Seth Vernon Signs with Vikings

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings just found seven new players in the draft and 17 undrafted rookies in the aftermath of the three-day event. First-rounders quarterback J.J. McCarthy and pass-rusher Dallas Turner headline the new acquisitions made by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in his third offseason in charge of the franchise.

Seth Vernon Signs with Vikings

Seth Vernon Signs with Vikings
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On day three of the draft, Minnesota added five players after sitting out the second and third rounds. The second-rounder was part of the Turner pick, and the third-rounder was shipped to Detroit for T.J. Hockenson. Those selected players included kicker Will Reichard. The former Alabama special teamer will compete for the lone kicking job in training camp with ex-XFL kicker John Parker Romo.

Competition seems to be the goal for special teams coordinator Matt Daniels this offseason because the purple team signed punter Seth Vernon just a few days after the draft. Incumbent punter Ryan Wright was an undrafted rookie in 2022. He slowed down in his second campaign following a remarkable debut season.

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Vernon and Wright were in the same draft class, and both went undrafted. While Wright moved to Minnesota and beat out veteran Jordan Berry, Vernon joined the Atlanta Falcons. He was part of the offseason and preseason roster but couldn’t claim a spot on the 53-man roster with the Falcons, losing the competition to Bradley Pinion.

Before his time in the NFL, Vernon played at Portland State. Ironically, the Portland State team name is also Vikings.

In 2023, Wright received a punting grade of 68.3 from Pro Football Focus, ranking him 19th of 33 eligible punters. His punt average of 48.7 lists him 11th in the league, but the net average, which considers returns and touchbacks, drops him to 16th. His hangtime ranked 10th.

Matt Daniels
Dec 1, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams assistant special teams coach Matt Daniels. © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Wright’s averages remained steady in his second season, but he was much better at threading the needle in the previous campaign when he dropped 43.8% of the punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (28.8% in 2023). His touchbacks also increased from only one to seven.

The incumbent starter should be considered the favorite, but competition might motivate him, and his game will revert to 2022 levels. His 2023 season wasn’t bad by any means, but the NFL will always look to improve average performers.

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Wright versus Vernon won’t be the only special teams competition in training camp. The aforementioned Reichard and Romo battle for one open kicking job. Considering the team’s investment in Reichard, he is likely the favorite. He is the NCAA’s all-time leader in points scored. His consistency is superior, while Romo possesses a stronger leg.

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 Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt