Daniel Carlson joins Minnesota Vikings' kicking competition

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Daniel Carlson joins Minnesota Vikings' kicking competition

The Minnesota Vikings used a fifth-round choice in the 2018 NFL Draft on Auburn place-kicker Daniel Carlson even though they have an incumbent at the position who's a six-year NFL veteran.

Kai Forbath connected on 32 of his 38 field-goal attempts for the Vikings in 2017, and he made three more in the playoffs. Minnesota signed Forbath to a $790,000 contract for the 2018 season in March.

"We're just trying to create competition," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said during the team's rookie minicamp over the weekend. "Kai's done really good this spring. So we're just going to let them go out there and kick. We're always going to try and create the best atmospheres that we can."

Pressure is part of the job description for kickers. But instead of the pressure of big kick, Carlson joins the Vikings with the pressure of earning a job.

"I think playing in a lot of big college games obviously helped," Carlson told reporters while attending rookie minicamp. "At Auburn, I started four years and got to play in quite a few big games. But, obviously, it's a different level in the NFL. Expectations are even higher, but that's what I came to do and been looking forward to, so right now, it's all about competing and handling the pressure for the team and kind of gaining their trust and just proving to the coaches and my teammates that I'm ready and they can rely on me when the moment's big."

Forbath's success rate on field-goal attempts -- 84.2 percent -- ranked 17th in the NFL in 2017. His 87.2 percent conversion rate on extra-point attempts was the league's worst as he missed five PATs.

Carlson left Auburn as the SEC's all-time scoring leader with 480 points. He connected on 92-of-114 field-goal attempts (80.7 percent) and set an SEC record by making all 198 of his extra-point attempts, although they were of the collegiate variety, where the football is spotted 12 yards closer to the goalposts than in the NFL.

"It's a tricky situation," Carlson said of the Vikings' kicker competition, "but one I know Kai and I will both just be working to help the team, and that's what it's all about. Competition usually drives better success, I think, so that's what we're going to do.

"At the end of the day, we both want to win the job. We also want to put our best foot forward and help the team however we can. It'll be interesting to see how things play out. We're both going give it our best shot, and at the end of the day, hopefully, one of us will help the team as much as we can."

Carlson became the fourth Auburn player drafted as a kicker, joining Tony Lunceford in 1968, Don Riley in 1970 and Neil O'Donoghue in 1977.

The Vikings made a trade to move up 13 picks to take Carlson on April 28. Minnesota sent the 180th and 204th selections to the New York Jets for the 167th and 225th choices. Carlson said the Vikings worked him out before the draft.

"I had five private workouts total," Carlson said. "Miami, the Seahawks, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals were the other four teams that worked me out. I had quite a few teams reach out to me saying that they would have worked me out had they not been confident in me already. Some teams didn't want to show too much interest just because they wanted to, hopefully, sneak up on somebody in the draft. Like I said, it's always tough to tell as a kicker and specialist, kind of a unique position already but especially in the draft. Just extremely excited that the Vikings gave me the call."

Carlson made 13-of-21 field-goal attempts of at least 50 yards at Auburn with a long of 56. But he said he could go longer.

"It's tough to say, but depending on altitude and weather, obviously Minnesota is indoors which will help a lot, but I made quite a few kicks from 50-plus yards over the years," Carlson said about his range. "During private workouts, we've backed it up to 65 yards and made those. Kicking in Colorado, which is where I've been for the draft the last few days, with the altitude there I was hitting from 75 yards. It depends on the day, but I think I feel confident from 60 yards and in, and from 65 and in within an indoor setting. If I'm hitting the ball clean, I think that is something that I can do pretty consistently. It's more about accuracy at that point."

But it's not those long kicks that will determine if he sticks with Minnesota, Carlson said.

"I'm a 6-foot-5 kicker, which is pretty rare, but that does help, having those long levers to, hopefully, get a couple of touchbacks and some long kicks here and there," Carlson said. "But at the end of the day it's the kicks inside of 50 that are really going to make or break a season and make or break you. Those are the ones I continue to try to be consistent as can be and continue to work on and get better and better each day."

The Vikings are scheduled to start their 10 days of OTAs on May 22.

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @AMarkG1.

from Auburn Sports Impact

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