2014 Outlook: What makes Prater the No. 1 fantasy kicker? Start with a Broncos offense that scored 10 points per game more than the next-best team. The seven-year pro finished with an NFL-record 75 PATs, 23 more than second-place finishers Ryan Succop and Mike Nugent racked up last season. It's worth considering that the Broncos will play the NFC West in 2014, which means Peyton Manning & Co. will face three of the top seven scoring defenses from a year ago. But also take into account that if some of those extra points turn into field goal tries, Prater is a guy who converted a league-best 96.2 percent of his three-point tries in 2013. His upside makes him No. 1.
2014 Outlook: Matt Prater broke the NFL record for PATs last year. The guy he passed? Gostkowski, who made 74 PATs in 2007. The point is, Gostkowski has historically gotten lots of point-after attempts to go along with a league-best 95 made field goals since 2011. He drilled home 38 field goals last season on 41 tries (both NFL bests). Consistency is his calling card -- he had nearly as many points when the Patriots' offense was sputtering last season (87 fantasy points in Weeks 1-8) as when they kicked it into high gear (89 points in Weeks 9-17). You can't go wrong with Gostkowski.
2014 Outlook: Tucker has the kind of leg to make this never-before-typed sentence a fact: He has a big-play fantasy leg. Tucker tied Stephen Gostkowski with 38 field goal makes last year. But in most scoring leagues, Tucker's long-range conversions -- six field goals of 50-plus yards, including a memorable 61-yarder to beat the Lions on Monday Night Football -- ultimately allowed him to squeeze past Gostkowski for most fantasy points off field goals, with 136. He'd be even higher up the list if he didn't play for a gasping offense that gave him no more than one field goal attempt in four separate games last season. He's a strong third option among kickers.
2014 Outlook: You no doubt heard all the fantasy grumbling about how Aaron Rodgers' injury (nearly eight missed games) hurt the fantasy production of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. But it may have hit Crosby the hardest. In the eight games in which Rodgers played the entire four quarters, Crosby scored 90 points. In the other eight contests, he tallied only 63 points. Crosby's extra points plummeted from an average of 59 makes in 2011 and 2012 down to 42 a year ago. If Rodgers returns to form for the entire season, Crosby could make a run at No. 1.
2014 Outlook: Seattle is all defense, right? Not so fast. Don't forget that the Seahawks scored 417 points last season, eighth in the NFL, and an impressive 40.7 percent of their offensive drives ended in a score. That helped Hauschka put up his best season as a pro, jumping from 118 points in 2012 to 143 last year. With a 93.3 percent success rate on kicks of 40-plus yards (including 3-for-3 on 50-yarders), Hauschka finished fourth in total fantasy points with 158. If Percy Harvin is back in the lineup and as good as he was in the Super Bowl, Seattle's offense -- and Hauschka's fantasy stock -- could take a big step forward.
2014 Outlook: After an abysmal start, Dawson went on the biggest tear of his 15-year career down the stretch. He mustered only 16 points in Weeks 1-4, missing three of his six field goal attempts. Then he promptly led all kickers in fantasy points (138) from Week 5 to Week 17, including eight straight double-digit games starting in Week 10. At age 39, Dawson shouldn't be considered among the elite fantasy kickers. But San Francisco's offense could see a bump with a full season of Michael Crabtree. That makes Dawson a nice, albeit slightly risky, pick among second-tier kickers.
2014 Outlook: Novak has been hounded by inconsistency his entire career. Even last season, his best as a pro, he alternated between single- and double-digit fantasy point performances seven times, more than any other kicker in the league. On the plus side, he did lead in fantasy points on field goals of less than 40 yards (69) and was 11-for-11 on kicks of 40 or longer. The good news for Novak owners -- and perhaps bad news for Chargers fans -- is that San Diego had the NFL's highest percentage of drives that ended in a field goal, 20.2 percent. If you can't get an elite kicker, Novak is a solid fallback. Just buckle in for a bumpy ride.
2014 Outlook: Vinatieri is proof that age ain't nothing but a number. With 2,006 career points, he is the active scoring leader among all NFL players and fifth all time. And you could argue that last year was his best season -- 139 points despite missing a game. He also was fantasy gold on attempts between 40 and 49 yards, racking up 60 points on those kicks. No other kicker even topped 50. One cause for concern is Vinatieri's lack of PATs, with only 34 makes. The Colts' offense doesn't look like it'll be markedly better, so Vinatieri would have to duplicate near-career-best figures on field goals to get to 139 points again. That's a tall order.
2014 Outlook: The Vikings aren't exactly the 2013 Broncos, but they did score touchdowns on 21 percent of drives last season. That gave Walsh ample opportunity for PATs, with 43. The problem was that he ranked near the bottom on long-distance field goals. He converted only seven of 11 boots of 40-plus yards -- including only two of five on kicks from 50-plus yards. In his astounding 2012 rookie year, Walsh drilled 10 of 10 from 50-plus. So after a bit of a sophomore slump, which Walsh will we get in 2014? It's probably not worth trying to figure out -- the Vikings will play home games outdoors this year.
2014 Outlook: Very few kickers benefit more from long-range kicks than Bailey. He tied for the league lead in fantasy points from field goals of 50 to 59 yards (30) and tied for second in field goals made from 40-plus (16). So there are no questions about Bailey's leg strength and accuracy on long boots. The problem is that the Cowboys are about as volatile as any offense in the league, and one Bailey slump on long kicks could seriously eat away at his fantasy value.
2014 Outlook: Looking for a deep-sleeper pick? Folk might be your guy. He was tied for fourth last year in field goal fantasy points (117) and tied for 11th in overall points, despite playing for a Jets offense that scored on only 29.6 percent of drives. Will the Jets be lighting up scoreboards in 2014? Probably not. But with the additions of Michael Vick, Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, it seems that Folk could benefit from more chances. Of all the lower-rung kickers, Folk might have the biggest upside.
2014 Outlook: The Bears' offense took a huge step forward last year, producing almost 1,200 more offensive yards and 70 more points than it did in 2012. But that overall increase actually decreased Gould's fantasy metrics. He fared well in PATs (45 points, tied for fifth) because the Bears closed out drives with TDs (24.7 percent, ranked fourth). But Gould finished with only 29 field goal attempts, tied for 18th. Even if he hits 90 percent of his boots again, he might not have enough attempts to warrant a fantasy roster spot.
2014 Outlook: You'd think the Saints' kicker would be higher, right? But the team hasn't been able to find a reliable booter, which culminated in the signing of Graham down the stretch last season. The 13-year veteran made two of two field goals for New Orleans in the regular season, and he enters 2014 as the team's likely starter. The Saints scored on 40.3 percent of drives in 2013, good for sixth in the league, and the team again looks like an offensive juggernaut. Graham isn't a bad second-tier option, especially when you consider he'll play 11 games in a dome.
2014 Outlook: Bryant had one of his better seasons in 2012, but Atlanta's offensive regression had a huge impact on his production last year. His overall field goal attempts plummeted from 38 to 27, his lowest full-season total since 2006, as Atlanta limped to 22.1 ppg (20th in the NFL). Bryant hit 88.9 percent on field goals last year, which is actually a bit better than his 84.8 percent career mark. It's just a question of whether his opportunities will be there: A year after booting a career-high 17 attempts of 40-plus yards, he had only 10 last season.
2014 Outlook: Henery is your guy if you pick kickers for their PATs: He tied for fifth in the NFL with 45 last season. But things go downhill from there: He has made only 86 percent of his career field goal tries, including 82.1 percent (23rd in the NFL) in 2013. In particular, Henery is among the weaker kickers on attempts of 40-plus, with just 28 percent of his overall fantasy points coming from tries of that length (27th). The Eagles' offense figures to be even more prolific this season, but fantasy owners should be leery of Henery's output. If he struggles at all, Chip Kelly might just decide to go for it on every fourth down.