Vikings by position, Day 9: Eyes open after Ryan Longwell's rough year
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Each weekday beginning on April 16, Tom Pelissero broke down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, weekly tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (3)
The Vikings have expressed support for Longwell (6-foot, 200 pounds), who finished last season with his lowest field-goal conversion rate (78.6%) since 2005, only generated 18 touchbacks despite the advanced kickoff line and turns 38 in August. He was the NFL's most accurate place-kicker over the previous two seasons and got a $3.5 million signing bonus on his four-year, $12 million deal last summer. The entire operation suffered from the loss of Loeffler (6-5, 241), who suffered a lower-back fracture on Nov. 27, less than two months after he received a $500,000 bonus on a three-year extension. He underwent surgery and should be ready for offseason practices. Katula (6-6, 265) was a wreck soon after taking over long-snapping duties and probably is finished. Kluwe (6-4, 215) fell from 10th to 25th in net punting average (38.0), but that had a lot to do with coverage. He has two years left on his deal with a $1.3 million base salary this season and should be back.
The odds are against the Vikings drafting a specialist, but Longwell's age and rocky 15th season could compel them to look at kickers in the seventh round or rookie free agency.
Last 10 drafts
• 2011: None.
• 2010: None.
• 2009: None.
• 2008: None.
• 2007: None.
• 2006: None.
• 2005: None.
• 2004: None.
• 2003: Eddie Johnson (sixth round, 180th overall).
• 2002: None.
The Vikings reportedly visited with Missouri Western kicker Greg Zuerlein.
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: Kickers -- 1. Zuerlein. 2. Philip Welch, Wisconsin. 3. Blair Walsh, Georgia. 4. Derek Dimke, Illinois. 5. Randy Bullock, Texas A&M. Punters -- 1. Drew Butler, Georgia. 2. Bryan Anger, California. 3. Shawn Powell, Florida State. 4. Brian Stahovich, San Diego State. 5. Eric Guthrie, Iowa.
• Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: Kickers -- 1. Walsh. 2. Bullock. 3. Carson Wiggs, Purdue. 4. Welch. 5. David Ruffer, Notre Dame. Punters -- 1. Anger. 2. Powell. 3. Butler. 4. Brad Notrman, Wisconsin. 5. Kyle Martens, Rice.
The NFL Draft begins with Round 1 at 7 p.m. Thursday.