Throughout NFL history, kickers have been foes and villains, heroes and choke jobs, and All-Pros and Mr. Irrelevants. But when a team needs a game-winning play, it’s these often-overlooked individuals that come to the rescue.
Being a kicker in the NFL isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires precision in critical situations, the ability to tune out surroundings, and a heavy dose of ice in the veins. Despite the player’s importance, the kicker position has been somewhat unheralded, especially in relation to the other positions on the field.
In honor of perhaps the most underrated position in the game, here are some of the best kickers in NFL history — and more excitingly — a few that can still steal a few points for your fantasy football team each week.
Over time, the art of kicking has improved immensely. NFL kickers have become stronger and more accurate, and the numbers prove it. However, the move by the NFL in 2015 to push the extra point try to the 15-yard line has raised the bar for precision, albeit at the expense of the placekicker.
Regardless of their era, these kickers have exhibited the ability to kick game-winning field goals, maintain a top-tier field goal percentage, and place themselves in the pantheon of great NFL players. Let’s take a look at some of the best kickers in NFL history.
NFL Teams: New England Patriots (1996-2005), Indianapolis Colts (2006-2019)
Field goals: 599-715 (83.8%)
PATs (points after touchdown): 874-898 (97.3%)
It’s not Tom Brady. It isn’t Jerry Rice. Nor is it any of the other NFL players to ever grace the gridiron. The highest-scoring player in NFL history is none other than Adam Vinatieri, who amassed 2,673 points during his NFL career — that’s good enough for 7.3 points per game.
Arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history, Vinatieri holds eight NFL records, including:
To top it off, Vinatieri is also well-remembered as a crucial part of two Super Bowl champion teams. In Super Bowl XXXVI, Vinatieri kicked a 48-yarder to upset the Rams. Just two years later, he did it again, kicking a 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Add in 3 Pro Bowl selections, and Vinatieri is the kicker that every team wishes they had. If there was ever a resume that screams the best kicker in NFL history, this might just be it.
NFL Teams: Oakland Raiders (2000-2017), Seattle Seahawks (2018)
Field goals: 436-532 (80.4%)
PATs: 605-614 (98.5%)
Standing 6’1” but weighing in at a mighty 260 pounds, Janikowski looked more like a goal-line fullback than a placekicker. As you know, looks can be deceiving.
Hailing from Poland, Janikowski yearned to become a pro soccer player. But when his family moved to the U.S. when he was 16 years old, he changed his sport to football. The NFL was glad that he did.
A Florida State University football hall of fame member, Janikowski was one of only five kickers in history drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Though he may not have the stats to back it up — especially due to playing on a lackluster Raiders squad — Janikowski was widely regarded as the most powerful kicker who ever played. His longest field goal was 63 yards — an NFL record at the time. But he might best be remembered for attempting a 76-yard field goal — the longest attempt in NFL history.
NFL Teams: Baltimore Ravens (2012-present)
Field goals: 363-401 (90.3%)
PATs: 411-416 (98.8%)
If you were ever going to devote a late fantasy football auction pick to a kicker, Tucker is probably your best bet. A pure scorer from anything closer than 60 yards, Tucker is every bit as accurate as he is powerful. He currently holds the NFL record for the most sudden-death game-winning field goals with seven, including four when his team trailed.
He also owns two other major records — the longest field in NFL history at 66 yards and the highest career field goal percentage at a 90.5% accuracy rate. Though he still takes the field, he’s certainly in the conversation for one of the best kickers in NFL history.
NFL Teams: Atlanta Falcons (2007), Denver Broncos (2007-2013), Detroit Lions (2014-2020), Arizona Cardinals (2021-present)
Field goals: 373-448 (83.3%)
PATs: 555-570 (97.4%)
Prater is the feel-good, underdog story — maybe second only to Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Warner. Undrafted out of UCF, Prater struggled to find a job after workouts with the Lions, Packers, and Vikings. But after a year, his hard work and perseverance paid off.
In 2007, he joined the Falcons for just two games before he was cut. He was then signed by the Broncos, and the rest — as they say — is history.
With some of the best accuracy in the league today, he holds the NFL record for the most 50+ yard field goals in NFL history (70), as well as the most extra points in a season (75).
NFL Teams: Kansas City Chiefs (1967-1979), Green Bay Packers (1980-1983), Minnesota Vikings (1984-1985)
Field goals: 373-558 (66.8%)
PATs: 580-601 (96.5%)
A Hall of Fame and first-team Pro Bowler four times, Stenerud was one of the top kickers of his generation. However, it’s how he revolutionized the game from the placekicker position that truly makes him one of the best kickers in NFL history.
Hailing from Norway, Stenerud had played soccer growing up and was an accomplished ski jumper. After receiving a ski jumping scholarship from Montana State, he became enamored with the game when he first entered the school’s football stadium.
He eventually walked on as a kicker, using his soccer-style approach for success. When he was selected in the NFL Draft in 1966, he became the first kicker to use a soccer-style approach in the league. Every kicker thereafter has only copied it, making him a unique addition to this list.
NFL Teams: New Orleans Saints (1982-1994), Atlanta Falcons (1995-2000 and 2006-2007), New York Giants (2001), Kansas City Chiefs (2002-2003), Minnesota Vikings (2004)
Field goals: 565-709 (79.7%)
PATs: 849-859 (98.8%)
Along with Stenerud, Andersen is one of only two exclusive placekickers in the NFL Hall of Fame. Born in Denmark, Andersen visited the U.S. as an exchange student, only to find that he was an exceptional kicker. In just one season of high school football, he earned a full scholarship to Michigan State University.
Drafted in 1982, Andersen played 25 seasons in the NFL, he has the honor of playing the most games in NFL history (382). On top of his longevity, Andersen also earned seven Pro Bowl nods, two spots on the NFL All-Decade Team (the 1980s and 1990s), and 360 consecutive games scoring at least 1 point.
NFL Teams: Denver Broncos (1993-2007), Atlanta Falcons (2008-2009)
Field goals: 436-540 (80.7%)
PATs: 675-679 (99.5%)
Imagine playing for 17 years and only missing for PATs. That’s just what kicker Jason Elam accomplished during his time in the NFL. Well, that and just a bit more to earn him consideration for the best kicker in NFL history.
He also holds the record for the highest PAT percentage, the most 100-point seasons (15), and the fastest player to reach 300 field goals, in addition to two Super Bowl victories.
NFL Teams: Detroit Lions (1992-2012)
Field goals: 495-601 (82.4%)
PATs: 665-673 (98.8%)
Playing for the Lions isn’t exactly a dream job for most NFL players, but Jason Hanson was the bit of excitement in an otherwise lackluster franchise. Despite the Lions lacking offensive prowess, Hanson was able to connect on an impressive amount of field goals, as well as over 80% of his field goals.
He also holds two records that likely won’t be broken: the most seasons with one team as a kicker (21) and the most field goals for a single team (327).
NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1982-1994), Philadelphia Eagles (1995-1996), San Francisco 49ers (1997), Minnesota Vikings (1998-2002), Tennessee Titans (2003-2004)
Field goals: 538-672 (80.1%)
PATs: 820-827 (99.2%)
Gary Anderson has no relation to Morten, but his kicking skills are every bit as impressive. Born in Durban, South Africa, he was the first South African to ever play in the NFL. Like many foreign kickers, he began as a soccer player but devoted himself to football while attending Syracuse University.
Over 20+ years in the NFL, Anderson was widely regarded as one of the best kickers of the late 80s and 90s. His kicking accuracy was perhaps his most notable trait, which culminated during the 1998 season. That year, Anderson became the first and only kicker to have 100% accuracy on both field goals (35-35) and PATs (59-59), solidifying himself as one of the best kickers in NFL history.
NFL Teams: Chicago Bears (1949-1958), Houston Oilers (1960-1966), Oakland Raiders (1967-1975)
Field goals: 335-641 (52.4%)
PATs: 943-959 (98.3%)
Before kickers became an exclusive position, many players would hop in multiple positions. Perhaps the greatest was George Blanda.
For an NFL-record 26 seasons, Blanda played both quarterback and kicker, amassing a Hall of Fame career before retiring at the young age of 48. He was both a passing yards and passing touchdowns leader multiple times, as well as earning MVP honors in the AFL prior to the AFL-NFL merger. And as a final note, he holds the record with the most PATs of all time — not all that surprising in a 26-year career.
NFL Teams: New England Patriots (2006-2019), Tennessee Titans (2020)
Field goals: 392-454 (86.3%)
PATs: 699-712 (98.2%)
Whether you’re in a flex, superflex, PPR, or another fantasy league, you may have shed a tear when Gostowski retired after the 2020 season.
During his illustrious career, Gostowski was automatic. He holds the record for the most consecutive successful PATs (523), seemingly unfazed by the NFL moving the PAT back to the 15-yard line. He was also a three-time Super Bowl winner, a five-time NFL scoring leader, and a two-time Pro Bowler. In the modern era, few were better than Gostowski, even though he had a little help from Tom Brady along the way.
NFL Teams: Cleveland Browns (1946-1959 and 1961-1967)
Field goals: 264-481 (54.9%)
PATs: 810-833 (97.2%)
Nicknamed “The Toe" for his kicking abilities, Groza was another old-time player who wasn’t just a kicker. He also played offensive tackle and excelled at both, making him one of the oddest and yet most successful players in the NFL throughout the 50s and 60s.
He won the Super Bowl four times, was a Pro Bowler nine times, and was voted MVP in 1954. And he did it all while stuffing pash rushers, then switching around to boot the ball through the uprights.
His career numbers don’t stack up, but the Washington Redskins’ Mark Moseley is worth an entry on this list. In the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season, Moseley became the only pure placekicker to win the NFL MVP, hitting 20 of 21 field goals — and oddly — a less-accurate 16 of 19 on PATs.
In the realm of fantasy football, kickers aren’t the priority for the most part. You have plenty of other positions to focus on that have more potential points upside. But nevertheless, you shouldn’t overlook them entirely.
If you want to steal some points, look for kickers who play on a high-powered offense. Doing so provides more opportunities for extra points and field goals. Next, aim to draft a kicker who plays his home games in a dome. This takes weather out of the equation, creating a more favorable chance that the kicker is precise and accurate. You can even look for kickers on the waiver wire each week if there are players on the board during the draft that you can’t afford to ignore.
But more than anything else, make sure that you use the current Vegas odds to pick your starting lineup, regardless of whether that involves a kicker or not. Check out Wise Guys Edge and compare up to five players using real-time odds so you always craft the best lineup in a given week. If you want to be as clutch as a kicker, it’s the only move that makes sense.