Vikings’ Rookie Off to a Promising Start

Nov 18, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide place kicker Will Reichard (16) celebrates with teammates after kicking an extra point against the Chattanooga Mocs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota’s 2024 draft class will be evaluated based on the development of Dallas Turner and J.J. McCarthy, the two pricey first-rounders. The two Vikings’ rookies are viewed as long-term staples for the organization. Still, they might need time to enter the starting unit, as veteran competition is looming at both spots, with QB Sam Darnold and outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard.

The good news is that neither rookie is pressured to perform immediately because of that competition. Someone who could be thrust into action as early as Week 1 is kicker Will Reichard.

Vikings’ Rookie Off to a Promising Start
Mar 20, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama kicker Will Reichard kicks at the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility during the University of Alabama’s Pro Day.

Some folks were surprised when analytically-driven general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulled the trigger on a kicker in the draft, as analytics would suggest that undrafted kickers are just as productive. However, Adofo-Mensah apparently envisions Reichard as the team’s fix for the alarming position. A video the Vikings released from the draft indicates that he is a big fan of the rookie.

Greg Joseph drilled many clutch kicks, including a franchise record 61-yarder to win the contest versus the New York Giants. His shaky extra-point percentage and the inconsistent kicking numbers made a change inevitable. When a player ranks among the worst at his position for multiple seasons, there’s no way around it.

Reichard arrived with the resume of the all-time points leader in NCAA history. The Alabama standout kicked for five years, which undoubtedly benefited his statistics. In 60 games, Reichard hit 84 of 100 field goals and 295 of 297 extra points. He also punted four times for 317 yards. In an emergency, he would likely be the team’s backup punter.

Dec 2, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide place kicker Will Reichard (16) warms up before the SEC Championship Game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

But the 23-year-old was chosen to kick the ball through the uprights and on kickoffs. And he seems to be very good at that. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert broadcasted the kicker’s impressive outing at the OTAs:

During the team’s final OTA, which was moved indoors because of rain, Reichard nearly hit a balcony that is perched on the wall behind — and above — the goal posts while moving through a progression of 40+ yard attempts. Later, in a full drill with a defense, he drilled a 60-yarder that landed in a net that sits 10 feet behind the goal post and 10 feet off the ground.

Kevin Seifert about rookie kicker Will Reichard

His kicking power was questioned before the draft, so seeing him excel in that area is good news. Lance Zierlein wrote in his scouting report: “Has average leg strength by the standards of today’s NFL.” Reichard’s career-long kick at Alabama was only a 52-yarder.

Matthew Coller supported Seifert’s claim during an episode of the Purple Insider podcast: “Holy hell, in a good way. He just kicks the heck outta the ball. He was kicking 55-yarders that were going at the top of the goalposts. His 60-yard kick cleared everything and still landed in the net that was like five, seven yards behind it.”

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions placekicker John Parker Romo (24) watches practice during OTAs at Detroit Lions headquarters in Allen Park on Thursday, June 1, 2023.

Minnesota signed John Parker Romo earlier in the offseason. Last season’s XFL standout has a booming leg but isn’t nearly as consistent of a kicker as the sixth-rounder, and that’s why he hasn’t found a home in his career yet.

Reichard should be considered the overwhelming favorite to win the job in training camp, but it remains to be seen how he fares in the preseason and when the regular season begins on September 8.

Editor’s Note: Information from Sports Reference and Pro Football Reference helped with this article.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt