They’re the guys no one pays any attention to for 59 minutes while the game is being won or lost in the trenches.
As much as old school fans love to use that phrase, sometimes it doesn’t matter what the mammoth linemen who ate five steaks the night before for dinner did.
Sometimes, what matters most is the guy who’s barely six feet tall and 200 pounds soaking wet, who comes in with 60,000 fans (well, usually anyway) watching his every move. No one takes a breath as the most diminutive player on the field strikes a ball from 50 yards away, hoping it stays true right down the middle, or bends to the side.
They don’t get many chances to make an impact, but boy do those chances weigh heavily on the outcome of the game. Let’s take a look at the top five kickers in the NFL today.
5. Robbie Gould (San Francisco 49ers)
The man Chris Berman coined “as good as gold” has been in the NFL since 2005, as a young cub with the Chicago Bears. It really was a golden age for special teams, as KR/PR Devin Hester thrilled fans with his unbelievable return skills, and Robbie Gould converted attempt after attempt to eventually become the team’s all time leading scorer.
As many kickers in the last five years could attest, kicking in Chicago is no easy task. Just ask Cody Parkey or Eddie “Dinero” Piniero whether they could last 15 years kicking in the Windy City.
Things weren’t always easy for Gould, but converting 80% of your attempts in an inclement weather city like Chicago for that long of a time is quite a feat.
After a cup of coffee with the New York Giants in 2015, Gould found a new home as the kicker of the San Francisco 49ers. Although he had a tough year in 2019, Gould has converted 90% or more of his FG’s with the 49ers in three out of four seasons, and might actually find it easier kicking out West.
Always looking to stay on top of his craft, he even opined before the season started about how a lack of fans would affect the wind patterns in NFL stadiums.
4. Matt Prater (Detroit Lions)
Unlike Gould, Matt Prater has had the benefit of kicking most of his field goals in the high-altitude climate of Denver, or indoors at Detroit’s Ford Field. But it’s hard not to show love to the kicker who currently holds the NFL’s record for longest field goal made, at 64 yards.
To make the kick more impressive, he did that on a 13 degree day in the Mile High City.
Despite getting up there in age, Prater continues to have one of the biggest legs in the NFL, routinely trying FG attempts from 50 yards or more. In 2019, he converted 7 out of 8 tries from 50 yards or more, showing that FG range for him is farther back than most other kickers.
3. Mason Crosby (Green Bay Packers)
Although he’s affectionately called “Mason Crossbar” by FS1’s Skip Bayless, Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby has been a mainstay of special teams play in Wisconsin going on 13 seasons now. Once he crushed his first NFL FG attempts in 2007 to deliver the Packers a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s been mostly a storybook ride.
Perhaps one of Crosby’s most memorable moments came in an NFC Divisional playoff game in 2017 against the Dallas Cowboys. The veteran’s game-winning kick started off like it was going to veer too far to the left, but it found its way home, completing a miraculous drive for Green Bay and sending them to the NFC championship game.
Crosby had one of the worst days a kicker could have in a game against the Detroit Lions in 2018, but QB Aaron Rodgers reiterated his faith in his longtime teammate, showing that one of the greatest QB’s of all time knows how muchhis kicker was worth to the team.
2. Stephen Gostkowski (Tennessee Titans)
He’s the active kicker with the most experience kicking in the NFL’s biggest showcase, and someone who has only played on a team that missed the playoffs once in his fourteen year career.
Where does that leave Stephen Gostkowski of the Tennessee Titans? As our number two ranked kicker, who is also second in postseason history with 39 field goals made. The former longtime New England Patriot is also second in league history in playoff points scored.
After 14 seasons in Foxboro, Gostkowski took his talents to Nashville for the 2020 season, and he’s had a topsy turvy season, to say the least. In his debut against the Denver Broncos, he missed 4 kicks over the course of the game, before nailing the game-winning attempt to start the Titans’ season off right. He’s also had a game against the Minnesota Vikings where he’s converted six field goals, but also missed a crucial attempt against the Pittsburgh Steelers that could’ve tied the game.
Despite the inconsistencies, teams generally feel more comfortable with kickers who have delivered in the big moment, and fans would be hard pressed to find someone with a resume as polished and impressive as Gostkowski’s in that department.
1. Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens)
There’s no kicker in the NFL with more bravado, swagger or confidence in his own ability than Baltimore Ravens maven Justin Tucker.
Tucker doesn’t quite have the longevity of some of the other kickers on this list, but the start he’s put together in the first 9 seasons of his career is the stuff legends are made of. In a day and age where the longer extra point tries phase many a kicker, Tucker kicks them with just as much ease as when those tries were spotted on the 2 yard line. He’s missed just 3 extra points in his entire career, and 4 tries of any kind since the beginning of last year.
Tucker is the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL of anyone with a minimum of 100 FG attempts*, and there’s no reason to think that he’ll falter anytime soon, because if he won’t lose confidence in himself, why should we?Published 10 Nov 2020, 11:06 IST