Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings 2012 Draft: Sorting through the kicker conundrum

Posted by: Updated: April 23, 2013 - 7:46 AM
The Vikings will head into this weekend’s NFL Draft with 11 picks overall and confidence riding high after the front office assembled a terrific 2012 draft class. To get the inside story on how last year’s draft weekend unfolded, make sure to read today’s story on the ins and outs, ups and downs of that experience. Here now is the quick look back at all 10 players the Vikings selected last year. In this installment, we look at the Vikings picks from Rounds 6-7.
 
BLAIR WALSH, Georgia kicker
 
Selected: Sixth round, 175th overall
 
Rookie year summary: Walsh may wind up being the biggest steal of the entire 2012 draft. He emerged as an instant All-Pro, booting 35 field goals in 38 attempts and making all 10 of his tries from 50 yards or longer. He book-ended the Vikings’ regular season with game-winning kicks, capping a rally to beat Jacksonville in overtime in Week 1 and then upsetting the Packers with a last-second kick 16 weeks later. That kick pushed the Vikings into the playoffs.
 
Draft notable: Walsh was one of three kickers drafted, plucked by the Vikings 14 picks after Houston selected Randy Bullock and four picks after the Rams nabbed Greg Zuerlein. With veteran Ryan Longwell still on the roster, the Vikings’ move to get a kicker seemed puzzling when it happened. The Vikings waited until after the team’s rookie mini-camp to officially cut ties with Longwell.
 
Front office thoughts: “It was never the leg strength that was a question with Blair. It was the accuracy. But [special teams coach Mike] Priefer spent a lot of time on him and put in a lot of effort to find that there were a few tweaks for the accuracy. Beyond that, the kid was as A-plus as you could get and fit everything we want. … The biggest anxiety I think I had was at that rookie mini-camp. The first time he kicked his first field goal, I was like, ‘Oh, man. What are we in for?’ The media’s out there watching. Blair’s under a spotlight and especially at that position. It’s not like in that forum, people are going to notice an offensive linemen moving a little slow or a receiver maybe bobbling a ball. But at kicker? That is spotlighted there. And I think with Coach Frazier and myself and with Prief, once we got out of that rookie mini-camp, we just knew.” -- Rick Spielman, GM
 
AUDIE COLE
 
Selected: Seventh round, 210th overall
 
Rookie year summary: Cole became a local cult hero for a brief time in August after he delivered two interception return touchdowns within 13 seconds of each other during a preseason home win over Buffalo. During the regular season, he was active for only five of 16 games, playing strictly on special teams.
 
Draft notable: The Vikings were simply looking to add to the depth of their linebacking corps and saw Cole as a guy who had moved around as a linebacker at N.C. State and has some potential.
 
Front office thoughts: “Audie was a big, athletic player in college. And we liked his versatility. We were looking for some depth there and maybe a guy who could cross-train like we thought he could. He certainly had a lot of value that late. He came in played well in the preseason and now we’re in a wait-and-see deal with how far he can come professionally. He’s got the physical traits you’re looking for. He’s smart and he’s diligent. And this is important to him. That’s a big deal.” -- Scott Studwell, Director of college scouting
 
TREVOR GUYTON
 
Selected: Seventh round, 219th overall
 
Rookie year summary: Guyton was the only member of the 2012 draft class to not make the final roster. He was let go in the final wave of cuts in late-August.
 
Draft notable: Guyton was the only defensive lineman the Vikings drafted last year with hopes that he could emerge as a reliable back-up at tackle.
 
Front office thoughts: “Trevor was probably one of those guys who was a good college player but our league was maybe just too big for him, to be honest with you. Talent-wise, physically, sometimes that jump is too much.” -- Studwell

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