Ranking the Top 10 Punters and Kickers in NFL History

Gordon BlockContributor IIIMarch 20, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Punters and Kickers in NFL History

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    Kickers and punters may not get much respect in the eyes of football fans, but in actuality they can be some of the most important contributors around.

    Not only can the three points generated by their field goals change the outcome of a game, but a punter can shift the entire defensive tide with a carefully placed punt. Without the tough physical strain of regular hits, many special teamers like these can dominate the game for years (or even decades).

    With that in mind, here are the top 10 punters and kickers in NFL History.

Punter No. 10: Steve O'Neal

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    To be fair, there are likely several other punters who deserve this spot over New York Jets and New Orleans Saints punter Steve O'Neal. However, when you get a kick of greatness like he did, some shuffling has to be done.

    O'Neal—as a rookie—blasted a 98-yard punt in a game against the Detroit Lions, which still holds the record for longest punt ever (the kick comes in at the 1:05 mark in the attached video).

    It's a mark that will be almost, if not completely, impossible for any future punters to match.

Kicker 10: Jason Elam

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    Taking the endorsement of Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud, the Denver Broncos found their franchise kicker for over a decade with the selection of Jason Elam in 1993.

    One of the top three kickers in the league for 15 years in Denver, Elam ended his career in the top five in both field goals made and points scored. His 16 seasons of 100 points or more is an NFL record.

    He also shares the record for longest field goal ever (63 yards) with Sebastian Janikowski and Tom Dempsey.

Punter No. 9: Reggie Roby

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    When it comes to cannon legs, few can match punter Reggie Roby. The mammoth punter spent time on several rosters, including the Miami Dolphins, Houston Oilers, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers.

    In addition to helping his defense with his high, booming kicks, Roby was credited by a teammate as one of the first who with put a two-step motion into practice, changing the speed in which kicks could go off and preventing opposing defenders from blocking him.

    "Reggie helped define the position, and even after he retired, every time I saw a long, high punt, it always reminded me of one of his kicks," said his former coach, Don Shula.

    Unfortunately, Roby passed away from unknown causes at his home in Nashville in 2005.

Kicker 9: Matt Stover

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    The fourth-leading scorer in NFL history, Matt Stover proved his worth with his accuracy and consistency.

    He was a key part of the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl run, kicking a league-high 35 field goals. That year, he would account for 41 percent of the team's scoring.

    Stover's 83.7 percent field goal percentage is one of the top 10 in league history. He only missed three extra points in his career as well.

Punter No. 8: Andy Lee

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    Like his Bay Area rival Shane Lechler, San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee has a knack for putting plenty of muscle into the kicks he makes. He was the leading punter in 2011, averaging 50.9 yards per punt during the year (for his part, Lechler was in second with 50.8 yards per punt).

    Lee has been among the top four punters every year since 2007, and his 45.9 yards per punt average is the fifth best average in NFL history.

    While Lee's numbers recently are comparable to Lechler's, Lee will need to play a little better and stay on the field for at least seven or eight more years if he wants to be considered at his rival's level as one of the best kickers ever.

Kicker 8: Jason Hanson

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    The MVP of the Detroit Lions for over a decade, Jason Hanson has been a consistently solid presence for a team that for the longest time had nothing to count on.

    The numbers may not be flashy, but his consistency is pretty incredible. Hanson has been in the top 10 in both field goals made and field goal percentage for his entire career. He also holds the NFL record for most games played by a player for one team.   

    While at 41 some might question how much is left in the tank, an excellent 2011 season showed he's got a lot of field goals still left to kick. If he can hit 24 field goals again, he'll jump to third most field goals made in NFL history.

Punter No. 7: Sean Landeta

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    Sean Landeta earned his reputation for consistency after putting up solid numbers for over two decades. Playing for six teams in the NFL, Landeta was a part of two Super Bowl-winning New York Giants teams.

    He ended his career with 1,401 punts, 60,707 yards and 381 punts, good for second in each category in league history (behind the next member on this list).

    Landeta, the last remaining USFL player to remain active, retired from the game in 2008 after a 25-year career.

Kicker 7: Mark Moseley

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    It may have been a strike shortened season, but kicker Mark Moseley is the only kicker to ever be named the league's MVP.

    Again: A kicker was named the Most Valuable Player in the entire NFL. 

    The only reason he isn't ranked higher is because his career numbers aren't all that special (his career average is 65.6 percent).

Punter No. 6: Jeff Feagles

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    New York Giants punter Jeff Feagles may not have ever put up sexy numbers (he averaged 41.9 yards per punt), but he was a savant in directional punting.

    In a game where field position can be the difference between winning and losing, Feagles terrorized opposing offenses by frequently pinning them deep within their own territory. He holds the record for most punts within the 20-yard line (554).

    He was also one of the most durable athletes in sports history, playing at one point 352 games in a row, a league record. He retired at 44 years old, after playing in the league for 22 years.

Kicker 6: Adam Vinatieri

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    Forget numbers. Nobody defines rising to the occasion quite like Adam Vinatieri.

    In addition to winning multiple Super Bowls with last second kicks, he was accurate with the winning kick of the "Tuck Rule" game, which was played in some of the toughest conditions imaginable.

    His numbers aren't too shabby, either: His 82.9 percent field goal percentage is in the top 15 in league history and his 387 field goals made puts him in the top 10 of all time.

Punter No. 5: Yale Lary

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    A major contributor to a Detroit Lions team that would win three World Championships in the 1950s, Yale Lary defined several positions, including the punter position.

    He was a true triple threat on the field, as Lary was also an exceptional safety and kick returner.

    As a punter, he led the league in punt average three times, and nearly added a fourth title to his resume. His average of 44.3 yards per punt is still one of the best in league history.

    Lary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

Kicker No. 5: Lou Groza

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    Lou Groza, best known as "The Toe," was an excellent kicker (not to mention a great offensive lineman), who led the league five times in both field goals made (1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1957) and field goal percentage (1950, 1953, 1954, 1961 and 1963).

    Interesting fact: In 21 years playing for the Cleveland Browns, he signed 21 one-year contracts (with his largest contract valued at $50,000). 

    Groza was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

    Similar to Ray Guy, Groza's name is attached to the award recognizing the best college kicker.

Punter No. 4: Jerrel Wilson

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    Jerrel Wilson, better known by the (fantastic) nickname "Thunderfoot," built an excellent reputation with his booming punts as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Announcer Lenny Dawson is recorded as saying that Wilson kicked the ball so hard that he expected the ball to explode.

    Wilson also led the AFL in punting twice (1965 and 1968) and the NFL three times (1971,1972 and 1973). He holds the record for best punting average in AFL history, with 43.9 yards per punt, and was also named to the league's all-time team.

Kicker 4: George Blanda

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    George Blanda, who played football for a whopping 26 years, solidifies his spot among the greats of football with his consistency and versatility (he played quarterback for most of his career, and also spent time as a linebacker).

    He led the league three times in field goal percentage (1955, 1961 and 1967) and passing yards per game, and played at a high level at both positions well into his 40s (see the attached video). Blanda held several records when he retired, including most points scored and most interceptions thrown (a mark that would later be broken by the immortal Brett Favre). He also grew a reputation of playing his best when the pressure was high.

    He would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

    Blanda passed away in 2010 at the age of 83.

Punter No. 3: Shane Lechler

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    He may be No. 3 on this list, but Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler could have room to move up if he can continue the level of play he's done throughout his career. 

    Since his drafting in 2000, he has redefined what it means to be a great punter. He currently holds the yards per punt average (47.6 yards), and continues to amaze with what he can do with a football (look at how casually he blasts this 80-yard punt in the attached video).

    There's no denying we are watching greatness when we see Lechler put his foot to the ball.

Kicker 3: Jan Stenerud

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    His numbers may not hold up so well today, but long-time Kansas City Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud put together an impressive career good enough to make him the only pure kicker named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (to which he was inducted in 1991). 

    A member of the NFL 75th Anniversary Team, he led the league twice in field goal percentage (1981 and 1984) and in total field goals made (1970 and 1975). His 373 field goals made is good for 10th best in NFL history. His three field goals were critical in the Chiefs Super Bowl IV victory (including a 48-yarder which, at the time, was the longest in Super Bowl history). 

    Perhaps most impressive was his Cal Ripken-esque durability. Stenerud never missed a game in any of his 19 seasons playing professional football for illness or injury.

Punter No. 2: Sammy Baugh

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    Sammy Baugh, better known as "Slinging" Sammy Baugh, was a great punter who just so happened to be an even better safety and quarterback.

    As a sign of his versatility, Baugh led the league in passing, punting and defensive interceptions in 1943. 

    Even more impressive, his 51.4 yards per punt average he set in the 1940 season is still the best season for a punter ever.

Kicker 2: Gary Anderson

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    One of the longest playing members of the league, kicker Gary Anderson was a consistent force on any team he was a part of during his 22-year career.

    Most notably, Gary Anderson tasted perfection in 1998, becoming the first kicker in league history to go an entire regular season without missing a kick (though his missed kick in the subsequent NFC Championship is still painful for many Minnesota Vikings fans). 

    Another important point with Anderson is his longevity. Contributing in three separate decades, Anderson played until he was 45 years old.

    He stands in second place in both field goals made (538) and games played (353) to our No. 1 kicker on this list...

Punter No. 1: Ray Guy

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    A first-round draft pick in the 1973 draft, the only time a punter has ever been drafted that high (read that twice and let that sink in), Ray Guy put together one of the most memorable special teams careers ever.

    His trademark: high, booming kicks that left opponents in awe. He led the league three times in punting average, and was a seven-time selection for the Pro Bowl. He was also named to the league's 75th Anniversary Team.

    However, some of his legend went beyond his stat sheet.

    In addition to being hitting the roof of the Superdome with one of his kicks, a rival coach reportedly took one of Guy's practice balls and had it checked for helium

    Guy's name now rests on the award for the best college punter in the country.

Kicker 1: Morten Andersen

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    The face of longevity, Danish-born kicker Morten Andersen put together an NFL career few can aspire to match.

    Kicking for an remarkable 25 years, Andersen currently holds the top spot for several records, including most games played (382), total field goals made (565) and points scored (2,544). 

    Not a bad career for a guy who only started to play the game on a lark as a foreign exchange student in Indianapolis.

    (As an interesting story in a time of outrage about player bounties, Andersen and his then-coach, Dick Vermeil, were reprimanded by the league in 2003 after the coach promised Andersen, a wine enthusiast, a bottle of wine for making a game-winning field goal.)