it is going to like me," he said.

Sepulveda is not just a kicker, he is a football player. He began his collegiate career as a walk-on linebacker, so he is willing to get downfield and deliver a hit. Additionally, he can serve as a holder on field goals and extra points.

As far as impressing NFL teams goes, there is not much more Sepulveda can do.

"I don't feel like I have much to prove," he said.

Most pro teams consider punter to be a low-priority position, something that may prevent Sepulveda from hearing his name called on the first day of the draft. However, he will certainly be drafted, likely early on day two. Whichever team selects Sepulveda will be elated to introduce him to its defensive players as their new best friend.


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