We have a duo of special teams rankings this week! This first article details the top 10 kickers for the 2022 season, and the punter article will be posted shortly. Kickers are not given a lot of attention unless they do something crazy good or miss an important field goal. This is foolish; if you look at the players with the most points scored in league history, you’ll find that the entire top 20 is composed of kickers. A team’s kicker will be involved in most touchdowns by kicking PATs, and any score that isn’t a touchdown or a safety is a field goal, so this shouldn’t be a surprised. How many iconic playoff games can you think of that came down to a game-winning kick? In the list below, we’ll be evaluating kickers based on their accuracy, leg strength, and clutchness. These are the players you want on your side when a game is on the line.
1. Justin Tucker, Ravens
Of all top 10s I’ve done, this might have been the easiest #1 to select. Tucker has been a first-team All-Pro 5 times and has the highest FG percentage in NFL history (91.1%). The scariest part is that despite how great he’s been, he might have reached another level last season. Tucker set a career high by making 94.6% of his field goals, which was also the highest among all kickers with 15+ attempts. He also made 100% of his PATs. Oh yeah, he kicked a record-breaking 66-yard FG (not in Denver even!) to steal a win against the Lions. We might just be witnessing the best kicker to ever play.
2. Harrison Butker, Chiefs
Certain stadiums need special kickers. Arrowhead is one such place. In the winter, it can be brutally hard to drive the ball in the icy wind of KC, and Butker has consistently shown that he can do it. His career FG percentage is a strong 90.1%, which is made more impressive when you consider that he rarely kicks in the controlled conditions of a dome. He was slightly shaky on PATs in 2020, but he bounced back last year to convert 47 of 49. Butker’s leg strength is his defining trait, as he possesses a career-long FG of 58 yards, which is a Chiefs franchise record.
3. Chris Boswell, Steelers
They say that patience is a virtue. In this case, Pittsburgh got rewarded with a lights-out kicker. For the first 3 years of his career, Boswell was a good kicker, but in 2018, he had a dreadful season; he converted just 65% of his FGs and below 90% of his PATs. Despite bringing in competition, the Steelers stuck with him, and Boswell has reached or exceeded 90% FG accuracy in every season since. In Harrison Butker’s piece, I mentioned how hard it is to kick in certain stadiums. Nowhere is this more true than Heinz Field/Acrisure Stadium. With a strong leg (career-long FG of 59 yards) and good wind control, Boswell is easily the best kicker in franchise history and perhaps one of the only ones who can play in Pittsburgh.
4. Daniel Carlson, Raiders
Minnesota, conversely, proved how a lack of patience can haunt you. After drafting Carlson in the 5th round in 2018, the team panicked after he struggled mightily in the preseason. Carlson went 1/4 on FGs in his first 2 games and was promptly cut. The Raiders scooped him up and have reaped the benefits. His strong leg and accuracy, which got him drafted in the first place, manifested immediately, as he made 16/17 FGs the rest of the year. He’s been nearly automatic the last two seasons, particularly from 50+, where he’s gone 10/11. The Raiders can enjoy not having to hunt for a kicker, while the Vikings’ search continues.
5. Matt Gay, Rams
As a rookie in Tampa, Gay could not find his footing, struggling to the tune of 77.1% FG accuracy. The Buccaneers cut bait after his rookie season, and he’s been with LA for the past two. Whatever bothered him in Tampa certainly didn’t follow him to LA. Gay had an average season in 2020 before breaking out in 2021, becoming the NFC Pro Bowl kicker for the eventual Super Bowl champs. His FG accuracy shot up to 94.1%, good for second behind Justin Tucker. Gay additionally went 98% on PATs, which are no longer automatic for many kickers.
6. Younghoe Koo, Falcons
A common theme on this list concerns kickers doing poorly in one location before bouncing back better than ever in another. Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and San Diego/LA are the places that seem to be the biggest victims of this trend. Koo signed with the Chargers in 2017 and was awful, making only 50% of his kicks. Things went so poorly that he was out of the league in 2018. After a perfect stint with the Atlanta Legends of the AAF, Koo signed with the Falcons, where he turned his career around. He was the NFC Pro Bowl kicker in 2020, and he has made over 93% of his field goals since the start of that season.
7. Graham Gano, Giants
Gano had been an average kicker since 2009 with Carolina, outside of one spectacular year in 2020 during which he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Upon signing with the Giants in 2020, he found much more consistency. His 96.9% FG accuracy in 2020 was exceptional (probably worthy of a Pro Bowl berth), and he has made 75% of his 50+ field goals since joining the team. Amazingly, he has only missed one kick inside of 50 yards in two years, and he made all 17 of his PATs last season (yes I’m aware that the Giants rarely scored and thus this number is low; the kicker isn’t penalized for this sad fact).
8. Robbie Gould, 49ers
The most experienced player on this list, Gould was incredibly reliable for the Bears starting in 2005. He joined SF in 2017 and exceeded 95% FG accuracy in his first two years before having an uncharacteristically poor 2019 season. His accuracy has incrementally climbed back up since then, returning to near his career average mark at 87%. Gould doesn’t have quite as strong of a leg as some of the younger kickers, but he earns extra credit for his clutchness. Playoff kicking is a different beast, and Gould has made every single one of his 21 FGs and 34 PATs in postseason play. Every contender would kill for that.
9. Evan McPherson, Bengals
Sometimes it’s not how you start but rather how you finish. McPherson had some typical rookie struggles in the form of a few shaky weeks throughout the regular season. What he did after that demonstrates his mental fortitude and his excellent future prospects. Starting in week 17, McPherson connected on every one of his 16 FG attempts, including all 14 in the playoffs. He also did not miss a PAT in that span. He’s got a strong leg, as his season-long 58-yard FG looked like it could go several yards further. If his jitters are behind him and he remains this unflappable in the future, he’s going to be great.
10. Ryan Succop, Buccaneers
Succop earns extra points for kicking well in Tampa. I don’t know why, but players have a really hard time kicking there. Roberto Aguayo flamed out despite being a second-round pick, and even Matt Gay (who’s on this list!) failed in TB. Succop has mostly been a league-average kicker during his career, but he’s a rare kicker who has been more effective in Tampa. He’s made 86.9% of his FGs as a Buccaneer in spite of his limited range. The biggest reason he’s on this list is his playoff kicking. Over stints with KC, TEN, and TB, he has made 28/29 of his FGs in the postseason, which is critical to have during a Lombardi run.