Packers Look To Draft For Punter

The Packers' decision to not bring back Jeremy Kapinos was no surprise in light of their work at the Scouting Combine. Who are the top punting prospects in this draft and which ones have the Packers shown the most interest in during the pre-draft process?

In context with what happened at the Scouting Combine, the Packers' decision to move on at punter without Jeremy Kapinos is not a surprise.

Of the five punters at the Combine, the Packers had in-depth conversations with Michigan's Zoltan Mesko and East Carolina's Matt Dodge and met with Virginia Tech's Brent Bowden and Fresno State's Robert Malone.

Kapinos' baseline average of 43.8 yards was pretty solid, considering four of the Packers' final five games were played in cold weather. But his net average of 34.1 yards, 15 inside-the-20 punts and 15-to-10 ratio of inside-the-20s to touchbacks all ranked last in the NFL.

Dodge (6-foot-2, 223 pounds),'s top-ranked punter, has a chiseled body that would make most linebackers envious. He averaged a whopping 45.8 yards per punt as a senior with 24 inside-the-20s punts against seven touchbacks, but he had one blocked and forced just seven fair catches. Opponents averaged 10.7 yards per return. His strong leg gives him a chance to kick off, as well. He didn't hold at ECU. He struggled with inconsistency during Senior Bowl practices, but when he connected, he showed definite Pro Bowl potential. He talked to the Packers at the Senior Bowl, too.

"I've always had a strong leg," he said at the Combine. "That's always kind of what's carried me through when my consistency hasn't been there. I've made the transition into being more of a finesse punter, where I'm not trying to kill it. I'm trying to hit the same punt every time as opposed to hitting a bomb here and there and then shanking one."

Bowden (6-3, 197),'s second-ranked punter, averaged 43.8 per punt with 20 inside-the-20s against nine touchbacks. He forced 12 fair catches and opponents averaged 7.8 yards per return. His average wasn't as good in 2008 but he had 24 inside-the-20s vs. six touchbacks with 11 fair catches. The three-year starter also is an experienced holder.

P Zoltan Mesko
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The left-footed Mesko (6-4, 235),'s third-ranked punter, was Michigan's four-year punter. He was a second-team All-American and an academic all-American as a senior, when he averaged 44.5 yards per punt with 15 inside-the-20s against three touchbacks with 18 fair catches. Because of Mesko's consistent hang time, Michigan finished third nationally in net punting with opponents averaging just 5.6 yards per return. He held for kicks as a senior. Mesko struggled at the Senior Bowl attributing it to studies for his master's degree.

Mesko lived in Romania and moved to the United States when he was 11. He grew up in Ohio and played at Michigan, so cold weather shouldn't be trouble.

"I'd be more confident than the average punter. I've dealt with the windy, cold situations," he said at the Combine. "I'm pretty sure once the season rolls around, I'll get into midseason form. My learning curve is tremendous adjusting to those conditions."

Malone (6-2, 233),'s fourth-ranked punter, averaged 45.2 yards per punt with 17 inside-the-20s and five touchbacks but just six fair catches. Opponents averaged 10.0 yards per return. The two-year starter is an experienced holder.

The fifth punter at the Combine was Southern Illinois' Scott Ravanesi (6-0, 195) but he did not meet with the Packers, according to a source. The four-year punter averaged 42.4 yards per punt as a senior, with 20 inside-the-20 punts, eight touchbacks and 18 fair catches. He did not hold at SIU.

"The 2010 NFL Draft has a couple of solid punters that will receive attention in the late rounds," draft analyst Chris Steuber said. "Matt Dodge and Zoltan Mesko are the most likely to be drafted and while they have strong legs, they're inconsistent. They will let loose some boomers, but as often as they drive long punts they also have a tendency to shank punts. Overall, it's a weak punter class, but Dodge and Mesko have potential to be starters at the next level."

Without Kapinos, the only punter left on the roster is Tim Masthay, who was's fifth-ranked punter last year from Kentucky. He spent part of training camp with the Colts but was released when they needed to add another quarterback. He ranked fifth nationally in 2008 with a 45.3-yard average but was replaced when the Wildcats needed a pooch punt. He's never punted in a game so it's almost a given the Packers will sign a veteran free agent or grab one of this year's rookies.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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