We conclude our preview of this year's NFL Scouting Combine with a look at the specialists taking part next week in Indianapolis. Some of the inconsistencies that plagued teams in the kicking game last season shows the value of these sometimes overlooked prospects in the draft process.
Top 2 kickers to watch at Combine:
1. Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia, 6-1, 187
Won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker this past season. He made all 46 of his extra points and was 27-for-33 kicking field goals. Blankenship has a big leg and made over 80 percent (82.5) of his career field-goal attempts in college.
2. Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern, 5-10, 183
Bass was really impressive at the Senior Bowl, showing off a big leg with accuracy. He doesn't have a ton of 50-plus-yard field goals under his belt, but he finished with a 93 percent success rate on kicks between 30 and 50 yards in 2019.
Top 2 punters to watch at Combine:
1. Braden Mann, Texas A&M, 5-11, 195
Won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter in 2018, setting the NCAA record with 51.0 yards per punt and placing 19 of 50 punts inside the 20. Averaged 47.1 yards per punt this past season, placed 26 punts inside the 20 and made seven tackles this past season.
2. Michael Turk, Arizona State, 6-1, 228
Led the Pac-12 in punting average (46.0) and was a first-team all-conference performer. Turk forced fair catches on 20 of 59 punts, putting 32 of those kicks inside the 20 with six touchbacks. Turk has a big leg and will get better with his precision once he gets NFL instruction and technique work.
Top 2 long snappers to watch at Combine:
1. Blake Ferguson, LSU, 6-3, 227
Four year starter. Followed in his brother Reid's footsteps as the LSU long snapper. Was a team captain in each of the last two years. Has great speed and accuracy on his snaps, and could be a Day 3 pick.
2. Steven Wirtel, Iowa State, 6-4, 227
Like Ferguson, Wirtel is a legacy long snapper, following in the footsteps of his brothers Steve and John. Snapped all four seasons for the Cyclones and isn't bashful about getting after it as a blocker and tackler.
Combine sleeper to watch:
Joseph Charlton, South Carolina, 6-4, 194 (punter)
Finished top five nationally with a 47.7 average with more than half of his punts being fair caught. At 6-4, Charlton has a long frame to corral wayward snaps, and he was also a holder on field goal attempts.
View photos of Detroit Lions players at the NFL Combine.
Lions need at the position: Moderate
Long-time Lions punter Sam Martin is an unrestricted free agent. He and the team will have to make their decisions on the future of the position in the coming month. Martin took a pay cut in 2019, and the Lions signed Jack Fox and Matt Wile to futures contracts at the position. The Lions could re-sign Martin, turn to Fox or Wile, or look to get younger with a Day 3 pick. The Lions did coach Mann in the Senior Bowl.
Long snapper Don Muhlbach said after the season he hasn't thought about retirement yet, and would like to return for a 17th season. His play hasn't dropped to where that's no longer an option. A 17th season seems like possibility, but the Lions will eventually have to start thinking about a replacement. Muhlbach can't play forever. James Fisher was signed to a futures deal, and the Lions could always look to someone like Ferguson or Wirtel in the late rounds of the draft.
The Lions are good at kicker for at least another season. Matt Prater is one of the best in the business and is signed through 2020.
Key stats: Prater's 76.8 percent field goal accuracy on attempts of 50-plus yards is the highest in NFL history. His 53 makes from 50-plus yards are second in league history to only Sebastian Janikowski's 58.