Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the sixth best player in kicker Matt Bryant.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 78.5/100
Last year’s rank: 16th
Player Grade: 69/100
Teams he is starter: 28 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 28 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +0
Positional Bonus: +2
It seems somewhat silly how low I had Bryant ranked a year ago. It probably had to do with a sort of built-in bias against kickers when giving out a player grade as well as thinking Bryant was closer to the middle of the pack league-wide.
A year later, I now realize how wrong I was. Back then, I fully expected that 2014 would be Bryant’s final year in Atlantaand he would opt to retire before hitting his 40th birthday this past May. Wrong again.
Why Bryant still has a long ways to go if he ever intends to be the oldest player to ever compete in an NFL game, he certainly qualifies among the oldest active today. Along with fellow kickers Adam Vinatieri (42) and Phil Dawson (40), Bryant is the third oldest player currently in the league.
The presence of such productive older kickers suggests that my ranking system considering age 36 to be the end of peak years for kicker is another point where I’m wrong. But players like Bryant tend to defy the odds by producing at a high level well beyond others.
One of the first things to go with age when it comes to kickers is leg strength. There’s little denying that Bryant’s leg isn’t as strong as it was nearly a decade ago when he boomed one of the longest field goals in NFL history: a 62-yard game-winner.
But Bryant still is capable of getting good distance on his kicks. Even this summer showing that he still has enough leg to get it well beyond 50 yards. Since joining the Falcons in 2009, Bryant has been one of the league’s most accurate long-ball kickers.
Field Goal Accuracy From 50+ yards (2009-14)
|Rank||Player||FG Made||FG Attempts||Pct.|
Like punter Matt Bosher, Bryant certainly benefits from playing in the Georgia Dome where he doesn’t have to deal with the outside elements. But Bryant can only control what he can control and the choice of venue that his team chooses to play in is not one of those things.
Instead, Bryant deserves credit for simply mastering his craft. In Atlanta, that mastery comes in the form of how exceptionally good he is kicking in his home venue. There are few kickers that are better at home than Bryant has been the past five-plus seasons.
He’s nailed an uncanny 91.5 percent of his kicks inside the Georgia Dome, which is a big reason why he has earned the moniker of “Money.” Another explanation for the nickname is that he’s considered the greatest clutch kicker of all-time.
The Falcons re-signed Bryant to a three-year deal this offseason in the hopes that there is no drop-off in his game over that span. Even though he has managed to defy odds longer than most could expect, thus suggesting he’ll eventually fall back down to Earth; currently, there’s little to doubt that will be happening in 2015.