Fantasy Football 2012: Preseason Look at Top 20 Kickers
The following countdown touts the top 20 kickers for the 2012 fantasy season.
To clarify, these rankings were conceived with standard-scoring leagues in mind, especially ones that reward bonus points for field goals of 40-plus yards, 50-plus yards and even 60-plus yards.
As stated numerous times in various blogs over the last five years, I am not the biggest admirer of kickers, from a value perspective.
While I appreciate their skill level and capacity for multiple field goals on a game-by-game basis, the majority of kickers are eminently replaceable assets when drafting in the late rounds...or dropping/adding players during NFL bye weeks.
I'll most likely update these rankings in late August.
Enjoy the show!
Rookie to Watch: Randy Bullock, Houston Texans
Skinny: The rookie from Texas A&M connected on 29-of-33 kicks last season, while collecting 55 extra points. Be ready to snatch him up by Round 15.
20: Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions
2011 Stats: 24-of-29 Field Goals, 54 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 57-of-71 Field Goals
Skinny: At first blush, it seems ridiculous to endorse a 42-year-old kicker who has only averaged 19 made field goals the last three seasons.
But 2011 was a bounce-back campaign for the Lions' longest-tenured player, who also connected on five field goals of 50 yards or more.
19: Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh Steelers
2011 Stats: 23-of-31 Field Goals, 36 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 57-of-70 Field Goals
Skinny: I would feel better about this selection if Suisham had been more efficient with kicks of 31-49 yards (12-of-19 last year); but he also gets extra credit for wearing a Steelers uniform.
In 2011, Pittsburgh ranked 12th in total yards (372) and ninth in first downs (21.3).
That formidable production usually leads to more red-zone opportunities and more doable kicks for Suisham.
18: Josh Scobee, Jacksonville Jaguars
2011 Stats: 23-of-25 Field Goals, 24 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 63-of-81 Field Goals
Skinny: When assessing Scobee's fantasy prospects for the season ahead, one stat jumps right off the page: Just 24 extra points in 2011.
By comparison, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted 63 PATs last year; that's a decisive 39-point advantage before even one field-goal attempt.
Of course, I expect the Jaguars offense to demonstrate vast improvement this season; so don't be surprised if Scobee stealthily ends up among the top 15 kickers by Week 17.
17: Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
2011 Stats: 25-of-30 Field Goals, 34 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 40-of-50 Field Goals
Skinny: Steven Hauschka tallied two or more field goals seven times last year, a more-than-acceptable figure for a kicker ranked outside the top 15.
He even had one game of five field goals against Baltimore in Week 10, which speaks to his capacity for replicating the same task over and over...and the Seahawks' inefficiency in the red zone.
16: Billy Cundiff, Baltimore Ravens
2011 Stats: 28-of-37 Field Goals, 38 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 72-of-91 Field Goals
Skinny: The mental side of Billy Cundiff's 2012 prospects are of equal importance to the physical preparation, as he must work to overcome the heartache of a chip-shot miss in the AFC title game (a kick that would have forced overtime against the Patriots).
Assuming he's fit on that end, I'm confident the Ravens kicker can replicate last year's output of five games of three field goals or more (including five in Week 6 against Houston) and at least one field goal in 13-of-15 games.
15: Graham Gano, Washington Redskins
2011 Stats: 31-of-41 Field Goals, 25 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 59-of-80 Field Goals
Skinny: Graham Gano may have nailed 86 percent of his kicks that weren't blocked last year, but that proficiency wasn't enough to preclude the Redskins from signing Neil Rackers during the offseason.
Which begs the question: Does this mean we'll have a breathless competition between two high-quality kickers during the preseason? For once, I'm excited to watch a field goal attempt in August.
In terms of hedging my bets, I would likely attach the same fantasy ranking to Rackers (32 field goals with Houston last year) if he wins the kicking battle in our nation's capital.
14: Nate Kaeding, San Diego Chargers
2010 Season: 23-of-28 Field Goals, 40 PAT
Skinny: Speaking of intrasquad kicking competitions, Nick Novak performed admirably in Nate Kaeding's stead last year, nailing 27-of-34 field-goal attempts and 41 extra points.
But as the old adage goes, You don't lose your job to injury...unless your torn ACL from the previous September hasn't healed properly.
From all appearances, though, Kaeding (82-of-95 field goals from 2008-10) is primed to recapture his spot on the San Diego depth chart and standing amongst the NFL's most bankable kickers.
13: Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints
2010 Stats: 20-of-25 Field Goals, 40 PAT
Skinny: And so concludes our three-slide run of NFL teams with legitimate concerns—and suitable depth—at kicker.
In 2011, after Garrett Hartley suffered a debilitating hip injury, John Kasay, at age 41, produced 28 field goals and 63 extra points.
The Saints also covet that kind of clutch proficiency from the 26-year-old Hartley, who booted 42-of-49 field goals from 2008-10.
12: Dan Carpenter, Miami Dolphins
2011 Stats: 29-of-34 Field Goals, 26 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 84-of-103 Field Goals
Skinny: In 2011, Dan Carpenter was one of the few NFL kickers who nailed at least one field goal in every game.
Of more importance, Carpenter connected on two or more field goals 11 times.
Bottom line: You'll be thrilled to land Carpenter in the last round of a 12-team draft...just like the owner who grabs a high-end kicker in Round 11 or 12.
11: Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears
2011 Stats: 28-of-32 Field Goals, 37 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 77-of-90 Field Goals
Skinny: By keeping Matt Forte, signing Michael Bush, trading for Brandon Marshall and drafting receiver Alshon Jeffery, the Bears had a remarkable offseason with offensive personnel.
But how will that affect Robbie Gould's standing in the fantasy community?
Here's a bad news/good news prediction: I don't envision Gould attempting four-plus kicks in more than two games...but I would be shocked if he didn't reach the magical threshold of 30 made field goals by season's end.
10: Rob Bironas, Tennessee Titans
2011 Stats: 29-of-32 Field Goals, 34 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 80-of-90 Field Goals
Skinny: The 34-year-old Bironas earns this lofty ranking from his work in the Titans' final eight games from last year: A 95-percent efficiency rating (19-of-20 field goals) and five outings of three made field goals.
9: Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
2011 Stats: 27-of-29 Field Goals, 45 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 62-of-70 Field Goals
Skinny: Matt Bryant's body of work with the high-flying Falcons speaks for itself.
But I also come bearing bad news: From 16 games last year, Bryant had eight games of zero or one field goal.
That's a tough pill to swallow on isolated Sundays, drafting a kicker who might net four points or less.
8: Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys
2011 Stats: 32-of-37 Field Goals, 39 PAT
Skinny: The one indelible image from Dan Bailey's rookie season lies with the six field goals against the Redskins in Week 3, scoring all of Dallas' 18 points in a huge Monday Night Football victory.
But to the kid's credit, he didn't let up after his 15 minutes of NFL fame. For his next six games, Bailey tallied three or more field goals four times.
Bottom line: The fantasy bankability of the Cowboys playmakers goes deeper than Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The kicker Bailey is also a worthy weekly play in 12-team leagues.
7: Mike Nugent, Cincinnati Bengals
2011 Stats: 33-of-38 Field Goals, 33 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 52-of-65 Field Goals
Skinny: Mike Nugent posted the second-highest tally of made field goals last season; and yet, he's just not getting the preseason buzz of his kicking peers.
(MockDraftCentral.com has Nugent as the 16th kicker, or 211st overall pick, in its current Average Draft Position rankings.)
Apparently, Nugent will have to prove that last year was no fluke.
6: Matt Prater, Denver Broncos
2011 Stats: 19-of-25 Field Goals, 30 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 65-of-78 Field Goals
Skinny: Contrary to public opinion, it was Matt Prater—and not Tim Tebow—who nailed the 59-yard field goal to force overtime in the Broncos' Week 14 win over the Bears last year.
It was also Prater who only had the chance to attempt two or more field goals seven times last season...meaning he endured nine regular-season games of zero or one attempt.
Bottom line: With Peyton Manning now running the show in Denver, I have 100-percent confidence that Prater will log more than 19 field goals and 25 attempts in 2012.
5: Alex Henery, Philadelphia Eagles
2011 Stats: 24-of-27 Field Goals, 46 PAT
Skinny: Have you ever watched the "NFL Quarterback Challenge" during August (tape delayed on TV), the show where some of the league's best signal-callers participate in a series of grueling tests to determine the league's most versatile passer?
Doesn't it stand to reason the kickers deserve a similar showcase during the dog days of August?
With that said, I would love to see who has the stronger leg—Philly's Alex Henery or Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski?
Time permitting, I'd also like to know who's the better passer among the kickers.
4: Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
2011 Stats: 24-of-28 Field Goals, 68 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 73-of-92 Field Goals
Skinny: At this point in the countdown, we're merely splitting hairs over the game's best fantasy kickers.
And while Crosby hasn't nailed 30-plus field since 2007, his association with the Packers offense plays a huge role in his prominent ranking.
Sixty-nine extra-point attempts in a 16-game season? Holy jeez!
3: Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
2011 Stats: 31-of-35 Field Goals, 36 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 90-of-105 Field Goals
Skinny: Janikowski may only sport a No. 3 ranking here, but I would have zero argument with him garnering the top preseason spot on other draft boards.
As someone who doesn't believe in drafting a kicker until Round 15, I would happily splurge for Janikowski before that, knowing that he's probably a lock for a third straight season of 30-plus field goals.
And with Carson Palmer helming the Raiders offense for a full season, I expect Janikowski to attempt 40 extra points in 2012.
2: Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
2011 Stats: 28-of-33 Field Goals, 59 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 62-of-77 Field Goals
Skinny: I have a little trepidation about giving a cold-weather kicker a No. 2 ranking.
But Gostkowski has three major positives on his side:
1. As an important cog with the explosive Patriots, Gostkowski is a healthy lock for 30 made field goals.
2. Gostkowski nailed at least one field goal in all 19 games last year, including 11 outings of multiple field goals.
3. At age 28, the Memphis product is just hitting his prime years for kicking, barring injury.
1: David Akers, San Francisco 49ers
2011 Stats: 44-of-52 Field Goals, 34 PAT
3-Year Track Record: 108-of-127 Field Goals
Skinny: In case you forgot, David Akers' 44 field goals from last year was an NFL single-season record.
It was also a 12-kick improvement from his previous career high in field goals (32 in 2009 and '10).
Throw in the fact the 49ers offense made substantial improvements in the offseason (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs, A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James)...and it's wise to believe Akers will return to the '30' range at age 37.
On the positive side, he's still the No. 1 asset in our countdown.