The Rookie Kicker Precedent and the Will Reichard Expectations

Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide place kicker Will Reichard (16) reacts after a field goal against the Michigan Wolverines during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

John Parker Romo may have done some good things in the XFL, but he’s the K2 as the offseason gets underway. Rookie kicker Will Reichard, the No. 203 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, is the leader to take over the top job in Minnesota.

At Alabama, Reichard did plenty of good things. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah came away impressed by the young specialist, comparing Reichard to a closer in baseball and a villain in Batman. Meanwhile, Dallas Turner has compared his college and NFL teammate to a sniper, a description that speaks to performing one’s job with accuracy from distance. Can Reichard live up to the praise as a rookie?

What Are Reasonable Expectations for Rookie Kicker Will Reichard?

Last time, things didn’t go particularly well.

Minnesota last drafted a kicker back in 2018. Daniel Carlson got scooped up at No. 167, a pretty high draft slot for the position. But while his talent wasn’t deniable, Carlson’s ability to rise to the occasion in the NFL was quickly in doubt. The man was given a trio of opportunities in a Week 2 tilt with the Packers, leading to a trio of missed field goals and a tie game that left Mike Zimmer’s Vikings unsatisfied.

Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (2) with his second field goal as punter A.J. Cole (6) holds during the second quarter in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Afterwards, Carlson was cut as Minnesota tried to salvage what would end up being a failure of a season.

Rubbing salt in the wound is the fact that Carlson has gone on to become one of the sport’s most impressive kickers. The man got picked up by the Raiders and hasn’t looked back. He has been a first-team All Pro and a second-team All Pro. For his career, Carlson converts 88% of his FGs and 96.2% of his XPs.

Can Will Reichard soar to those heights? Can he do so without some rookie season struggle?

A lot of people will think of Jake Moody. San Francisco, Adofo-Mensah’s former employer, drafted him 99th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Moody is a talented player who experienced some turbulence as a rookie.

Sep 10, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco 49ers place kicker Jake Moody (4) kicks a field goal during the first half at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC champs stuck by their young specialist even though he was a bit shaky in limited opportunities. His debut season involved going 21/25 on FGs (84%) and then 60/61 on XPs (98.4%). In the playoffs, Moody went a more modest 6/8 on FGs (75%) and 8/9 on XPs (88.9%).

Other players who come to mind are Chad Ryland (112th in 2023) and Anders Carlson (207th in 2023). Ryland played in all seventeen games for the Patriots, going an ugly 16/25 on FGs (64%) while converting 24/25 of his XPs (96%). Meanwhile, the Packers saw Carlson – the younger brother to the former Viking – go 27/33 on FGs (81.8%) while going 34/39 on XPs (87.2%). So, a touch better than his counterpart in New England but still a tough rookie season.

A final example to even out the discussion.

The best kicker in the NFL is Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. He began his NFL career back in 2012 and has been a monster ever since.

Tucker has made the All-Pro team as a first team selection on five occasions while getting the nod as a second team selection a trio of times. Toss in a Super Bowl victory, seven Pro Bowl trips, and a career 90.2% on field goals and it’s easy to see why he’s so well respected.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
Dec 31, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens place kicker Justin Tucker (9) on the field before the game against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As a rookie, Tucker was unusually proficient with his field goals, going 30/33 (90.9%) while drilling every XP (42/42 for a mighty 100%). That’s better than basically anyone could hope for and very likely an unrealistic expectation. The point is simply that success in the modern NFL for a rookie isn’t totally unheard of.

There is a path toward Will Reichard being a great option as early as 2024. No guarantee, no, but something that can’t be outright dismissed, either.

In Minnesota, the key will rest in striking the balance between urgency and patience as they build toward the present and the future.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.