Baltimore’s Justin Tucker voted top kicker in AP rankings
Justin Tucker has a strong, accurate leg, and dance moves like Drake.
That combination is good enough to make the Baltimore Ravens’ two-time All-Pro kicker the league’s No. 1 player at his position in The Associated Press positional rankings released Friday.
Tucker received six of 11 first-place votes in a 10-points-to-one-point system to edge New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, 89-88. Greg Zuerlein of the Los Angeles Rams finished two points behind in the tight race.
”Tucker is reliable, has a long-range leg and is never bothered by pressure,” said AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner, who’s based in New York.
Tucker is the second-most accurate kicker in league history with an 89.7 field-goal percentage.
”If I had to have a 60-yarder to win the Super Bowl, he would be the guy,” AP’s Schuyler Dixon, based in Dallas, said of Tucker.
AP’s Howard Fendrich, based in Washington, pointed out Tucker has a ”touch of dance-after-you-make-it swagger.” Tucker once celebrated a game-winning kick by imitating rapper Drake’s moves.
Zuerlein and Adam Vinatieri each received two first-place votes and Gostkowski got one.
”With the game on the line, he’s still the guy you want lining up to make a big kick,” AP’s Dennis Waszak, based in New York, said of Gostkowski.
Gostkowski replaced Vinatieri in New England after Vinatieri helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls, making game-winning kicks in the final seconds in two of the wins.
Vinatieri, who turns 45 on Dec. 28 and is in his 12th season with Indianapolis after 10 years in New England, finished fourth in voting with 64 votes.
Pro Football Hall of Famer James Lofton called Vinatieri the ”G.O.A.T.” and Gostkowski the ”G.O.A.T. Part II.”
”No one is better in the clutch than Vinatieri, whose career could end in Canton,” said AP’s Josh Dubow, based in San Francisco. ”He gets dinged a bit here because he doesn’t handle kickoffs.”
Zuerlein, nicknamed ”Legatron,” is having an excellent season and was selected NFC special teams player of the month in October and November.
”Strongest leg in the business,” said AP’s Arnie Stapleton, based in Denver.
Only Gostkowski, Zuerlein and Detroit’s Matt Prater were named on all 11 ballots. Nineteen players received votes.
Dan Bailey of Dallas, the most accurate kicker in league history, finished fifth with 48 points. Bailey missed several games because of a groin injury. That hurt his ranking because he didn’t appear on five ballots, but he also received three second-place votes.
”Barely behind Tucker, and like Tucker, as accurate as they come,” Wilner said.
Prater, who has the record for longest field goal, was sixth in voting, one point behind Bailey. Prater kicked a 64-yard field goal in Denver in 2013 when he played for the Broncos.
”(Prater) has benefited from a kicking in a dome and at Mile High,” said AP’s Simmi Buttar, based in New York.
Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell, who kicked a 53-yarder to beat Green Bay as time expired last week, placed seventh with 32 points. He got a third-place vote from Fendrich.
”Despite kicking on one of the toughest fields in the league, he finds a way to get the job done,” Buttar said.
Atlanta’s Matt Bryant, who is 42, ranked eighth with 26 points. Kansas City rookie Harrison Butker and Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka rounded out the top 10.
EDITOR’S NOTE – The Associated Press is ranking the top 10 players at a different position every week of the NFL season, based on votes by Pro Football Hall of Famer James Lofton and AP football writers Simmi Buttar, Dave Campbell, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Howard Fendrich, Rob Maaddi, Arnie Stapleton, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Waszak Jr. and Barry Wilner. This feature is sent on Fridays.
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