Easily one of the most underrated positions in football is the kicker.
Maybe it’s because they don’t typically score as many points, but games are often won (or lost) by a field goal or an extra point. Here are the top five kickers in the NFL this year as determined by reviewing their success over the past three years:
1. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Once upon a time, the No. 1 spot would have gone to Adam Vinateri, who is one of the best of all time … but, he’s just not the best right now. His numbers have dropped over recent years, leaving Tucker to take the title of top kicker.
In the past three years, Tucker has attempted 103 extra points. He has missed one. That’s about as close to perfect as one can get.
Meanwhile, he’s attempted 115 field goals and made 107 of them. In 2016, he attempted 14 from the 40-49 range and 10 from 50+ … and made every single one of them. His lone miss that year was from the 30-39 range, which is odd, but still impressive. In 2017, he attempted 12 from the 40-49 range and made 11. He also attempted seven from 50+ and made five of them. Those made up his only misses for the year.
2018 was his worst season yet as he missed a grand total of four field goals and one extra point. He attempted 11 from the 40-49 range and made nine. He attempted seven from 50+ and made five of them again.
Numbers don’t lie.
Tucker was selected for the first team all pro in both 2016 and 2018 and made the Pro Bowl in 2016. In the eight seasons he’s played, Tucker has only suited up for the Ravens and it will likely stay that way until he retires. Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL. He’ll be joining the Hall of Fame easily. If the Ravens lose him, it will be a hard pill to swallow.
2. Robbie Gould, San Francisco 49ers
Longtime football fans are probably confused about this choice. Gould has been in the league for going on 15 years and he spent most of that time with the Chicago Bears, only joining the Giants for a brief stint in 2016 and being with the 49ers since. Despite holding his position on the Bears for ten years, he was never really considered a top kicker … but the past three years have been some of his best.
In 2016, Gould only attempted 10 field goals with the Giants and made every single one of them, including four from 50+. In fact, he’s attempted 10 field goals in the past three years from 50+ and nailed every single one of them. He’s only missed three from 40-49, as well as one from 20-29 (which seems odd until you look at his extra point percentage). In the past three years, he’s missed seven extra points.
For some reason, the closer Gould is to the goal posts, the more likely he is to miss. Which is also why, despite outstanding field goals numbers, he can’t claim the top spot.
3. Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
Zuerlein is heading into his eighth season in the league, and he’s been with the Rams for all of them.
In the past three years, Zuerlein has attempted 105 extra points and only missed three. It’s impressive because the number of extra point attempts he kicked doubled from 2016 to 2017. The Rams have seen incredible success lately and Zuerlein is handling the increased workload with ease. His field goals are also strong. He’s attempted 93 and made 84. He’s usually got about a 70% chance of making anything over 50 yards and about an 80% chance of hitting one in the 40-49 range.
The Rams’ success, barring any injuries, isn’t likely to take a turn for the worse anytime soon. Zuerlein was selected for both the Pro Bowl and was a First Team All-Pro in 2017. If Zuerlein keeps up his numbers, he’ll easily move up this list.
4. Matt Prater, Detroit Lions
Considering how bad the Lions have been the last few seasons, it’s strange to see Prater on this list … but again, numbers do not lie. He’s only missed three extra point attempts in the past three years and out of 104 attempts, that’s not too shabby. He’s kicked 103 field goals and is pretty strong in that aspect as well, averaging 85% or higher in field goals. He hits about 75% of his 50+ attempts which is nothing to turn a nose up at — a one in four chance of making it is impressive.
Heading into his 13th season, Prater has mainly split his time between the Denver Broncos and the Lions. His last trip to the Pro Bowl was in 2016.
5. Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints
Lutz is heading into his fourth year with the Saints. He’d probably be an expected name for most fans but Saints fans are exciting about the promise of his career. His rookie season was his worst and that’s not saying much. He attempted 34 field goals and only made 28 of them. Of those six misses, four were from over 50 yards, which is not too bad for a rookie. It should be noted that he only missed one of his 50 extra point attempts. In the last two years, he’s taken less shots from the 50+ range — eight in total — and he’s made six of them. The most extra points he’s missed is three.
He hasn’t been selected for an All-Pro Team or a Pro Bowl yet, but just wait. It’s only a matter of time.
Bonus Player: Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants
A season doesn’t make a player, but Rosas is heading into 2019 as one of the top guys. He’s only played two season and his numbers in 2017 were adequate … but last year’s numbers were great. This season will be the true test as to whether or not his success has longevity or if it was a fluke.