July 18, 2008

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Gould scored 143 points in '06 and then finished seventh last year in scoring with 126. He connected on at least one FG in 15 games and had two or more FGs in 10 games. He failed to convert any FGs from beyond 50 yards, but still was 31-of-34 within 49 yards. He's a solid kicker who will deliver 115-plus points again in '08.

Rackers has been maddeningly inconsistent since his 140-point season in '05, finishing with 110 points last year as he converted just 21-of-30 FG attempts. Rackers had five games of 10 or more points, but he also had seven games with five points or fewer. He has a strong leg, but his inconsistency makes him more worthy as a backup kicker in fantasy football this year.

For the first time since he entered the league in 1993, Elam will be kicking for someone other than Denver. The 15-year veteran signed a four-year, $9 million deal with Atlanta this off-season after scoring 114 points last year with the Broncos. He had at least one FG in 14 games last year and two or more in 11 games, but he's now with a more inconsistent offense and that will take a toll on his final numbers. Remember that on draft day.

Once one of the game's elite kickers, Akers has been nothing more than so-so the last three years. He has scored less than 110 points in each of the last three years and has been a non-factor from long range, converting only 2-of-10 from beyond 40 yards since '07. His 108 points last year were as good as it gets as his lack of leg strength limits his scoring ability.

Couto was regarded as having the strongest leg among kickers in this year's draft and the Seahawks grabbed him with their seventh round pick. He is fighting Olindo Mare for the starting job here and head coach Mike Holmgren won't be afraid to go with a rookie kicker again. He made 18-of-23 FGs at Georgia last year and has the inside track for this starting job.

Brown had his best season since '01 last year as he finished 14th in the league in scoring with 115 points. He converted 12-of-15 FG attempts from beyond 40 yards, including all five of his attempts from 50 yards or longer. He made at least one FG in 14 games and had seven games with two or more FGs. The lack of a solid offense makes Brown iffy on draft day, but that strong leg makes him a worthy bye-week starter for your team.

Suisham scored a career-best 116 points last year, good enough for 13th among all kickers. He had a brutal stretch in Weeks 6-8 when he scored only six points, but otherwise his season was solid. He had two or more FGs in nine games and was 11-of-15 from 40 yards or beyond. He has good upside and should top 100 points again.

Tynes saved his job with the game-winner at Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, but he was solid before that. He made a career-best 85.2 percent of his FG attempts during the regular season (23-of-27) and finished with 109 points as he had seven games with two FGs or more. With this offense helping him, Tynes should easily top 100 points again in '08.

After scoring just 73 points in '06, Bryant set a career high with 118 points last year, finishing 10th in the league in scoring. He converted 28-of-33 FG attempts, but was just 6-of-10 from 40 yards and beyond. However, he did convert 14 FGs in his last six games and should top 100 points again this year.

Nugent set a career high last year with 110 points, but was just 29-of-36 in FG attempts after missing just three FGs the year before. He converted 7-of-12 from 40 yards or beyond and had three games last year in which he had at least four FGs. Still, his inconsistency makes him a backup kicker on draft day.

With the Ravens' offense sputtering all year long, Stover finished 21st in the league in scoring with only 107 points. He had only nine FGs in his last 10 games and was held to two points or less in a game six times. He did convert 8-of-13 FGs from 40 yards or more, but the Ravens are reloading this year, so tough times could continue.

Kasay's production declined for the second straight year as he failed to reach the 100-point barrier for the first time since '04. He finished with 99 points as he converted 24-of-28 field goal attempts, including 8-of-11 from 40 yards or beyond. If QB Jake Delhomme can stay healthy this year, better numbers will be in store for Kasay.

The Saints signed Gramatica late last season to replace Olindo Mare and he scored 23 points in three games. He's now battling rookie Taylor Mehlhaff for the starting job, but if he can hold onto it he will top 100 points easily as the Saints' offense is ready to roll again.

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