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Monday, July 1, 2013
Vikings: Two credible kickoff options

By Kevin Seifert

Here is an interesting tidbit to keep in mind and impress your friends with: On their roster, the Minnesota Vikings have arguably the top kickoff men from both the NFL and college football last season.

We all know what Blair Walsh did in 2012, leading the league in average kickoff distance and ranking second in touchback percentage. As it turns out, rookie punter Jeff Locke -- a fifth-round draft choice from UCLA -- tallied an even higher percentage of touchbacks during his senior season. The chart provides the details.

Locke's value here is mostly from a contingency standpoint. There is no reason to adjust Walsh's routine and responsibilities after an All-Pro rookie season, and Locke said last month at minicamp that the Vikings hadn't worked him at all on kickoffs.

If anything, Locke offers the Vikings flexibility if Walsh were injured or otherwise unavailable. Most punters can handle kickoffs in an emergency situation, but presuming Locke could provide a more credible performance over a longer term, the Vikings could make a decision on Walsh's replacement based purely on potential field goal accuracy rather than a side concern about kickoffs.