Draft position preview: Punters

Packer Report begins its position-by-position preview of the NFL draft with a look at the punters.

Editor's note: This is Part 1 of our 14-part position-by-position breakdown heading to the April 25-26 NFL Draft. We start today with the specialists. The prospects are listed in order based on analysis by Scout.com draft expert Chris Steuber and Packer Report, with the comments that follow them based on the beliefs of league experts and insiders.

The Packers' perspective:

Kicker Mason Crosby had a solid rookie season but didn't make an ounce of progress last season. He had a chance to be the hero at Minnesota and Chicago but failed to deliver, and his 79.4 percent accuracy ranked 28th in the NFL. With that said, the Packers certainly won't be in the market for a kicker in two weeks. Crosby, a sixth-round pick in 2007, has as much talent as any kicker in the league.

On the surface, the Packers need a punter. Badly. The decision to jettison Jon Ryan for Derrick Frost, which made sense at the time, turned into an inexplicably drawn-out 12-game debacle. In his place, Jeremy Kapinos averaged just 39.2 yards per punt. But, he kicked in two games with the temperature below 5 degrees and another when it was 22, and he didn't have the benefit of kicking in an NFL training camp. Plus, they've got the top punter from the 2008 draft, Durant Brooks (sixth round, Washington), on the roster. So, the Packers likely are content with Kapinos battling Brooks. Whatever happens, the Packers must improve after ranking 27th in punting average and 24th in net punting last season.

The prospects (punter only):

Kevin Huber, Cincinnati: The two-time All-American averaged 44.9 yards per punt last season with just two touchbacks. That directional skill is what separates him from the others. His three-step technique could worry some teams, though he has not had one blocked.

Thomas Morstead, SMU: A two-step punter with tremendous hang time. His senior season (41.8 average, 37.2 net) wasn't as good as his junior season, when he averaged 44.6 yards with the nation's second-best net average (39.3).

Justin Brantly, Texas A&M: Brantly is drawing comparisons to ex-Aggies punter Shane Lechler, who is the best in the NFL. Two-step approach is a plus, as his leg strength. His 45.7 average was among the best in the nation but his net was just 36.0 because of lacking hang time.

Chris Miller, Ball State: Was among the leaders nationally in punting all four seasons. His average was down slightly as a senior (43.5) as he tried to improve his hang time and directional skills. He had a punt blocked in each of his final three seasons.

Matt Fodge, Oklahoma State: Fodge won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter. Averaged 42.9 per punt and allowed just 85 return yards all season. Had 17 inside-the-20s and just one touchback. Decent get-off time but had one kick blocked as a senior.

Louie Sakoda, Utah; Graham Gano, Florida State: Both are more accomplished kickers than punters. Of the two of them, Sakoda has the best chance of handling double duty. He placed five punts inside the opponents' 5-yard line. Gano, the Seminoles' hero in their bowl win over Wisconsin, is a three-step punter without a booming leg.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport

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