Kickers may be the red-headed step-children of fantasy football; but, like it or not, they're still a vital part of the game (and championships).
So, if you're playing in a league that rewards kickers three points for field goals 21-39 yards, four points for FGs 40-49 yards and five points for 50-plus-yard FGs...here's something to consider:
AccuScore.com's projections for every kicker who'll make at least 27 field goals in 2012:
Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots—34 field goals
Garrett Hartley, Saints—33 field goals
Shaun Suisham, Steelers—32 field goals
Alex Henery, Eagles—31 field goals
Dan Bailey, Cowboys—31
Matt Bryant, Falcons—30
Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders—30
Olindo Mare, Panthers—30
Connor Barth, Buccaneers—30
Mason Crosby, Packers—30
Rob Bironas, Titans—30
Nick Novak, Chargers—29
Robbie Gould, Bears—29
Mike Nugent, Bengals—28
Rian Lindell, Bills—28
Ryan Succop, Chiefs—28
Steven Hauschka, Seahawks—28
David Akers, 49ers—28
Dan Carpenter, Dolphins—27
Billy Cundiff, Ravens—27
Matt Prater, Broncos—27
Neil Rackers, Redskins—27
Jason Hanson, Lions—27
Randy Bullock, Texans—27
- The prediction that jumps right off the page—David Akers plunging from 44 made field goals in 2011 (an NFL record) to just 28 for this season. That's quite a drop in production, even if the 49ers bolstered their roster (and aided red-zone efficiency) with receivers Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkins and running back Brandon Jacobs.
- I rarely care about training-camp battles with kickers. But I'm intrigued to see how the whole Nick Novak/Nate Kaeding competition plays out in August. If Kaeding (torn ACL last September) is fully recovered from his injury, he'll probably be the kicker for the 2012 campaign. But then again, we're talking about pro football, where loyalties never last with running backs, receivers and O-linemen. So, why should it be any different for kickers? On the bright side, both Novak and Kaeding would be viable starting options with separate teams.
- Stephen Gostkowski has averaged 30 field goals made in his last three full seasons (2008-09, 2011), so predicting 34 for a season in which the Patriots added Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney might be a stretch. After all, Gostkowski only attempted 24 kicks in Tom Brady's record-breaking season of 2007 (50 TD passes).
- Jason Hanson is just six healthy seasons away from breaking Morten Andersen's NFL record for games played (382). In fact, Hanson would eclipse the record at the Lions' season finale of 2017—at the tender age of 47. Hearkening back to the present, Hanson averaged 23.75 field goals in his last four full seasons.
- All non-Redskins or Texans fans...raise your hand if you knew Neil Rackers had migrated to the nation's capital. Along those lines, non-Randy Bullock family members, raise your hand if you knew Bullock (29 field goals at Texas A&M last year) was Houston's new kicking savior.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.