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Vikings draft preview: Kicker, punter competitions could reshape specialists

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Note: Until the 2017 NFL draft starts April 27, we’ll take a look at where things stand at each Vikings position group. We’ll combine some in order to address as many as possible. Check for a new post each weekday.

After sticking by Blair Walsh through inconsistency, the Vikings won’t be relying on just one kicker or punter heading into this season.

Kai Forbath, who replaced Walsh in the middle of last season, hasn’t yet locked down the job after converting all 15 field goal attempts in seven games for the Vikings. Forbath did miss three extra points, including one blocked, while following up Walsh’s four one-point misses last season.

He’ll compete with kicker Marshall Koehn, whom the Vikings signed this offseason after a tryout last fall. He made 16 of 20 field goal attempts during his 2015 senior season at Iowa. Koehn’s longest make came from 57 yards away.

After losing punter Jeff Locke to the Colts, the Vikings brought in veteran Ryan Quigley to compete with Taylor Symmank. Quigley, 27, is a reclamation project having posted a career-low average (41.6 yards) in six games for the Cardinals last season. The Vikings are Quigley’s seventh team in six NFL seasons.

Long snapper Kevin McDermott will be unchallenged after signing a four-year contract extension last summer.

Projected starters: Kicker Kai Forbath, punter Ryan Quigley and long snapper Kevin McDermott

Don’t forget about: The need at kick returner. The Vikings have two untested specialists, Symmank and Koehn, to stir competition at both punter and kicker. You’d have to look harder to find candidates to replace All-Pro kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. Punt returner Marcus Sherels hasn’t held the job since 2012, so the Vikings should be seeking that skill from a player in next week’s draft. 

Level of need: Moderate at punter. Low at kicker.

Five prospects to remember: Worth Gregory, P, East Carolina; Justin Vogel, P, Miami; Cameron Johnston, P, Ohio State; Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State; Jake Elliott, K, Memphis

Our best guess: The Vikings may add a late-round pick or undrafted free agent at kicker or punter, but both positions already have competitions established. Drafting a receiver or running back with college experience as a kick returner is a likely possibility.

Draft preview: After using No. 1 pick on WR in '16, Vikings still need help

Note: Until the 2017 NFL draft starts April 27, we’ll take a look at where things stand at each Vikings position group. We’ll combine some in order to address as many as possible. Check for a new post each weekday.

Around this time last year, when the Vikings used their first-round pick on Laquon Treadwell, a 6-foot-2 split-end wide receiver out of Ole Miss, it looked as if the Vikings had found a perfect fit for Norv Turner’s vertical passing attack. But six months or so later, so much had changed.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a career-threatening knee injury, the Vikings traded their 2017 first-round pick to replace him with Sam Bradford and Turner resigned midway through the season.

Pat Shurmur replaced Turner as the play-caller, and with Bradford flinging short passes left and right, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph all established new career highs in catches.

As a rookie, Treadwell naturally set a career high in receptions, too — just barely, though. He ended up catching only one pass in his first season.

The Vikings have not given up on Treadwell, though, and there are now fewer obstacles on his path to playing time if he can get and stay healthy. Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson both left in free agency and the Vikings have not yet brought in any proven veteran pass-catchers.

So at the very least, they must use one of their eight picks to add depth there as Jarius Wright is the only other receiver with an NFL catch.

At tight end, the Vikings said goodbye to blocking specialist Rhett Ellison, who was second in playing time at that position behind Rudolph. David Morgan is heading into his second season. They also took a flyer on Nick Truesdell, a 27-year-old from the Arena Football League. But this is another position where the Vikings could use another able body.

Projected starters: Diggs, Thielen and Treadwell at wide receiver in the team’s preferred three-receiver sets with Rudolph at tight end.

Don’t forget about: Moritz Bohringer. Once the story of his improbable sixth-round selection was told about a million times by the media last spring and summer, the freak German athlete with limited football experience flew under the radar on the practice squad in 2016. When we last saw him on the practice field, Bohringer still had a long way to go. But with limited depth at WR, can he become a contributor in Year Two?

Level of need: Moderate at both positions. The Vikings don’t necessarily need to find a starter at either spot but their depth must be bolstered.

Five prospects to remember: Rodney Adams, WR, South Florida; Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech; Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech; Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State; Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida international.

Our best guess: The Vikings will draft a wide receiver at some point during the draft and possibly add a tight end, too. The burning question for this blog post is whether they will address either position with one of their three Day-Two picks. They have more pressing needs, but their free-agent interest in wideout Alshon Jeffery and tight end Jared Cook last month suggests the Vikings feel they could use more weapons this season.

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