Positional rankings: Kickers
Fantasy-league owners have learned through the years that you can find good kickers late in the draft or even on the free agent wire. Last year was a perfect example of that as three of the top four kickers in total points weren't even drafted in most leagues. They included the No. 1 kicker Mason Crosby (141 points), the No. 3 kicker (Rob Bironas) and the No. 4 kicker (Nick Folk). Each of them finished with more than 130 points and all were likely undrafted.
If you like the security of a proven veteran, there are plenty to choose from. But just realize that by season's end, some unknown kicker will likely be even better than that veteran you coveted on draft day. Here now are the top 25 kickers to get on draft day:
1. Stephen Gostkowski, New England
With the Patriots setting all kinds of scoring records last year, Gostkowski flourished, ranking second in scoring with 137 points thanks to converting a staggering 74 extra points. He was 21-of-24 in field goal attempts, but had only three FGs from beyond 40 yards as the Patriots were too good in the red zone. Behind this offense, Gostkowski could top 130 points again this year.
2. Nick Folk, Dallas
Folk finished fourth in scoring during his rookie season with 131 points, converting 26-of-31 field goals with 53 extra points. He was 24-of-26 inside 50 yards, but was just 2-of-5 beyond 50 yards. Behind an explosive Cowboys' offense, Folk should once again top 130 points in 2008.
3. Josh Brown, St. Louis
Brown scored a career-high 127 points with Seattle last year and then signed a five-year, $14.2 million contract with the Rams. He converted four game-winning field goals last year and was 28-of-34 with three FGs beyond 50 yards. If Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson can stay healthy, Brown could top 125 points again this year.
4. Shayne Graham, Cincinnati
Graham finished fifth in scoring last year with 130 points, which were the second-highest of his career. He converted 31-of-34 FG attempts, but none over 50 yards. He's a steady kicker on a team that should be among the league's leaders in scoring, so expect another 125-plus points from Graham in '08.
5. Josh Scobee, Jacksonville
Scobee missed half of last season with a quadriceps injury, but he was very productive during the last half of the season. In eight games, he scored 62 points and was 12-of-13 on FG attempts. Scobee was a top-5 scorer in '06 and with a full season of health in '08 he should be able to deliver 120-plus points again.
6. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis
Vinatieri's 118 points with the Colts last year were his highest since '04 as he converted 23-of-29 FG attempts. However, he finished on a down note with only five FGs in his last six games, while also failing to convert a single FG beyond 40 yards. He's 35 and on the downside of his career, but with this offense he still should be able to reach 120 points.
7. Mason Crosby, Green Bay
Crosby led the NFL in scoring last year with 141 points as a rookie, converting 31-of-39 field goal attempts and 48 extra points. He hit three field goals from beyond 50 yards and was 19-of-20 inside 40 yards. There is still some uncertainty about this offense, but even with a new QB, Crosby should be good for 120 or more points in '08.
8. Rob Bironas, Tennessee
Bironas finished third in the league in scoring with 133 points after converting 35-of-39 field goal attempts and 28 PATs. He made at least one field goal in every game and had an NFL record 8 FGs in Week 7 against Houston. He also made 13-of-15 FGs from beyond 40 yards, which is great for bonus point leagues. Bironas has a solid leg and with this offense should be able to top 120 points again in '08.
9. Nate Kaeding, San Diego
Kaeding was the top kicker in '06, but last year he finished just 10th in scoring with 118 points after a rough start. He made only one FG during the first three games and failed to make a FG in four of the first seven games. But he made 15 FGs during his last six games and finished with 24-of-27 FG attempts. He's still a solid kicker on a good team, so expect another season of 115-120 points.
10. Phil Dawson, Cleveland
Thanks to the Browns' offensive revival, Dawson scored a career-best 120 points, converting 26-of-30 FGs and 42 PATs. He had two of more field goals in 10 games and was 8-of-10 from 40 yards or beyond. Cleveland's offense has arrived, so look for Dawson to be a top-10 kicker again and finish with 115-plus points.
11. Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh
Reed ranked 16th in the league in scoring with 113 points as he converted a career-best 92 percent of his FG attempts (23-of-25). However, he converted only 4-of-6 from 40 yards or beyond and had six games where he scored four points or less. But the Steelers have a lot of talent on offense, so look for Reed to top 110 points again in '08.
12. Jason Hanson, Detroit
Hanson had one of his most productive seasons of his stellar career, finishing eighth in the league with 122 points, his highest total since 1995. He made 14-of-17 from 40 yards or beyond and scored seven points or more in 10 games. The Lions' offense is improving, so don't be surprised if Hanson tops 120 points again.