Positional Analysis: Kickers And Punters

When it comes to kickers and punters in the 2005 draft, there might be only two worth selecting before the fifth round, but there are plenty of teams interested in those positions, making this a commodity raised by demand.

Vikings' Kickers — Aaron Elling, Jose Cortez.

Vikings' Needs — The need is urgent at this position, so much so that the Vikings will probably spend a draft pick on a kicker and — tie up Scott Studwell — it could be a first-day pick. They'd like to find a guy who can be accurate on field goals and kick off.

Vikings' Punters — Darren Bennett, Travis Dorsch.

Vikings' Needs — Although the punting department wasn't great in 2004 with Bennett, he did show some improvement later in the season. Plus, Travis Dorsch is a young punter developing nicely in the early stages of NFL Europe.

Class of 2005 — The kickers available in this weekend's draft could legitimately run just two deep — kicker Mike Nugent and punter Dustin Colquitt. There are others who could make a move into the final rounds, but there is a decent chance that when all is said and done, just two kicking specialists will be off the board. Ironically, both of them are potential targets for the Vikings, who have done nothing to address this particular glaring need while taking great strides in other areas to shore up the team.

KICKERS

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Mike Nugent, Ohio State, 5-9 1/2, 182 — Fourth-year senior … Right footed … In his final three years at OSU, he made 65 of 74 field goal attempts, including eight of nine from 50 yards and beyond … Made 113 of 114 extra points in his last three years, in which he scored 308 points … Two-time All-America and three-time All-Big 10 teams … Won the Lou Groza Award in 2004, given to the best kicker in college football … Very good accurary beyond 40 yards and deadly inside it … Consistently drops kicks at or near the goal line … Doesn't seem to be affected by pressure … Very good mechanics … Has quick timing from snap to getting the ball airborne … Doesn't have elite leg strength like a Sebastian Janikowski — the last kicker taken early in a draft … Doesn't provide much in the way of tackling in coverage … Ran a 4.72 40 yard dash.

PROJECTION: He had a very good week at the Combine and some believe he could go off the board late in the second round. If that's the case the Vikings would have to use the 49th overall pick in the draft to get him — something we're not sure they're willing to do.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Jonathan Nichols, Mississippi, 5-10 1/2, 182 — Fifth-year senior … Three-year starter who made 60 of 76 field goals (77 percent) and all 108 extra points for 288 points in that span … Two-time All-SEC and won the Lou Groza Award in 2003 … Very good leg strength … Right footed … Can kick the ball into and out of the end zone consistently … Very good accuracy … Made a lot of high-pressure kicks … Mechanics are a question … Had his worst season as a senior, missing seven of 27 attempts … Tends to hit more line drive kickoffs that allow the opponent to get a head of steam on the return earlier than most NFL kickers … Had some trouble in bad-weather games … Runs a 5.1 40.

PROJECTION: Nichols has the best pure leg strength of any kicker in the draft, but isn't nearly as consistent, especially on long field goals, as Nugent. He might sneak into the sixth or seventh round.

Nick Novak, Maryland, 5-11 1/2, 191 — Fifth-year senior … Four-year starter who made 80 of 107 field goals (75 percent) and 153 of 159 extra points, scoring 393 points in his career — a record for the ACC for most points by a player … Right footed … Two-time first team All-ACC … Has decent leg strength … Very accurate inside 40 yards … Handled kickoffs … Good overall mechanics … Misses some easy field goals … Doesn't consistently put kickoffs inside the 5-yard line … Six missed extra points (four as a junior) are a concern … Runs a 5.1 40.

PROJECTION: A player who might sneak into the final rounds of the draft, he doesn't bring a lot to the table in the way of distance or lights-out accuracy. He could be a late pick or a priority undrafted free agent contacted by teams immediately following the draft. As a Maryland grad, you can bet Mike Tice will probably be interested.

OTHERS TO WATCH
Dave Rayner, Michigan State (6-2, 210)
Rhys Lloyd, Minnesota (5-11 1/2, 231)
Jared Siegel, Oregon (5-8 1/2, 193)


PUNTERS

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Dustin Colquitt, Tennessee, 6-2, 207 — Fifth-year senior … Second-generation punter whose dad and brother both kicked for the Volunteers … Two-time finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to college football's best punter … Averaged 43.6, 45.3 and 40.8 yards a punt the last three years … Had a great week at the Senior Bowl and got scouts buzzing about him … Very good hang time … Understands kicking at angles and taking something off on shorter kicks to pin opponents deep … Rarely gets off a shank … Sometimes will out-kick his coverage — which really isn't his fault … Takes a little too much time to get the ball off — a luxury he won't have in the pros … Viewed by some as spoiled with a feeling of entitlement because of his kicking lineage at Tennessee … Runs a 4.9 40.

PROJECTION: For a team in desperate need of a punter, he could go off the board late on Day One. But more likely he will find a new home somewhere in the fourth or fifth round on Day Two.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Matt Payne, BYU, 6-4, 229 — Fifth-year senior … Was a kicker all four years with BYU and a punter for the last three — averaging 47.6, 44.0 and 45.3 yards in those seasons … Three-time All-Mountain West first teamer … Married with a son … Versatile, he handled field goals, extra points, kickoff and punts at Brigham Young … Very good hang time … Made a good showing at the East-West Shrine Game, where he kicked and consistently dropped kicks at or near the goal line … Good directional skills … Inconsistent as a field goal kicker … Runs a 5.0 40.

PROJECTION: He has an advantage to being drafted because of his versatility and experience. If he gets the time to focus just on punting and kickoffs, he could become a Mitch Berger-type dual threat. Like other kickers from his conference, he has benefited from kicking in the thin air out West and some deductions on his numbers should be given.

OTHERS TO WATCH
Reggie Hodges, Ball State (6-0 1/2, 226)
Bryce Benekos, UTEP (6-5, 227)
Chris Kluwe, UCLA (6-4, 213)



Viking Update Top Stories