Top 10 best kickers in NFL history

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

November 23rd, 2021

NFL kickers rarely garner the kind of attention a quarterback or wide receiver does, but their job on the field is no less important.

These players spend most of the game on the sideline, but are expected to produce each and every time they run onto the field.

Accuracy, leg strength, and mental toughness are just of few of their most prized attributes. Below we examine the players who best exuded these qualities as we rank the 10 best kickers in NFL history.

10. Matt Prater

NFL teams: Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos
Years active: 2006-present
Accolades: 2x Pro Bowl selection, single-season record extra points made (75), most 50-plus yard field goals made, second-longest field goal made

While not the most accurate kicker on our list, veteran placekicker Matt Prater might possess one of the strongest legs in NFL history.

The Central Florida product was an undrafted free agent who bounced around on the Lions’ and Dolphins’ practice squads before he landed in Atlanta, where he struggled in limited action.

In 2008, he replaced Broncos kicker Jason Elam in Denver and began to find his footing.

He set a then-NFL record for the longest field goal made (64 yards) against the Tennessee Titans in 2013 and sank 75 extra points that year (the most in one NFL season).

Prater also owns the record for most career field goals made of 50 yards or longer (63 as of this writing) and consecutive field goals made of 55 yards or longer (seven).

He attempted to break his own record for longest field goal in 2021, when he kicked a 68-yarder that fell short and was returned 109 yards for a touchdown. Later that day, another kicker on this list set a new record for longest field goal in NFL history.

9. Jason Hanson

NFL teams: Detroit Lions
Years active: 1992-2012
Accolades: 2x Pro Bowl selection, PFWA NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Golden Toe Award, most career points with one NFL team (2,150), most field goals of 40 or more yards (189)

Before Prater enjoyed a brief stint as the Lions’ kicker, Detroit relied on just one man at that position for nearly two decades.

Drafted in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft, Jason Hanson began his celebrated 21-year career with the struggling franchise and set numerous records during his lengthy tenure.

Among them are most field goals of 40 or more yards in a career (189), most consecutive field goals of 40 or more yards (24), most career games with one NFL team (327), and most career points scored with one team (2,150).

He is also tied with Elam, Jim Breech, and Steve Christie for most career game-winning field goals in overtime (nine).

8. Jan Stenerud

NFL teams: Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
Years active: 1967-1985
Accolades: Super Bowl champion, 4x Pro Bowl, 2x AFL All-Star, 4x first-team All-Pro, Pro Football Hall of Fame

In 1991, Jan Stenerud became the first pure kicker inducted into the Hall of Fame.

With just a 66.8% career field-goal percentage, his numbers may not sound impressive, but during the era in which he played, Stenerud was a superstar at his position.

In 1981 and 1984, he led the league in field-goal percentage and twice topped the NFL in field goals made (1970, 1975).

He also helped the underdog Chiefs win 23–7 in Super Bowl VI, as Stenerud scored the first nine points of the game on three field goals, including a 48-yarder, then the longest field goal in a Super Bowl.

The first Norwegian NFL player, Stenerud played 19 NFL seasons and never missed a game for illness or injury.

7. George Blanda

NFL teams: Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers, Oakland Raiders
Years active: 1949-1958, 1960-1975
Accolades: 3x AFL champion, 4x AFL All-Star, AFL Most Valuable Player, record for most extra points made (943), Pro Football Hall of Fame

One of the most versatile and durable players in the NFL, George Blanda made a name for himself as a quarterback and placekicker, who occasionally saw time on defense as a linebacker.

Three times he led the league in field-goal percentage (1955, 1961 and 1967) and retired in 1975, at age 48, with the most points scored and most extra points made.

His 26 seasons in the NFL are a record, and Blanda scored at least one point in all of them.

6. Lou Groza

NFL teams: Cleveland Browns
Years active: 1946-1959, 1961-1967
Accolades: 9x Pro Bowl selection, 4x first-team All-Pro, 4x NFL champion, 4x AAFC champion, fifth all time in extra points made (810), Pro Football Hall of Fame

His 54.8% field-goal percentage wouldn’t cut it on an NFL roster today, but without Lou Groza, the placekicker position might have never gained appreciation.

Kicking specialists were few and far between during Groza’s era in the ‘40s and ‘50s, until the offensive tackle introduced a new type of scoring threat, nailing field goals from 40 yards out.

Through his first three seasons in the league, the man known as “Toe” set single-season records for accuracy, distance, and number of field goals. He retired in 1960, but returned a year later as a pure kicker and paved the way for the position, which became a common roster piece in the early 1970s.

Today, the Lou Groza Award is given to the best kicker in the FBS.

5. Gary Anderson

NFL teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans
Years active: 1982-2004
Accolades: 4x Pro Bowl selection, 2x first-team All-Pro, Golden Toe Award (1998), NFL single-season record 100% field-goal percentage, career 80.1% field-goal percentage

Gary Anderson deserves a bronze bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but one memorable blemish on his record has clouded an otherwise illustrious career.

The South African kicker, who wore a one-bar facemask, is best known for his tenure in Minnesota, where he was part of the 1998 offense that set a record, at the time, for points scored (556) in a season.

Anderson, then age 39, was a crucial part of that offense, as he became the first kicker to finish the regular season with a 100% conversion rate on both field goals (35-of-35) and extra points (59-of-59). 

His only miss of the season occurred in the 1998 NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons. With the Vikes up by a touchdown with four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Anderson botched a 38-yard field-goal attempt, which would have put the game out of reach. 

Instead, Atlanta marched downfield for a touchdown to force overtime, where the Falcons ultimately punched a ticket to Super Bowl XXXIII.

Anderson's postseason blunder aside, he finished his 23-year NFL career with a then-record 2,434 career points. He ranks third all time in field goals made (538) and games played (353), fourth in extra points made, and hit a record 46 consecutive field goals (regular season and postseason combined) between Dec. 15, 1997 and Jan. 17, 1999. 

4. Stephen Gostkowski

NFL teams: New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans
Years active: 2006-present
Accolades: 4x Pro Bowl selection, 3x Super Bowl champion, 2x first-team All-Pro, NFL record 479 consecutive extra points made, 86.34% field-goal percentage

Like another kicker on our list, Stephen Gostkowski experienced the height of his career while playing for the New England Patriots.

Currently a free agent at age 37, Gostkowski joined New England as a fourth-round draft pick in 2006 and went on to set numerous franchise and NFL records. Among them, he became just the second player in NFL history to score 500 points in his first four seasons, and the first to score 1,000 points in his first eight.

In 2014, he surpassed Adam Vinatieri as the Patriots' all-time leading scorer and finished his career in New England with 1,775 points.

Most notably, he set an NFL record with 479 consecutive extra points (523 including the postseason). The streak ended in the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, and marked just the second missed extra-point attempt of Gostkowski's career at the time.

In his final season in New England, Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. He struggled in 2020 in his lone season with the Tennessee Titans, and went 18-of-26 on field-goal attempts, which marked the lowest field-goal percentage (69.2%) of his career.

In spite of his most recent season, the three-time Super Bowl champion has averaged the highest points per game for an NFL career, and ranks sixth all time in extra points made (699), ninth in career field-goal percentage, and 11th all time in career points scored (1,875).

3. Morten Andersen

NFL teams: New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings
Years active: 1982-2004, 2006-2007
Accolades: 7x Pro Bowl selection, 5x first-team All-Pro, 2x Golden Toe Award, NFL record most games played (382), 79.69% field-goal percentage

One of just two pure placekickers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Morten Andersen was one of the most reliable players at his position throughout his long-running career.

Nicknamed "Mr. Automatic," the Danish kicker first made a name for himself in New Orleans, where he earned six Pro Bowl selections and scored 1,318 points, an all-time Saints record.

Following his 12-year tenure in the Big Easy, Andersen signed with the Atlanta Falcons and met the aforementioned Anderson in the 1998 NFC Championship Game. After Anderson's 38-yard miss in the fourth quarter, Andersen played hero for Atlanta by nailing a game-winning field goal in overtime to earn a bid to the Super Bowl.

Andersen briefly spent time with the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs, before he closed out his career in Atlanta. At age 47, in his final NFL season, he achieved his highest single-season field-goal percentage (89.3%).

Since retiring in 2007, Andersen ranks first all time in games played (382), game-winning field goals (103), and number of seasons with 75 or more points (24). He is second all time in field goals made (565), and third all time in extra points made.

2. Justin Tucker

NFL teams: Baltimore Ravens
Years active: 2012-present
Accolades: 4x Pro Bowl, 4x first-team All-Pro, Super Bowl champion (XLVII), NFL record for highest career field-goal percentage (90.65%)

It's difficult not to rank Justin Tucker the best kicker of all time, considering his mind-blowing accuracy during his nine-year span in the league.

However, every other kicker on our list displayed incredible longevity, so we'll take the wait-and-see-approach before we move Tucker to the No. 1 spot.

So far, Tucker is on pace to become the most dependable kicker in NFL history. Since signing with Baltimore in 2012, he has hit, at worst, 82.5% of his field-goal tries in one season, and has missed just four of his 375 extra-point attempts.

In 2012, his debut season, he hit a game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining in a Week 3 contest with New England. During the Divisional Round that year, Tucker also kicked a 47-yard field goal in double-overtime to send Baltimore to the AFC Championship Game.

What makes Tucker more impressive is the fact he can do damage from just about any part of the field. He's the first NFL player to kick a field goal from the 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-, and 60-yard range in the same game.

Tucker is also the fastest kicker to reach 1,000 points, and he's the first player with 30 or more field goals made in six different seasons.

1. Adam Vinatieri

NFL teams: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts
Years active: 1996-2019
Accolades: 3x Pro Bowl selection, 4x Super Bowl champion, 3x first-team All-Pro, NFL record for most career points, 83.8% field-goal percentage

In May 2021, 23-year veteran Vinatieri announced his retirement from football, after lengthy tenures in New England and Indianapolis, where he won a combined four Super Bowls.

Some of those titles may not have transpired if it weren't for the three-time Pro Bowler. Vinatieri was responsible for hitting game-clinching field goals in Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX.

In the notorious "Tuck Rule Game" in the 2001 AFC Divisional Round, Vinatieri also knocked in a 45-yard field goal while kicking in heavy snow and wind. The field goal sent the game into overtime, where Vinatieri sealed the win on a 23-yard kick.

In 2006, Vinatieri signed with Indianapolis in free agency, and won his fourth Super Bowl, a record for a kicker.

As a testament to how impactful Vinatieri was during his career, he ranks first all time in points scored (2,673), postseason points scored (238), field goals made (599), consecutive field goals made (44), and is second in extra points made (874). He is the only player to score more than 1,000 points with two different franchises.

Upon his retirement, his former coach Bill Belichick stated, "Adam Vinatieri is the greatest kicker of all-time. ... His consistency, mental toughness, and performance under pressure was legendary... Adam is in the rarest echelon of athletes whose career accomplishments may never be matched."