David Sabino
Thursday November 4th, 2010

Gridiron 11: Most Valuable Kickers

Kickers are a draft afterthought, but sometimes -- as in the case of Miami's Dan Carpenter, who, in standard leagues that award bonus points for distance, scored 19 fantasy points last week -- they're often the difference between a winning and losing fantasy week. During the early part of the season many owners choose to play matchups instead of sticking with a single kicker, but with the weather changing in the northern parts of the country and bye weeks about to be over for the season, it's a good time to choose one and stick with him for the rest of the year. Here are the 11 best choices to help kick you into and through the playoffs.

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1<a href=Dan Carpenter, Dolphins" title="Dan Carpenter, Dolphins"/>
The AFC's Special Teams player of Week 8, Carpenter has made 13 field goals over his last three games and has three or more successful boots in four of his last five. The Dolphins' offense is built to play close, grind-it-out, games, which is the recipe for success when it comes to consistent scoring from kickers.
2<a href=Rob Bironas, Titans" title="Rob Bironas, Titans"/>
Well on his way to his fourth-straight 118-plus-point season, Bironas ranks second in the league in scoring and is on pace to set a career high with 136 points. One of the league's better kickers from long range, he's 12 of 14 from 50-plus over the last four years and hasn't missed a kick over 40 yards all season (7 of 7). The addition of Randy Moss to the Titans' attack will probably translate into more scoring, however the risk is that it means more extra points and fewer field goals.
3<a href=Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders " title="Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders"/>
The league's scoring leader at nearly 10 points per game (9.8), Sea Bass has been taking full advantage of the recent Raiders offensive explosion, scoring at least nine points in each of the last four games, including a career-high eight extra points two weeks ago in Denver. He's well worth keeping on your roster next week when the Raiders are on the league's final bye.
4<a href=Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots" title="Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots"/>
Don't look now but the Patriots stand alone atop the NFL's standings and have the look they had during their Super Bowl-winning seasons. With no superstar outside of Tom Brady and an offense that is simply looking to move the chains, Gostkowski, a perennial preseason top kicker choice, is again as valuable kicker as there is in the league. Before Randy Moss' final game as a Patriot, Gostkowski was tied for 18th in scoring among kickers, accounting for just 6.0 points per contest, and found himself on many waiver wires. Since then he's sixth at 9.3 points per game and worthy of a spot on any roster.
5<a href=Matt Bryant, Falcons" title="Matt Bryant, Falcons"/>
The only thing missing from the 35-year-old's repertoire is the ability to make long kicks, but from 39 yards and in, Bryant is deadly, missing just two boots in 78 tries from inside the 40 over the last five seasons. Also adding to Bryant's appeal is the Falcons' schedule, which sees them suit up below the Mason-Dixon Line in eight of the season's final nine games, with six games played in domes and another in Tampa.
6<a href=Nick Folk, Jets" title="Nick Folk, Jets"/>
Prior to Week 8's whitewash at the hands of the Packers, Folk had scored in all 52 games that he appeared in the NFL with the Jets and Cowboys. Even with that blemish on his record, Folk's 7.9 points per game rank him among the league's top half-dozen performers. With the Lions, Texans, Bengals, Patriots and Bills still to come, Folk and the Jets have a lot more scoring ahead of them.
7<a href=Adam Vinatieri, Colts" title="Adam Vinatieri, Colts"/>
The two-time Super Bowl hero has made a tremendous comeback from an injury-plagued 2009 season, when he was limited to just 38 points in six games. This year he's played in seven contests, lighting up the scoreboard for 61 points. With injuries hitting Peyton Manning's offense hard, it's likely that more Colts drives than normal will result in field goal attempts than touchdowns, making Vinatieri a valuable commodity down the stretch.
8Jason Hanson, <a href=Lions" title="Jason Hanson, Lions"/>
Jason Hanson, Lions
The NFL's active scoring leader (so long as nobody signs John Carney this week), and seventh alltime, Hanson still remembers the Lions' glory days when Barry Sanders and Herman Moore roamed the field in Honolulu blue and silver. Unfortunately for him, since he joined the Lions in 1992, Detroit's .356 winning percentage is the lowest of all 32 NFL teams. But this is fantasy football and real wins and losses play no part. Even at age 40 Hanson has one of the league's strongest legs, making three of his four attempts from beyond 50 yards, and is on pace for his first 100-point season since 2007 for a Lions team averaging a surprising 26.1 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.
9<a href=David Akers, Eagles" title="David Akers, Eagles"/>
After missing three of four attempts against the Falcons at the wind-whipped Linc, Akers was much more true to form in Week 7 at Tennessee, where he nailed four field goals and forced five touchbacks. The league's leading scorer by 49 points over second-place Ryan Longwell since he became a regular in 2000, Akers has a long climb to approach his 142.5 point average of the last two seasons, but the Eagles have a very favorable schedule, including a pair of games against a Cowboys team that he's averaged 7.9 points per game against during his career.
10<a href=Josh Scobee, Jaguars" title="Josh Scobee, Jaguars"/>
Currently on his bye, Scobee is seventh among the league's specialists with 57 total points, yet just 16th in kicking points per game. Still, Scobee is the only man in the league to make all of his kicks this season, going 13 for 13 on field goals while making all 18 PAT tries. Don't be frightened off by the Jaguars' 19th-ranked scoring offense -- it's scored over 30 points in each of the last three games quarterback David Garrard has started and finished.
11<a href=Mike Nugent, Bengals" title="Mike Nugent, Bengals"/>
The Centerville, Ohio native and Buckeyes star had been on a roll during his first season as a Bengal, scoring at least seven kicking points in five straight games before being limited to just two extra points last week versus Miami. He's currently eighth in scoring, but his team's recent struggles, and some impending bad weather games, including two against the stingy Steelers, drops him to the 11th spot on this list, just ahead of honorable mentions Mason Crosby, Ryan Succop and Olindo Mare.

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