Aside from the punter, the placekicker is most certainly viewed as the least sexy position in football. Virtually no NFL fan grabs a cold one, chows down on a wide array of junk food, and turns on the television every Sunday afternoon, amped to sport a jersey supporting their favorite team’s kicker. If you’re an outlier who follows these under-appreciated athletes, good luck finding a Stephen Gostkowski uni in any major sporting goods retail store.
The fact of the matter is, though placekickers (who kick field goals and perform kickoff duties) typically take the field a minimum of three or so times per game — and an upwards of five to 10 times with a highly potent offense — they are largely disregarded when discussing important players on the squads. Luckily, there are weekly special teams awards that honor kickers once in a while.
Despite their low rank on the NFL roster totem pole, kickers are perhaps the most undervalued entity to a team. It seems that at least two or three times a week, a contest will be decided on a game-winning field goal, a missed field goal, or another gem or miscue involving a kicker. True, in most cases the outcome is based on the performance of a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or defensive unit, but we’ve seen time and time again that the Sebastian Janikowskis of the league can be a bigger factor. Anybody else remember Adam Vinatieri in the two Super Bowls?
So, on the heels of the aforementioned Gostkowski’s big boot against the New York Giants on Sunday, let’s countdown the five best kickers in football today.
5. Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys
2015 statistics: 18/19 field goal attempts made, longest field goal made (53 yards), 16/16 extra point attempts made
The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dallas Cowboys’ Dan Bailey, comes in at No. 5 on the list. Bailey finally missed his first field goal attempt of the season this past Sunday (pushing a 48-yard attempt wide right) but he still remains among the elite. The 27-year-old’s missed field goal broke up a string of 21 straight successful field goals dating back to last season. Bailey had been a perfect 16 of 16 this year with the new, slightly longer extra point attempts. Even with the rare miscue, Bailey is still tied for ninth in field goals made and has a season-long make of 53 yards.
4. Brandon McManus, Denver Broncos
2015 statistics: 19/20 field goal attempts made, longest field goal made (57 yards), 20/20 extra point attempts made
Coming into this season, Brandon McManus probably thought he would have more than 40 field goal and extra point tries combined by now. However, due to a deteriorating Peyton Manning-led offense, the attempts have been somewhat limited for No. 8. While he has already surpassed his field goal makes from the 2014 season, he currently has less than half of last year’s 41 PAT attempts and makes with just seven games remaining. He’s clearly one of the best though, converting a perfect 20 of 20 on the point afters and missing just one field-goal try thus far. He’s gone 14 of 14 on field goals under 50 yards and has a season-long make of 57 yards.
3. Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
2015 statistics: 20/21 field goal attempts made, longest field goal made (54 yards), 17/17 extra point attempts made
During the Seattle Seahawks past couple runs to the Super Bowl, they’ve featured the young talent of quarterback Russell Wilson; the bruising, powerful beast of a running back in Marshawn Lynch; and of course, the “Legion of Boom” on defense. How about giving some love to their kicker, Steven Hauschka? Since finding limited success from 2008 to 2010 with Baltimore and Denver, “Hausch Money” has been as consistent as they come over the past four-and-a-half seasons. Hauschka is a remarkable 219 of 222 on PATs in his regular season career — not missing one since his 2012 campaign. The 30-year-old is tied for fourth this year with his 20 field goal makes and is an impressive four of four on tries over 50 yards.
2. Josh Brown, New York Giants
2015 statistics: 23/23 field goal attempts made, longest field goal made (53 yards), 26/27 extra point attempts made
At 36 years old, New York Giants placekicker Josh Brown is the oldest of the group, yet he is still one of the most reliable in the league. After connecting on all four of his field goal attempts and punching through both PATs in Week 9, Brown was named the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week. Overall, in 2015, he has converted 26 of 27 extra points and has a perfect 23-for-23 on field goals, including a season-long 53-yarder. He’s currently atop the league in field goals made and is tied for fourth in PATs. The majority of his field goals have not been chip shots either; 10 have been more than 40 yards and 19 have been over 30.
1. Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
2015 statistics: 21/21 field goal attempts made, longest field goal made (57 yards), 34/34 extra point attempts made
With the hottest quarterback and the best tight end in the game, it seems unfair for the New England Patriots to also have the best kicker, right? Well, football isn’t fair, because the most clutch kicker in the business is the Pats’ Stephen Gostkowski, and he’s been the best for a handful of years now. Back in 2006, during his first season in New England, who would have thought that anyone could replace the legendary Adam Vinatieri? But No. 3 has done exactly that.
At 31, Gostkowski shows no signs of slowing down. He ranks third in field goals with 21 and is tied with McManus for a season-long of 57 yards. If you needed any further proof of just how dominating the Patriots offense is, look at the lead that Gostkowski shares in extra points with his 34. He and Arizona Cardinal Chandler Catanzaro are relishing in all of the PAT chances.
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